October 31, 2008

Bob, in from the field, surrounded by feminine pulchritude and a motherlode of Florida butterfly expertise: Kathy Malone, Jackie Miller, and Alana Edwards, at the Bonefish Restaurant in Gainesville.

Unknown jumping spider on Carphephorus corymbosus. Photo by Linda Cooper.

Jack Shaw, Buck Cooper, Kay Eoff, Bob Pyle and Lucie Bruce with their binoculars focused on the first Loammi Skipper (Atrytonopsis loammi). Photo by Linda F. Cooper.

Bob pointing to Loammi skipper. Photo by Linda F. Cooper.

Loammi skipper. Photo by Linda F. Cooper.

The following is an entry written by Linda Cooper, Osceola County, Florida

Monday, October 20

10:15 a.m The assignment was simple enough – find Loammi Skipper (Florida Dusted Skipper) – a ‘must see’ for Bob Pyle in his search for butterflies in Florida. His goal is high. He is looking for as many butterflies in the U. S.

as he can see in one year and it is already mid-October. He is taking pledges per species to raise money for butterfly conservation for The Xerces Society. We promised to help him in his search for this skipper in our neck of the woods. In a serendipitous moment we find Lucie Bruce, a Houston, TX butterfly enthusiast, has arrived at Bull Creek. She is invited to join Bob, Jack Shaw and Kay Eoff, who have driven from Gainesville, and Buck and me for a full day of walking wildflower fields. An extra pair of eyes is a great thing. We are wondering if we will see any butterflies today. The fields of Liatris and Carphephorus are fading fast. What had been filled with butterflies just nine days ago were largely devoid of activity in the cool morning.

Stiff breezes make following butterfly flight difficult but as the morning warms they begin to settle on the purple blossoms. The sharp-eyed Gainesville guys find the first Loammi – and then another. Soon we all begin to find them. One even had mismatched ventral hind wings with white smiley-face pattern on one side but mostly unpatterned on the other. Bob only needs to see one Loammi and we end up with ten! As we move farther along West Loop Road we find fresher Liatris and Ccarphephorus fields. Assorted swallowtails dance on the purple blossoms. Bob finds a Dotted Skipper, rarely seen so far south in the peninsula.

4:30 p.m We finish up by driving north on Cemetery Road through water-filled mud holes. At the end of the road we walk around the old cemetery, reading headstones and markers, shaking shrubs looking for White M Hairsteak. No luck with this one.

5:15 p.m Time to depart to meet Akers Pence in Melbourne for a quick dinner before he and Bob head south to search for tropical species. We end the day with 31 species and 249 individuals: life butterflies for most and an opportunity to spend the day with new and old friends in a beautiful area of old Florida.

So many butterflies… so little time!


 

The Xerces Society » News

General Mills joins effort to support bee and butterfly habitats

General Mills has made its largest contribution to help save pollinators, announcing a $2 million commitment that will add more than 100,000 acres of bee and butterfly habitat on or near existing crop lands.

The five-year agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Xerces Society, the world’s oldest and largest pollinator conservation group, will focus its efforts in Minnesota, North Dakota, California, Nebraska, Iowa and Maine. The USDA and Xerces will match this donation with another $2 million toward the project.

Gaining support from large corporations is a key step, conservationists say, in reversing the decline of pollinators that are needed to reproduce food crops and plants.

The investment will support six new field biologists in these regions who will work with General Mills’ suppliers to implement a pollinator habitat plan. With private landowners managing more than 70 percent of all land on the United States mainland, the USDA and nonprofit organizations must rely on corporate and other private partners if they are to stop the decline of pollinators, said Jason Weller, conservation service chief of the federal department.

“Partnerships are vital. If we really want to conserve wildlife and help the environment, we have to work with private landowners,” said Scott Black, executive director of the Xerces Society.

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General Mills, NRCS and the Xerces Society announce multi-year, $4 million investment in pollinator habitat

WASHINGTON — General Mills, the Xerces Society, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announce a major milestone in their partnership to restore and protect pollinator habitat across hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in North America. The five-year, $4 million financial commitment between General Mills and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will support farmers across the U.S. by providing technical assistance to plant and protect pollinator habitat, such as native wildflower field edges and flowering hedgerows.

