The idea about the study on true bugs of saline habitats
True bugs (Heteroptera) are an ecologically extremely diverse insect group; they are inhabiting almost all habitat types, natural and those made by a man. Despite their ubiquity, true bugs are still a poorly studied group in Serbia, and there are only a few experts working on these insects. However, true bugs have their place in nature, and specific roles in ecosystems, regardless of our knowledge about them, and the fact that we notice them in our environment or not. Generally, these insects prefer warm and dry habitats, and that is why grasslands are always rich in true bug species. Unlike the fauna of meadows and pastures in mountain regions of Serbia, the fauna of natural and seminatural grasslands of Vojvodina Province is barely known, and the size of these valuable habitats is gradually decreasing. Fragments of steppes and saline grasslands in Vojvodina are small, isolated areas, and their unique wildlife is in permanent threat of disappearing. Insects such as true bugs are the primary participants in trophic networks in grasslands, and for the existence of other members of grassland communities we need to conserve true bug’s diversity and abundance.
Saline or halophytic habitats of Vojvodina are inhabited by specific plant species and communities (halophytes), which are adapted to high salt content in soil and variable level of underground water. Because of the extraordinary vegetation and floristical values, these habitats are highly recognized as nature priorities and have the status of Important Plant Areas (IPA), but we are lacking of knowledge on their insects. The majority of the true bug species are herbivores that are depending on vegetation, so plant species, the structure of plant cover and microclimate created by vegetation are the factors that determine the composition of true bug communities, their abundance and presence of certain species.
The idea on true bug study came from the curiosity to get to know the true bug fauna of saline habitats in Vojvodina, to answer what determines the composition of their communities and are there species that inhabit exclusively saline habitats in Serbia.
Realisation of the idea
Our idea on the study of true bugs of saline habitats was financially supported by the Rufford Foundation, and the project got a larger scale, so apart from the scientific part, it also involves a very important promo-educational component. We wanted to familiarize the general public to saline habitats and true bugs inhabiting them, and to present the problems and threats which these habitats and insects face every day.
The formal title of the project is: “True Bugs (Heteroptera) of Halophytic Habitats in Vojvodina – Providing Data for Conservation and Popularisation of a Neglected Insect Group”. You can find more about the project here.
- census of true bug fauna in saline habitats of Vojvodina,
- proposing candidates for the future Red List of true bugs of Serbia,
- examination of the possibilities of using true bugs for the purposes of monitoring in grasslands such as saline habitats,
- promotion of saline habitats as key habitats for insect conservation in Vojvodina,
- promotion of the true bugs and entomology in general,
- forming a team that would continue the faunistic and ecological research on true bugs in Serbia.
Study on the true bugs of saline habitats
(scientific part of the project)
Fieldwork was conducted from April to October, 2015 on five chosen locations, among which some are protected (Special Nature Reserves “Slano Kopovo” and “Selevenjske pustare”) and unprotected areas (saline habitats in vicinity of Gakovo, Srpski Miletić and Žabalj). When selecting, we chose those locations for which there were no earlier findings on true bugs, despite the fact that these areas are known as important saline habitats with well known vegetation features.
During fieldwork we recorded the most notable true bug species on chosen localities. The species Conostethus hungaricus has been seen only in May and June, after which it disappeared and was replaced by other community members. Unlike the previous one, the species Henestaris halophilus has been present on all studied localities for almost whole season. Due to its constant presence in saline habitats, the species H. halophilus became a mascot of the project and it was used for the design of the project’s logo. C. hungaricus and H. halophilus are typical representatives of continental saline habitats in Europe, and these habitats are continuously disappearing due to human activities. Constant pressure on saline habitats make its inhabitants C. hungaricus and H. halophilus vulnerable, and in some European countries (Chezh Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Slovenia) these species are included in national Red Lists of true bugs. Other representatives of the true bug fauna of saline habitats are species typical for steppes and other Eurasian arid grasslands, so commonly present species in saline habitats of Vojvodina are Myrmus miriformis, Chorosoma schillingii, Trigonotylus caelestialium, T. pulchellus, Stenodema calcarata, Polymerus unifasciatus, P. brevicornis, Criocoris crassicornis, Acetropis carinata, Agramma atricapillum, A. confusum, Lasiacantha capucina.
The other more or less known inhabitants of saline habitats
Everyone talks about the true bugs
(promo-educational part of the project)
Aiming to inform the public about the project, we prepared a leaflet which contains basic information on the importance of true bugs and their saline habitats in Vojvodina, on human activities which endanger them and proposals for their conservation. Nađa Beretić helped us with the design of the leaflet and the poster, and Boris Stajevski has created the project’s logo and promotional T-shirts.
We were especially dedicated to education of school children. Oral presentations were held in high and elementary schools in Sombor town and surrounding villages, aiming to spread an interesting story about the true bugs of saline habitats among the youngers. Kids were also introduced to basics in true bug research and entomology in general, they had a chance to see entomological field equipment, to learn about insect’s collections making and to hear why studies like these are important. We were also talking about saline habitats, where they are present, what clime and pedological features they require and why the plants inhabiting them are special.
Participation at the Symposium of entomologists of Serbia
We have had a chance to participate at the 10th Symposium of entomologists of Serbia, held in Kladovo September 23-27, 2015 where we have presented preliminary results of our research.
„Nature knows no boundaries” – The Rufford Foundation Conference in Bosnia and Herzegovina
In March, 2016 the Rufford Foundation organized the conference in Banja Luka for the grant’s recipients from Balkans and Turkey. Participants gave lectures about their Rufford projects, and we presented our project on true bugs of saline habitats. You can find more about the conference here.
Some wrote about our activities…
- On the web site of the Special Nature Reserve “Slano Kopovo” an article about true bugs research in the reserve was published.
- “Terenac”, a newsletter of the student society “Josif Pančić”, also published the story about our research activities.
- “Somborske novine”, a local newspaper from Sombor, wrote an article on true bug lecturing in the elementary school “Laza Kostić” in Gakovo.
People were a very important part of the project on true bugs and saline habitats, they gathered around the idea and worked together on its realisation.
Main participants on the project were members from the association “HabiProt” and the Scientific Research Society of Biology and Ecology Students “Josif Pančić” from Novi Sad. The members formed a team (Jelena Šeat – coordinator, Bojana Nadaždin, Ivan Tot, Milovan Ilić, Aleksandra Jovanov and Marija Cvetković – project participants) which continued collaborating on other true bug projects.
The team wishes to thank a few individuals and organisations who sincerely helped in project realisation: Tanja Tunić, Miloš Popović, David Grabovac, The Public Enterprise “Palić-Ludaš”, The Hunting Associations “Novi Bečej”, Ranko Perić, dr Ljiljana Protić, dr Gabor Mesaroš.
If you want to share your experiences on true bugs and saline habitats, or you want to know more about our project, please contact us by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.