After six years of searching, the Friends of the Environment Center Qatar has discovered 16 kinds of insects previously unknown to the world. Confirmed by a group of French scientists, two of the newly-identified insects have been named after Qatar and Mesaieed, names they will be referred to with wherever they are sighted in the world.
Ummsaidenisis was discovered in Mesaieed. PICTURE: Khaled Mardini
According to Khaled Mardini, the scientist who oversaw the Qatar’s Insects project, the discoveries will be published in two books, Darkling Beetles of Qatar and Atlas of Qatar, which will be distributed in an international scientific conference to be held in Doha in December 2010.
“This discovery will attract scientists who want to study insects to Qatar and the books will be an international standard guide,” explained Mardini.
The project was initiated by the late professor of entomology at Qatar University Adnan Babi who died a short while after the project began in 2003. Babi, who was Mardini master’s supervisor in Syria, brought him to Qatar to take on the project.
“The purpose was to understand the variations between insects in Qatar, and hence be able to use them to our advantage,” Mardini said.
According to the scientist, who has spent more than 20 years researching insects, some bugs can be beneficial to the environment and to certain crops, and so the areas they live in should not be sprayed with pesticides.
“Other bugs eat their harmful counterparts, so all in all we do not really need pesticides, which can be more harmful to humans than to insects,” he said.
Mardini said that once a database of all the insects in the country was drawn up, imported fruits that carried or attracted harmful ones would not be allowed into the country.
The database will be used in Qatar University for entomology students, who had long been studying bugs using books written by scientists who had never been to the region.
The Qatar’s Insects project had involved 35 scientists, some of them Qatari and some French, who visited areas around the state and collected insects, mummifying some for display in a natural sciences museum to be built soon.
“We had to visit the same area 12 times a year, because some insects appear in certain months only,” said Mardini.
The remaining insects were sent to various entomologists around the world for analysis, and when the final report came, the Friends of the Environment Centre were amazed to find that they had made a historical discovery
According to Mardini, the centre is determined to use the knowledge obtained to create a friendlier relationship between people and insects. “People think of insects as either harmful or scary, when out of 500 species of insects only 20 are harmful.”
The centre has been trying to alleviate those feelings through workshops that have trained 75 science teachers and numerous students, using lab equipment that they designed, where the trainees worked with insects in the lab to help them understand them better.
Mardini will be representing Qatar in a conference in Beirut with two books titled Economically Harmful Insects and Ways of Combating Them, and Disease Carrying Insects.
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