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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As Dwindling Monarch Butterflies Make Their Migration, Feds Try to Save Them

By Eve Conant, National Geographic

CAPE MAY POINT, New Jersey—Two years ago migrating monarch butterflies transformed the lush gardens of Cape May Point into a series of “giant orange snowglobes.” That’s how Mark Garland of the Monarch Monitoring Project describes the good monarch days, the kind of days when thousands fly overhead.

There’s been no such spectacle yet this year, but Garland and members of the project’s team, who take a census of the monarchs three times a day, are holding out hope. The popular orange-and-black insects will be drifting toward this peninsula for a few more weeks to fill up on nectar before riding the winds that will hoist them over the Delaware Bay and on toward Mexico.

Read more at NationalGeographic.com


Seeds for bees: Worries drive new plantings for pollinators

By Dan Gunderson, MPR News

Jim Johansen harvests native grass seeds that his company sells to farmers for conservation projects. But seed demand is shifting to native wildflowers.

Worry over the widespread deaths of honey bees has led the seed company Prairie Restoration to increase production of plants that provide habitat for pollinators, including bees and butterflies. It’s “definitely changing the way we look at things,” said Johansen, who manages native seed production on the farm near Moorhead.

For many years, native seed operations focused on grass-dominant mixes for farmland enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program. Now, there are fewer acres enrolled in CRP and a growing emphasis on habitat for pollinating species. That’s changing Minnesota’s plant seed industry in ways good for business and the bees, observers say.

Read more at MPRNews.org


José Andrés: Why We Need to Protect Monarch Butterflies

By José Andrés, The Plate – NationalGeographic.com

I have a special connection to monarch butterflies.

If you’ve been to my Mexican restaurant in Washington, DC, you may understand. You see, the beautiful mobiles of butterflies twirling from the ceiling represent this forest located in Central Mexico filled with Oyamel fir trees, which is also the name of my restaurant. Every year, several hundred million Monarch butterflies make a journey to this very unique place located high up in the mountains of Michoacán. The butterflies travel over 2500 miles from Canada to seek refuge within the waxy needles of those fir trees, making a quiet “shhh” sound as they flap their wings. It is truly an astonishing act of nature.

During my many visits to Mexico to learn more about its regions, its culture and cuisines in preparation for my restaurant, I heard tales of the this forest—this majestic place that’s blanketed in gold every October through March. During the summer of 2003, I finally got to go see it with my wife and my three daughters. While it wasn’t wintering season, I was captivated by it and fell in love with the story of the Monarch butterfly.

Read more at NationalGeographic.com


Researchers: Keep An Eye Out For Tagged Monarch Butterflies

By Monica Spain, KPLU 88.5

If you’re lucky enough to spot a lacy monarch butterfly as it heads south for winter, look closely. You might see something unusual on its wing.

In a town in northern California, a young girl noticed a white sticker with an email address on a butterfly’s wing when it landed on her garage door.

“She took note and emailed me, so it proved the system worked,” said Dr. David James, an entomologist at Washington State University.

James is a guy who is fascinated by bugs. He’s tracking western monarch butterflies. The sticker the girl saw on the butterfly had his email printed on it.

The monarch butterfly has been studied for decades east of the Rocky Mountains, but much less is known about western monarchs. Scott Black, executive director of the conservation group Xerces Society, says there has been a 90 percent decline of the monarch in North America, which is why tagging is important work.

Read more at KPLU.org


‘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