February 27, 2008


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Firefly Populations Are Blinking Out

Blink and you’ll miss them this summer. Around the world, people are reporting that local firefly populations are shrinking or even disappearing.

The insect’s dilemma first came to the world’s attention at the 2010 International Firefly Symposium, where researchers from 13 nations presented evidence of firefly population declines and declared “an urgent need for conservation of their habitats.” Since then, additional conferences and several scientific papers have documented regional firefly disappearances, and at least two citizen-science projects are attempting to document the phenomenon, but the full scope of the problem remains to be uncovered, says firefly researcher Ben Pfeiffer, founder of Firefly.org, a website about the decline of the insects, also called lightning bugs.

“It’s worrying,” said Pfeiffer. “When people see a habitat that’s got three, four, five different species of firefly flashing, each with a different flash pattern, it’s an amazing thing. It changes their lives, but few people get to see that anymore.”

The exact extent of the decline is unknown, but early indications suggest that lightning bug populations have shrunk in many places and disappeared from others. “Everyone is reporting declines,” said Eric Lee-Mӓder, codirector of the pollinator program for the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Lee-Mӓder said he suspects that decades of overzealous collection by the medical industry may have also contributed to fireflies’ decline. Pharmaceutical companies used to pay bounties of up to a penny per firefly to collect their chemicals for biomedical use. The pharmaceutical company Sigma Chemical Company collected up to 1 million fireflies a year and sold the chemicals for about $260 an ounce, according to a 1975 report in the Milwaukee Journal.

“If you do the math, that’s a lot of insects,” Lee-Mӓder said. “You multiply that over a pretty wide area and add these other stress factors, and there’s no doubt that it has had a major impact on populations. We just don’t know what that impact is yet.”

A 2013 study published in Ecological Modeling found that some firefly populations failed when medical harvest rates exceeded 60 percent.

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[VIDEO] Western Bumblebee no longer in Willamette Valley

Though Oregon may be experiencing a population boom, there is at least one group that is no longer found anywhere in the Willamette Valley.

The Western Bumblebee.

“Western Bumblebee used to be one of the 3 most common species in Oregon,” said Sarina Jepsen of the Xerces Society in Portland. “It’s really declined dramatically and is no longer in the Willamette Valley where it was most common.”

Natural history photographer Clay Bolt is working on a film about protecting native bees: “A Ghost in the Making: Searching for the Rusty-patched Bumblebee.”

That is one of the 4000 native bees quickly disappearing in the United States.

“It is clearly on an extinction trajectory, the science supports that, the entire bee research community is in agreement,” Bolt told KOIN 6 News. “It’s not just this one species, it’s many many other species that will, too.”

Bolt’s work is part of the first to draw attention to our declining bee problem. Bees tare wildly important in Oregon and all of the US for pollinating.

“There are certainly many in the Western US that are in need of conservation, attention and protection,” Jepsen said.

Late last year, US Fish and Wildlife agreed to consider the Rusty-patched Bumblebee for protection under the Endangered Species Act — but so far, no other steps have been taken.

This post originally appeared at: http://koin.com/2016/06/27/western-bumblebee-no-longer-in-willamette-valley/


Note: The Xerces Society is not responsible for the content of external sites.  Where trade names appear, no discrimination is intended, and no endorsement by the Xerces Society is implied.

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Groups seek to protect rare butterfly whose only home is San Juan Island

San Juan Island is the only home to the island marble butterfly. Populations of the species disappeared from Canadian islands in the 1900’s and were rediscovered on San Juan Island in 1998. The species has suffered further decline since rediscovery and faces limited protections.

In the grasslands on south San Juan Island, several patches of bright yellow flowers are fenced off from the rest of the landscape.

The flowering plants are considered weeds by many, but to the island marble butterfly, they’re imperative to the species’ survival. This landscape is the only place the shrinking island marble butterfly population is known to remain, the Skagit Valley Herald reports.

“The populations have constricted pretty dramatically to the point that this is the only home of this butterfly on the Earth,” Ted Thomas of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said while walking through the American Camp portion of San Juan Island National Historical Park.

For about 15 years, various groups have fought for the butterfly to receive federal Endangered Species Act protection. On April 4, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service deemed the butterfly a candidate species.

That means the species qualifies for protection, but the agency does not have the resources to complete the listing process, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a notice in the Federal Register.

Naming the island marble butterfly a candidate species is not good enough for some.

“I was very surprised by their decision,” said Scott Hoffman Black of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, which has twice sought protection for the butterfly. “There is really one secure population left of this animal on the planet. It is much more endangered than many species that are listed.”

Continue Reading: http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2016/06/groups_seek_to_protect_rare_bu.html#incart_river_home


Note: The Xerces Society is not responsible for the content of external sites.  Where trade names appear, no discrimination is intended, and no endorsement by the The Xerces Society is implied.