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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Just a handful of wild bee species do most of the pollination work

Sasha Harris-Lovett, LA Times

Wild bees pollinate many crops, but some bees are busier than others.

On average, only 2% of wild bee species were responsible for 80% of the pollination visits witnessed by researchers around the world, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.

“This study puts a spotlight on how few species actually do all the work,” said Mace Vaughan, co-director of the Pollinator Program at the Xerces Society, a nonprofit devoted to protecting invertebrates and their habitats.

David Kleijn, an ecologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, had an inkling that something like the 80-20 rule might be at work with wild bees. As he was studying the insects in farm fields in the Netherlands and in Southern Italy five years ago, he noticed something striking.

Read more at LATimes.com


Migrating Monarch Butterflies Might Actually Take to the Highway

Heather Hansman, Smithsonian.com

The Monarch butterfly population has been in decline, but the North American insects are getting some unlikely help with their migration.

This month, a Pollinator Health Task Force, formed at President Obama’s request and including government agencies from the Federal Highway Association to Fish and Wildlife as well as non-governmental partners, released a plan to protect pollinator habitat and curb pollution from pesticides. The “National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators” calls for research into why pollinator populations are declining, public education, increasing and improving habitat, and forming public-private partnerships to execute these goals. But the plan also mandates some interesting infrastructure plans.

Read more at SmithsonianMag.com


USDA Program Aims To Aid Pollinators

Rita Brhel, Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan

It’s been nine years since Colony Collapse Disorder first made headlines, not only in the beekeeping community but also to the masses with reports speculating the effects of this mysterious, sudden disappearance of millions of honey bees on future supermarket prices.

Yet honey bees are continuing to suffer.

“Pollinators are struggling,” said John Holden, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in Washington, D.C. “Last year, beekeepers report losing about 40 percent of honey bee colonies, threatening the viability of their livelihoods and the essential pollination services their bees provide to agriculture.”

There has been a silver lining to the waning health of honey bees: an exponentially increased awareness of the
importance – and fragility – of natural pollinators to the agricultural industry, not only in the United States but worldwide.

Read more at Yankton.net