Wrapping up the first annual March Madness-style tournament for beneficial insects.
The 2019 Xerces Society Division 1 Beneficial Invertebrate Championship was a wild ride, with many upsets—and, of course, at the heart of it was the opportunity to learn about a wide array of fascinating creatures. Beneficial invertebrates are creatures that are predators or parasites of species that are considered pests, such as aphids, stink bugs, and spider mites. By providing suitable habitat, you can attract these helpful creatures to your garden or farm and thereby reduce or eliminate the need for chemical pesticides. Ultimately, beneficials are not only interesting, but also they are a crucial part of a healthy ecosystem and a functioning farm or garden! We recommend checking out Habitat Planning for Beneficial Insects: Guidelines for Conservation Biological Control for more information.
Now, without further ado, we are going to announce the conference champions (Ferocious Four) and the national champions—the most baller of beneficials!
Western Conference Champions: Zebra Jumpers (2)
This team represents the zebra jumping spider (Salticus scenicus), an arachnid that hunts a variety of prey, including moths, mosquitos, and even other spiders. Zebra jumping spiders utilize their forward-facing eyes to hunt and leap upon their prey, and are capable of capturing creatures larger than themselves! Though they represented the Western Conference in this tournament, they are in fact found throughout North America.
Midwest Conference Champions: Ambush Bugs (3)
Representing the jagged ambush bug (Phymata pennsylvanica), this team utilizes its unique camouflage to stalk a wide array of crop pests, including aphids. Using their long, strong arms, jagged ambush bugs grab their unsuspecting prey. They are known to kill more prey than they can eat! Jagged ambush bugs are found throughout the Midwest and in northeastern North America.
Southern Conference Champions: Monster Mantis (2)
This team represents the Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina), the largest mantis in the United States—hence its “monster” moniker. Using their long, strong arms and hunting prowess, the Carolina mantis consumes a variety of prey. Interestingly, they also change their color with each molt. The Carolina mantis can be found east of the Rocky Mountains, predominantly in the South.
Eastern Conference Champions: Shining Tigers (2)
Representing the six-spotted tiger beetle (Cicindelinae sexguttata), this team utilizes its stunning sprinting speed to hunt a wide variety of insects, including those larger than themselves! Tiger beetle larvae are known to kill more prey than they can eat. Though tiger beetles can be found throughout much of North America, the six-spotted tiger beetle specifically is primarily found in the eastern United States, and in portions of the South (but not the Gulf Coast).
The Most Baller Beneficials!
The final round of the 2019 Xerces Society Division 1 Beneficial Invertebrate Championship pitted the fearsome Shining Tigers against the formidable Zebra Jumpers. The Zebra Jumpers leapt to an early lead, and maintained their position throughout this final competition, winning the Baller Beneficials Championship with 71% of the vote. Congratulations, Zebra Jumpers!
Thank you to everyone who made this first annual March Madness-style tournament a success. We were pleased at the level of audience engagement, and by the interest shown for these amazing invertebrates. Will the Zebra Jumpers successfully defend their title in 2020? Join us next year to find out!