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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‘Canary in the cornfield': monarch butterfly may get threatened species status

By Morgan Erickson-Davis, mongabay.com

Monarch butterflies were once a common sight throughout the North American heartland. In Mexico, where they overwinter, single trees would often be covered in thousands. But declines in milkweed – their caterpillars’ only source of food – have led to a 90 percent decline in monarch numbers. Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is reviewing a petition that would grant the iconic species protection through the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The monarch (Danaus plexippus) is one of the world’s greatest insect migrators, flying 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) over four generations from breeding grounds as far north as Nova Scotia to forests in Mexico where they overwinter. However, fewer and fewer have been congregating in Mexico. Surveys conducted by scientists have tracked an overall steep decline over the past two decades.

Read more at MongaBay.com


Petition Seeks to Protect Monarchs

By Jim Lundstrom, Peninsula Pulse

A legal petition was filed on Aug. 26 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that seeks Endangered Species Act protection for monarch butterflies. The petition says there has been a 90 percent decline in monarchs in the past two decades.

The petitioners say the decline is due to the “drastically reduced and degraded” monarch habitat, which has been caused by development, logging, climate change and, especially, pesticides.

The two-decade time frame is important because it relates to the introduction of genetically engineered crops that are resistant to the herbicide glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto’s widely used weed killer Roundup). In 1996 Monsanto introduced “Roundup Ready” soybeans that were genetically engineered to resist Roundup. Two years later Monsanto introduced “Roundup Ready” corn. Today, 94 percent of soybeans and 89 percent of corn grown in the United States are “Roundup Ready” crops.

Read more at PPulse.com


Conservationists fight for monarch butterfly protections

By Brooks Hays, UPI

COLLEGE STATION, Texas,– Monarch butterflies have begun their 3,000-mile trek southward; with summer coming to a close in Canada, it’s time to make their way to Mexico for the winter. It sounds like a nice life, but it’s a life that’s increasingly under siege, scientists say. Now, some are arguing federal protections are warranted.
Studies show the monarch’s milkweed habitat continues to lose out to industrial agriculture — threatening the long-term health of the monarch species.

Now, both scientists and environmentalists are ramping the dialogue surrounding the butterfly’s imperiled future and beginning to put pressure on policy makers.

In August, several environmental groups — including the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, the Xerces Society and others — filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to have the monarch protected.


Environmentalists Petition to Put the Monarch Butterfly on the Endangered Species List as Its Population Plummets

By Richard Conniff

With Labor Day just ahead, people on both coasts and across the Great Plains should be celebrating the start of one of North America’s great migrations. The spectacle of monarch butterflies working their way back to their winter breeding grounds, across hundreds or thousands of miles, is the longest known insect migration on Earth.

It’s such a popular event, and the monarchs are so beautiful—their brilliant orange wings bordered with a black polka dot hem—that seven states have named monarch butterflies their state insect.

But this year, the parade is mostly canceled, and instead environmental groups have petitioned the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to list the monarch butterfly as a threatened species.

Read more at TakePart.com


Groups seek U.S. protection for monarch butterflies

By Sandy Bauers, Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist

In a little less than 20 years, monarch butterflies — those orange icons of the garden — have declined more than 90 percent.

On Tuesday, several groups and long-time monarch scientist Lincoln Brower filed a legal petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking Endangered Species Act protection for the species.

“Monarchs are in a deadly free fall and the threats they face are now so large in scale that Endangered Species Act protection is needed sooner rather than later, while there is still time to reverse the severe decline in the heart of their range,” said Brower in a press release. He has been studying the species since 1954.

The groups are the Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety, plus the Xerces Society, which focuses on invertebrate conservation.

Read more at Philly.com