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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A Ghost in the Making: Photographing the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee

By International League of Conservation Photographers, National Geographic Voices

Over the past two years I have become increasingly fascinated, okay obsessed, with North America’s native bees. Although I initially began photographing them in my backyard in between assignments it didn’t take long for me to become mesmerized by the lives of these remarkable, often minute creatures. North America has about 4,000 species of native bees. Yet despite all the press about the decline of the honey bee (Apis mellifera) – an exotic species introduced to North America from Europe – none of our native bees are protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Earlier this year, in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I saw my first Rusty-patched Bumble Bee (Bombus affinis). It should have been a thrill – affinis is one of the rarest bees in North America. But this particular bee was impaled on a pin, neatly labeled, and stored in a drawer. In an adjacent case was a perfectly preserved Passenger Pigeon. Like the pigeon, the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee once thrived in the Park, but it has gone locally extinct. Unlike the pigeon, there are still some Rusty-patched Bumble Bees left; small populations persist in the Upper Midwest, hundreds of miles to the north. The Rusty-patched Bumble Bee is a beautiful, fat, fuzzy bee that was once widespread in the eastern United States. But in the last 15 years its range has shrunk by 87% and it has become rare in the few areas where it is still found. The bee has already been listed as endangered in Canada, but not in the U.S., where it was once so abundant.

Read more at NationalGeographic.com

Rare insect imperiled by retreating ice in Glacier National Park

By Louis Sahagun, The LA Times

Shrinking glaciers and rising stream temperatures in Montana’s Glacier National Park are prompting concerns about the impacts on surrounding ecological systems after perennial streams of melted ice disappear.

Of particular concern is the fate of a rare aquatic insect, the western glacier stonefly, which is only found in the park and was first identified in streams there in 1963. Only 25 specimens exist in museum collections around the world.

The ice masses in Glacier National Park are expected to disappear by 2030, leaving the insect scientists know as Zapada glacier without the creature comforts it needs to avoid extinction: very cold alpine streams flowing out of patches of ice.

Recent surveys and genetic analysis show that the 1/2-inch-long insect is now only found in one of six streams it inhabited prior to 2011, according to a new study published online last week in the scientific journal Freshwater Science.

Read more at LATimes.com

Pollinator Recommendations Deliver A Sting

By Geoffrey Riley & Charlotte Duren, Jefferson Public Radio

The thousands of bees that died in Oregon a couple of summers ago did not die in vain.

The die-off, a result of pesticide use, increased awareness of both the value of bees (and other pollinators) and the perils of ignorance in chemical use.

The Xerces Society and other groups that want more protections for pollinators hailed the formation of a task force to make recommendations to the legislature.

Read more at IJPR.org

Oyster growers asking for permission to use new type of pesticide

By Jake Schild, The Daily World

State regulators are considering a proposal from the Willapa Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association to use the pesticide imidacloprid to eliminate the problem of burrowing shrimp. The growers association believes the pesticide is a safer alternative to carbaryl, which was previously used to take care of the problem, but environmentalists are concerned about the chemical’s possible effect on invertebrates.

A draft permit for the proposed use of the pesticide has been produced by the State Department of Ecology, as well as a draft environmental impact statement. A fact sheet regarding using imidacloprid has been completed, as well. The pesticide would not be used until the Spring of 2015 if the permit is approved. Public comments on the issue are being taken by the Department of Ecology until Dec. 8.

Willapa Bay produces around 65 percent of the oysters and 13 percent of clams harvested in Washington state. The combined oyster harvest from Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor makes up about 25 percent of the total oyster landings in the United States. Nine thousand acres of oyster grounds are currently farmed in Willapa Bay, while about 900 are farmed for commercial production oysters and clams in Grays Harbor.

Read more at TheDailyWorld.com

My View: Making space for bees in our crowded landscapes can help solve food production woes

By Matthew Shepherd and Eric Lee-Mader, Portland Tribune

There are photos and videos circulating on the Web of a crop duster seed-bombing wildflowers to create a meadow for bees that challenges our expectations. What’s a plane usually used for killing insects doing trying to save them? In grabbing our attention, it shines a spotlight onto an important issue: the lack of clean, safe habitat for bees in our landscapes.

Bees and other pollinators touch our lives every day, from the foods and drinks we consume to the fabrics we wear or sleep on. And the service they provide to our environment helps define our seasons: springtime wildflowers, summer berry picking, pumpkins at Halloween.

The threats facing bees include: diseases, parasites, pesticides, habitat loss. It doesn’t matter whether they are domesticated honeybees or native bumblebees; all bees are facing the same conditions wherever they live. Too often, these kinds of problems seem overwhelming, too vast to fully comprehend, let alone turn around.

Read more at PortlandTribune.com