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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Citizen scientists tracking Ohio bumblebees

Nolly Dakroury, The Columbus Dispatch

Luciana Musetti is fascinated by bumblebees.

“They play a vital role to our environment, and they are beautiful, too,” Musetti, an entomologist and curator of the Triplehorn Insect Collection at Ohio State University’s Museum of Biological Diversity, said in an email.

When she can, she photographs them. That’s why she was excited to have stumbled upon bumblebeewatch.org, a website for citizen scientists devoted to tracking bumblebee populations in North America.

“The idea of the website is, if we can track where populations are now, we can start making conservation efforts,” said Rich Hatfield, one of the founders of the website.

Read more at Dispatch.com

State probe of Portland bee deaths finds lethal dose of banned chemical

Kelly House, The Oregonian

State investigators found lethal levels of a banned insecticide in the systems of bees found dead last month in downtown Portland.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture released results Friday of investigations into the June 26 bee deaths near Pettygrove Park, as well as two nearby bee die-offs in mid-June.

Investigators collected as many as 400 dead bees, although witnesses said the total death toll could have been far larger.

The Oregonian previously reported about the Pettygrove incident, in which Portland law student Corinne Fletcher stepped outside her doorstep to find countless bumblebees dead or dying on a walkway leading into the park.

Read more at OregonLive.com

World’s Biggest Bumblebee at Risk of Extinction

John R. Platt, Scientific American

I’ve seen some big bumblebees in my time, but nothing like South America’s Bombus dahlbomii. “It looks like a flying mouse,” says Sarina Jepsen, endangered species program director for the The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “It’s huge, colorful and incredibly charismatic.”

B. dahlbomii is, in fact, the world’s largest bumblebee. Native to the Patagonia region of Argentina and Chile, the queens of the species can reach an amazing four centimeters in length. That’s two to three times the size of one of the most recognizable North American species, the American bumblebee (B. pensylvanicus).

Read more at ScientificAmerican.com