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!


 

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Growing Insects: Farmers Can Help to Bring Back Pollinators

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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