General Mills, the Xerces Society, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announce a major milestone in their partnership to restore and protect pollinator habitat across hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in North America. The five-year, $4 million financial commitment between General Mills and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will support farmers across the U.S. by providing technical assistance to plant and protect pollinator habitat, such as native wildflower field edges and flowering hedgerows. Through 2021, this partnership will help to plant over 100,000 acres of pollinator habitat.

Through 2021, this partnership will help to plant over 100,000 acres of pollinator habitat. Providing habitat in agriculture landscapes has been shown to help a variety of pollinators, including bumble bees, squash bees, honey bees and butterflies, and provides benefits to crops that need insect pollinators. Such habitat can also improve water quality, reduce soil erosion and provide habitat for game and songbirds.

“Two-thirds of the continental United States is privately owned, making the land management decisions of America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners essential to pollinator health,” NRCS Chief Jason Weller said. “Agricultural producers can make relatively simple tweaks on working lands that benefit bees, butterflies and other pollinators while improving the operation as a whole. NRCS offers more than three dozen conservation practices that can benefit pollinators, and this partnership will enable us to better plan and implement these practices.”

In North America alone, bees are responsible for over $25 billion in agricultural production each year. In addition to improving the yield of many crop species, research demonstrates that pollinators such as bees may also improve the nutritional value and commercial quality of some crops.

“Pollinators supply one-third of the food and beverages that Americans consume,” said Jerry Lynch, Chief Sustainability Officer at General Mills. “As part of General Mills’ global commitment to treat the world with care, our investment will help pollinators to continue to play a key role in sustainable food production in the U.S.”

To create and accelerate habitat restoration for pollinators, this partnership will support six Xerces/NRCS Pollinator Conservation Biologists jointly managed by the NRCS and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the largest and oldest pollinator conservation organization in the world. This biologist team will support U.S. farmers by providing individual consulting on habitat restoration and pollinator-friendly farm management practices, evaluate habitat, and serve as advisors to other conservation agency staff in the regions they serve. The biologists will be based in California, Nebraska, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Maine.

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Note: The Xerces Society is not responsible for the content of external sites.  Where trade names appear, no discrimination is intended, and no endorsement by the Xerces Society is implied.


Firefly Populations Are Blinking Out

Blink and you’ll miss them this summer. Around the world, people are reporting that local firefly populations are shrinking or even disappearing.

The insect’s dilemma first came to the world’s attention at the 2010 International Firefly Symposium, where researchers from 13 nations presented evidence of firefly population declines and declared “an urgent need for conservation of their habitats.” Since then, additional conferences and several scientific papers have documented regional firefly disappearances, and at least two citizen-science projects are attempting to document the phenomenon, but the full scope of the problem remains to be uncovered, says firefly researcher Ben Pfeiffer, founder of Firefly.org, a website about the decline of the insects, also called lightning bugs.

“It’s worrying,” said Pfeiffer. “When people see a habitat that’s got three, four, five different species of firefly flashing, each with a different flash pattern, it’s an amazing thing. It changes their lives, but few people get to see that anymore.”

The exact extent of the decline is unknown, but early indications suggest that lightning bug populations have shrunk in many places and disappeared from others. “Everyone is reporting declines,” said Eric Lee-Mӓder, codirector of the pollinator program for the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Lee-Mӓder said he suspects that decades of overzealous collection by the medical industry may have also contributed to fireflies’ decline. Pharmaceutical companies used to pay bounties of up to a penny per firefly to collect their chemicals for biomedical use. The pharmaceutical company Sigma Chemical Company collected up to 1 million fireflies a year and sold the chemicals for about $260 an ounce, according to a 1975 report in the Milwaukee Journal.

“If you do the math, that’s a lot of insects,” Lee-Mӓder said. “You multiply that over a pretty wide area and add these other stress factors, and there’s no doubt that it has had a major impact on populations. We just don’t know what that impact is yet.”

A 2013 study published in Ecological Modeling found that some firefly populations failed when medical harvest rates exceeded 60 percent.

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Note: The Xerces Society is not responsible for the content of external sites.  Where trade names appear, no discrimination is intended, and no endorsement by the Xerces Society is implied.

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