Blue butterfly goes extinct because of people. Consolidating farms in China has negative impact on wild pollinators. Bees recorded drinking human sweat and tears. And even more robot bees.

Conservation

This butterfly is the first U.S. insect known to go extinct because of people

(Science News) The Xerces blue butterfly used to live only on the San Francisco Peninsula. But by the early 1940s, less than a century after its formal scientific description in the 1850s, the gossamer-winged butterfly had vanished. Its rapid disappearance is attributed to the loss of habitat and native plant food as a result of urban development and, possibly, an influx of invasive ants likely spread though the shipment of goods. But it’s long been unclear if the Xerces blue butterfly was its own species, or simply an isolated population of another, more widespread species of blue butterfly. New research on DNA from a nearly century-old museum specimen shows that the butterfly was a distinct species. What’s more, that finding means that the Xerces blue butterfly is the first U.S. insect species known to go extinct because of humans.

Farm consolidation has negative effect on wild pollinators

(EurekAlert, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University) Traditionally, smallholder farms in China are worked by hand and have an irregular shape informed by the landscape. There are narrow margins of semi-natural habitat between individual smallholder farms that allow farmers to move between them. Consolidation reorganizes the farmland into more uniform shapes that allow for mechanized agriculture and creates even, flat surfaces between the plots, which are sometimes paved to enable easier movement. “We found that consolidated farming landscapes had about 30% lower pollinator biodiversity as opposed to traditional ones.”

New pollinator garden welcomes travelers, bees and butterflies, part of a Virginia DOT initiative

(Daily Press) The garden is part of a Virginia Department of Transportation initiative that eventually aims to bring such oases to each of the state’s 43 rest areas, as well as to Park and Ride lots and other properties on the roughly 39,000 acres under VDOT’s care.


Economics

Dutch honey bees resistant to varroa mite imported to Australia to help guard against the pest

(ABC News) Australia remains the only continent still free of varroa mite. Despite stringent measures around the nation’s entry points, most believe it will inevitably breach the continent’s biosecurity defenses. The mite is present in New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and South East Asia. Feral beehives infected with the parasite can easily hitch a ride on any of the thousands of container ships that dock in our ports.

‘Just like any other livestock’: Drought’s effect on beekeeping in South Dakota

(KELO) Drought has taken a toll across the state of South Dakota. From corn and wheat to cattle, producers have made been put in a tough spot while keeping a hopeful eye on the sky. Another group that has been watching for rain is beekeepers. Pollen and nectar are essential for honey production, and the drought has resulted in a difficult season so far. “The plants look okay but they aren’t producing nectar.”


Policy/Law

New biodiversity algorithm ‘will blight range of natural habitats in England’

(The Guardian) The biodiversity net gain metric, the UK government’s new metric for biodiversity, outlines how new roads, houses and other building projects must achieve no net loss of biodiversity, or achieve a 10% net gain elsewhere if nature is damaged on site. But the new metric does not value scrubby landscapes dominated by bramble, thistle and ragwort, which are often key features of rewilding projects. Instead it logs them as a sign of “degradation”.


Science

Bees recorded feeding on sweat and tears of human beings

(Mongabay) A team of researchers studying stingless bees have observed that the bees feed on the sweat and tears of humans – reportedly, a first-of-its-kind finding from India. “Just like nectar, these bees collect sweat and tears and may store them in their nest and utilise them whenever required. The sweat and tears are a source of protein and salt for these bees.” The feeding of insects on tears and sweat are called lachryphagy and sudophagy, respectively.

What’s a bee’s favorite flower? Using DNA analysis to unpick pollen preference in bees

(The Naked Scientists) Bumble bees are crucial pollinators in nature’s ecosystem, and farmers will even buy commercial beehives, plonk them in their fields, and hope they will do the hard work of pollinating their plants. But do they?

The pervading confusion about chestnut pollination

(Twitter, FLOWer Lab @cfe_FLOWerLab) “Very interesting new paper and results... on pollination syndromes in chestnut trees!” Original paper

Tomato fruits send electrical warnings to the rest of the plant when attacked by insects

(EurekAlert, Frontiers) A recent study shows that the fruits of a type of tomato plant send electrical signals to the rest of the plant when they are infested by caterpillars. Plants have a multitude of chemical and hormonal signaling pathways, which are generally transmitted through the sap. In the case of fruits, nutrients flow exclusively to the fruit and there has been little research into whether there is any communication in the opposite direction.


Technology

Computer scientist creates robotic hive and drones for pollination

(University of Maryland) The scientist is developing an artificial beehive, appropriately called RoboBeeHive – an arm-length drone that will carry smaller drones, find a tree and attach itself. “It opens up, and the smaller drones will come out.” The drones use artificial intelligence to autonomously navigate and avoid obstructions – animals, trees or other drones busy spreading pollen – as they carry pollen between plants that sticks to simulated bee fur. And if the weather takes a turn for the worse, a message from the “hive” calls them back.


One More Thing…

"good morning from our urban meadow" From Scout K-C @sproutedscout via Twitter.