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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The Xerces Society » News

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