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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Program Looks to Give Bees a Leg (or Six) Up

By John Schwartz, The New York Times

Helping America’s beleaguered bees could start with something as humble as planting a shrub.

Here in California’s Central Valley, researchers are trying to find assortments of bee-friendly plants that local farmers and ranchers can easily grow, whether in unusable corners and borders of their land or on acreage set aside with government support.

Read the full article at NYTimes.com


Limits sought on weed killer glyphosate to help monarch butterflies

By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times

With monarch butterfly populations rapidly dwindling, a conservation organization on Monday asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement tougher rules for the weed killer glyphosate — first marketed under the brand name Roundup — to save America’s most beloved insect from further decline.

In a petition, the Natural Resources Defense Council argued that current uses of glyphosate are wiping out milkweed, the only plant upon which monarch caterpillars feed. The loss of milkweed is having a devastating effect on the life cycles of the large, fragile orange-and-black butterflies, which migrate through the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Read the full article LATimes.com


Monarchs, milkweed and the spirit of Rachel Carson

By Gary Paul Nabhan, Los Angeles Times

After news broke recently that the number of migratory monarch butterflies that had arrived to winter in Mexico was the lowest since reliable records began, I went on the road on behalf of the Make Way for Monarchs initiative. This solutions-oriented collaboration is working to place millions of additional milkweeds in toxin-free habitats this next year. Why? Monarchs cannot live without milkweeds, and milkweeds are disappearing.

In Pittsburgh, after the crowd listened to me outline the problem and the solution (restoring milkweeds and other wildflowers in healthy farm-scapes), a quiet man approached me with a smile. He wished to remind me that today’s struggle to help monarchs has deep precedents.

To read the full article, visit LATimes.com.


Local group says feds failing to protect endangered bumble bee species

By Steve Law, The Portland Tribune

The Portland-based Xerces Society and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a notice of intent Thursday to sue the U.S. secretary of the interior for failure to respond to a petition to list the rusty patched bumble bee under the Endangered Species Act.

The Xerces Society, which specializes in invertebrate species, filed a petition to protect the rusty patched bumble bee under the Endangered Species Act more than a year ago. The group charges that the interior secretary failed to meet a statutory requirement to respond to that earlier petition within 90 days, as well as a subsequent deadline to decide within a year whether or not the species should be protected.

Read more about the Portland Tribune


Growing Insects: Farmers Can Help to Bring Back Pollinators

By Richard Conniff, Yale Environment 360

With a sharp decline in pollinating insects, farmers are being encouraged to grow flowering plants that can support these important insects. It’s a fledgling movement that could help restore the pollinators that are essential for world food production.

For the last few years, Richard Rant has agreed to let researchers introduce strips of wildflowers among the blueberry plants on his family’s farm in West Olive, Michigan. It’s part of an experiment to see if the wildflowers can encourage pollinating insects and, in a small way, begin to reverse the worldwide decline in beneficial insects. It’s also a pioneering effort in the nascent movement to persuade farmers to grow insects almost as if they were a crop.

Read the full article at Yale Environment 360