Science

Ottawa a hotspot for wasps in North America

Three-quarters of the subspecies of wasps in Canada are found in Ottawa, a new study has found.

It turns out you don't have to live in a tropical region to have strong biodiversity

The Cotesia atalantae is one of the 158 subspecies of wasp known to be found in Ottawa. (Dr. Jose Fernandez-Triana)

If you're afraid of wasps, Ottawa is not the place to live.

A new study published in the journal Zookeys analyzed about 2,000 specimens of wasps from the Canadian National Collection of Insects collected between 1894 and 2010.

There are roughly 200 known wasp species from Canada and about 350 from North America. 

But the researchers concluded that Ottawa contains 158 species within 21 different genera of Microgastrinae, a subfamily of wasp, meaning the city is home to almost three-quarters of the species for the entire country.

Researchers suggest this is due to Ottawa's strong biodiversity. This was surprising, as most biodiverse regions are tropical. 

The wasp Sathon cinctiformis is another of the 158 subspecies of wasp known to inhabit Ottawa. (Dr. Jose Fernandez-Triana)

Ottawa, while definitely not tropical — it's considered a temperate zone —  is located in an area that transitions between two types of forest: eastern deciduous and boreal. This makes the capital region quite biodiverse and allows wasps to thrive.   
     
Among other interesting discoveries by the researchers were four new species of wasps, two of which are new for North America and another two which are new for Canada and Ontario.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicole Mortillaro

Senior reporter, science

Based in Toronto, Nicole covers all things science for CBC News. As an amateur astronomer, Nicole can be found looking up at the night sky appreciating the marvels of our universe. She is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and the author of several books. In 2021, she won the Kavli Science Journalism Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science for a Quirks and Quarks audio special on the history and future of Black people in science. You can send her story ideas at Nicole.Mortillaro@cbc.ca.

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