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Bugging you to do your part

There are approximately 1.5 million species of organisms on Earth at this very moment. Yes, this is an extremely large number. So large, you are likely thinking, where could all these species possibly be hiding? Well, it happens that most of them aren't actually hiding. The surprising truth is that two thirds of all species can hardly be seen by the human eye.

Growing up, Dr. Mireille Marcotte was always fascinated by this fact, and it was one of the reasons why she was inspired to study entomology, the study of insects. Having followed her passion, Mireille has worked hard to become the national manager for the Plant Health Surveillance Unit at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

One of the important responsibilities Mireille's unit holds is the surveillance of invasive species in Canada. There are many invasive species to stay aware of, but according to Mireille, "the biggest threat to Canadian forests today is the Asian longhorned beetle."

Native to Asia, this nickel-sized insect has the firepower to cause some serious damage to maple trees and other hardwood species in Canada. In other words, the Asian longhorned beetle could be the reason your grandchildren no longer have maple syrup for their pancakes.

"If that pest was to get established in Canada, the consequences would be enormous for our economy and our environment."

This was almost the case in 2003 when these beetles were found in an area of Toronto. Now you might think getting rid of a few beetles would be a simple task, but it took a whole 10 years before the last beetles were cleared out. One could say this infestation really bugged the CFIA, and was a real pest to deal with.

You don't need to be an entomologist to take action to prevent the spread of invasive species. The most important step you can take right now is using only local firewood.

Firewood? Yes, firewood. "The movement of untreated firewood to or from the campground or cottage can spread invasive species and diseases that are hidden under the bark and that we do not see", says Mireille.

Whether camping or heating your home or cottage, know what invasive species are in your area, and don't move firewood. When buying firewood, ask where it's from and whether it has been heat treated to kill invasive species.

Check out our podcast! Learn more about Mireille, her passion for science, and how her work at the CFIA is helping protect Canadian forests, crops and gardens.

If you think you've found an invasive insect or plant where you don't expect to see it, contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

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