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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Can bees become addicted to pesticides?

Pete Spotts, The Christian Science Monitor

Flitting from blossom to blossom, bees represent an ecological lifeline from one generation of plants to the next – paid in nectar and pollen to keep the reproductive ball rolling on farms, in woods, and in backyard gardens.

But since 2006, concerns have grown over a decline in bee colonies worldwide. One of several potential suspects researchers have identified: a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids. Formulated to be less harmful to mammals than its predecessors, neonicotinoids spread throughout a plant to boost its resistance to insects.

But the pesticide also finds its way into nectar and pollen, and therein lies the rub. A growing body of research has identified several ways neonicotinoids can harm wild and domesticated varieties of bees. But the results sometimes have encountered criticism, especially from pesticide makers, for whom neonicotinoids, by some estimates, represent more than 20 percent of their market.

Read more at CSMonitor.com


Save the Bees with J. Crew’s New Graphic Tees, Which Already Have Celebrities Abuzz

Andrea Cheng, InStyle

Here’s some Earth Day news for you to buzz about—J. Crew has spearheaded a Save the Bees campaign through its Garments for Good initiative to support The Xerces Society, a non-profit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates (read: bees and their fellow insects).

And why exactly? Because of climate change and habitat loss, bees are becoming endangered. Aside from the reduction of bee sting incidents, this is bad news for the environment, since bees pollinate about a third of everything we eat (that’s roughly $15 billon worth of crops in the US alone). To help raise awareness, J. Crew has partnered up with fashion’s favorite Insta-illustrator Donald “Drawbertson” Robertson to draw up some pretty sweet graphic crewcut tees.

Read more at InStyle.com


Whole Foods and Xerces Society Work to Help Pollinators at Risk

Gabrielle Saulsbery, Modern Farmer

Many of the ingredients in popular dishes would become scarce or totally unavailable without pollinators like bees, hummingbirds and hawk moths. Pollinators are responsible for one in three bites of food people take, and with the threats these small flying friends face on a daily basis, many species are in danger.

Insecticides are threatening both honey and bumble bees. Habitat loss is threatening the monarch butterfly and hummingbirds. Even light pollution harms pollinators, threatening hawk moths and fireflies, who communicate by their own light and don’t tend to make an appearance near lights even as small as the one you might have on your porch.

Last week, Whole Foods and The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation kicked off their two-week “Share the Buzz” campaign, aimed at educating and mobilizing consumers to help protect pollinators and their habitats. Take a look at what the salad bar at Whole Foods and what it would look like without pollinators:

Read more at ModernFarmer.com


Long-suspected pesticide is harming bumblebees

John Dzieza, The Verge

When honey bees began dying en masse in late 2006, one of the early suspects was a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids. These chemicals are often applied to seeds before planting, so that the poison permeates the entire plant as it grows, including its pollen and nectar. The European Union placed a moratorium on the chemicals even as research results were mixed: at the doses honey bees might experience on a farm, neonicotinoids seemed to cause disorientation and a weakening of the immune system, but nothing to explain the die-offs.

Now, two studies published in Nature indicate the neonicotinoids are a problem for pollinators, though not in the way many first assumed. In the first study, researchers at Lund University looked at 16 fields of oilseed rape, a major source of vegetable oil, in southern Sweden. Half were planted with seeds coated in a neonicotinoid and a fungicide; the other half, the control, had seeds coated with only fungicide. The researchers found that placing bumblebees near the neonicotinoid-treated fields impeded the ability of colonies to grow and reproduce. Solitary bees also failed to reproduce near treated fields. The honey bee colonies, however, showed no signs of negative effects from the insecticide.

Read more at TheVerge.com


Lockeford researchers boost conservation efforts

Reed Fujii, Recordnet

The topics were perhaps a bit esoteric — providing habitat for pollinators, primarily native California bees, and promoting healthy soil with a balance of plant and microbial life.

But interest in such research, promising benefits to farming and conserving the environment, brought several dozen people together Tuesday at the annual open house of the Lockeford Plant Materials Center, operated by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Born out of the Dust Bowl era and resulting federal government efforts to select, test and provide plants that helped farmers conserve soil and combat erosion, center manager Margaret Smither-Kopperal said that the agency’s focus has shifted over time.

While the 106-acre facility on the south bank of the Mokelumne River continues to cultivate, harvest and provide seed for about 30 plant varieties, much similar work is now being done by commercial seed companies. So it’s moving on to a broader range of applied research.

Read more at RecordNet.com