June 19, 2008

I had to laugh when I read my rather lame Alaska posting. From the way I repeated myself and my description of the all-night sunshine, readers may have guessed that I was extremely short of sleep! Anyway, that’s my excuse. I even managed to omit the name of that “lepidopterist extraordinaire,” who was in fact Dr. Kenelm W. Philip, Senior Research Associate with the Institute of Arctic Biology. I have known Ken for many years, and have watched him build the Alaska Lepidoptera Survey from an ambitious and daunting concept into a fine reality. Thanks to his efforts, studies, and ability to involve everyone from bush pilots to pipeline workers, we now have a pretty good idea of the remarkable Alaskan butterfly fauna of some 83 species, and many of its moths are also known. We are all awaiting Ken’s book on Alaska’s butterflies with keen anticipation. My own trip would not have enjoyed nearly the success it did without his assistance and the kind hospitality that he and Betty Ann provided, for which I am most grateful. I say this even though Ken did see Eversmann’s parnassian the day after I left! –RMP

Freija fritillary between the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska. Photo by Kenelm Philip.

Bob enjoys a brief preview of Paradise. Photo by Kenelm Philip.

Katrina Andrews and silvery blue at Galbraith Lake, Alaska’s North Slope. Photo by Keith Andrews.


 

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A Ghost in the Making: Photographing the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee

By International League of Conservation Photographers, National Geographic Voices

Over the past two years I have become increasingly fascinated, okay obsessed, with North America’s native bees. Although I initially began photographing them in my backyard in between assignments it didn’t take long for me to become mesmerized by the lives of these remarkable, often minute creatures. North America has about 4,000 species of native bees. Yet despite all the press about the decline of the honey bee (Apis mellifera) – an exotic species introduced to North America from Europe – none of our native bees are protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Earlier this year, in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I saw my first Rusty-patched Bumble Bee (Bombus affinis). It should have been a thrill – affinis is one of the rarest bees in North America. But this particular bee was impaled on a pin, neatly labeled, and stored in a drawer. In an adjacent case was a perfectly preserved Passenger Pigeon. Like the pigeon, the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee once thrived in the Park, but it has gone locally extinct. Unlike the pigeon, there are still some Rusty-patched Bumble Bees left; small populations persist in the Upper Midwest, hundreds of miles to the north. The Rusty-patched Bumble Bee is a beautiful, fat, fuzzy bee that was once widespread in the eastern United States. But in the last 15 years its range has shrunk by 87% and it has become rare in the few areas where it is still found. The bee has already been listed as endangered in Canada, but not in the U.S., where it was once so abundant.

Read more at NationalGeographic.com


Rare insect imperiled by retreating ice in Glacier National Park

By Louis Sahagun, The LA Times

Shrinking glaciers and rising stream temperatures in Montana’s Glacier National Park are prompting concerns about the impacts on surrounding ecological systems after perennial streams of melted ice disappear.

Of particular concern is the fate of a rare aquatic insect, the western glacier stonefly, which is only found in the park and was first identified in streams there in 1963. Only 25 specimens exist in museum collections around the world.

The ice masses in Glacier National Park are expected to disappear by 2030, leaving the insect scientists know as Zapada glacier without the creature comforts it needs to avoid extinction: very cold alpine streams flowing out of patches of ice.

Recent surveys and genetic analysis show that the 1/2-inch-long insect is now only found in one of six streams it inhabited prior to 2011, according to a new study published online last week in the scientific journal Freshwater Science.

Read more at LATimes.com


Pollinator Recommendations Deliver A Sting

By Geoffrey Riley & Charlotte Duren, Jefferson Public Radio

The thousands of bees that died in Oregon a couple of summers ago did not die in vain.

The die-off, a result of pesticide use, increased awareness of both the value of bees (and other pollinators) and the perils of ignorance in chemical use.

The Xerces Society and other groups that want more protections for pollinators hailed the formation of a task force to make recommendations to the legislature.

Read more at IJPR.org


Oyster growers asking for permission to use new type of pesticide

By Jake Schild, The Daily World

State regulators are considering a proposal from the Willapa Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association to use the pesticide imidacloprid to eliminate the problem of burrowing shrimp. The growers association believes the pesticide is a safer alternative to carbaryl, which was previously used to take care of the problem, but environmentalists are concerned about the chemical’s possible effect on invertebrates.

A draft permit for the proposed use of the pesticide has been produced by the State Department of Ecology, as well as a draft environmental impact statement. A fact sheet regarding using imidacloprid has been completed, as well. The pesticide would not be used until the Spring of 2015 if the permit is approved. Public comments on the issue are being taken by the Department of Ecology until Dec. 8.

Willapa Bay produces around 65 percent of the oysters and 13 percent of clams harvested in Washington state. The combined oyster harvest from Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor makes up about 25 percent of the total oyster landings in the United States. Nine thousand acres of oyster grounds are currently farmed in Willapa Bay, while about 900 are farmed for commercial production oysters and clams in Grays Harbor.

Read more at TheDailyWorld.com


My View: Making space for bees in our crowded landscapes can help solve food production woes

By Matthew Shepherd and Eric Lee-Mader, Portland Tribune

There are photos and videos circulating on the Web of a crop duster seed-bombing wildflowers to create a meadow for bees that challenges our expectations. What’s a plane usually used for killing insects doing trying to save them? In grabbing our attention, it shines a spotlight onto an important issue: the lack of clean, safe habitat for bees in our landscapes.

Bees and other pollinators touch our lives every day, from the foods and drinks we consume to the fabrics we wear or sleep on. And the service they provide to our environment helps define our seasons: springtime wildflowers, summer berry picking, pumpkins at Halloween.

The threats facing bees include: diseases, parasites, pesticides, habitat loss. It doesn’t matter whether they are domesticated honeybees or native bumblebees; all bees are facing the same conditions wherever they live. Too often, these kinds of problems seem overwhelming, too vast to fully comprehend, let alone turn around.

Read more at PortlandTribune.com