Endangered penguins killed by bees. New York State considers limiting neonics. Why do bees buzz? And monarchs, monarchs, monarchs.

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Endangered South African penguins killed by swarm of bees near Cape Town

(BBC) Bird conservationists in South Africa say sixty-three endangered African penguins have been killed by a swarm of bees in a rare occurrence near Cape Town. The protected birds were found on the shore with multiple bee-stings. They had no other physical injuries. Cape honey bees are part of the local ecosystem, which features several conservation areas.

This desert valley is home to 500 bee species, a world record

(National Geographic) In the midst of the Chihuahuan Desert, straddling the border of southeastern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico, the San Bernardino Valley is an oasis of life. Following rains, especially the monsoon downpours of late summer, the area explodes with an abundance of flowers – and a bevy of bees. In fact, research shows that this area has the highest concentration of bee species in the world. There are other bee hotspots: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, in Utah, is home to 660 species – but these bees were found across 2,970 square miles, an area 480 times larger than that covered by researchers in San Bernardino.

Why the honey bee ‘apocalypse’ is based on a lie

(New York Post) Not only are honey bees not endangered, they may be responsible for declines in other bee populations.

Insects are vanishing from our planet at an alarming rate. But there are ways to help them.

(The Guardian) “This may all seem terribly depressing, but do not despair. We feel helpless in the face of many global environmental problems, but we can all get involved in halting and reversing insect declines. Most insects have not yet gone extinct, and they could recover quickly if we just gave them some space, somewhere to live and feed in peace.”


Angelina Jolie will return to Cambodia in 2022 to establish next Women for Bees program

(People) As an ambassador of for Guerlain, the luxury French beauty house, the actress was named the Godmother of Women for Bees – a female beekeeping entrepreneurship program that Guerlain launched last year in partnership with UNESCO – and attended the graduation of the first class of women in France this summer, where she learned more about bee-keeping. The program claims to raise awareness about bee conservation and the importance of investing in women’s education.

Breeding bees fit for Dubai’s heat

(CNN) High in the Dubai mountains, where there’s little vegetation, bees struggle to survive the summer heat. But like in the rest of the world, bees and other pollinators are needed in this arid environment for plant life to thrive. Here, a farm has been established to provide bees with a breeding ground and extend their life cycle beyond the mild weather seasons when honey can be produced.


New York Assembly considers limiting a pesticide linked to bee deaths

(WSKG) The New York State Assembly held a hearing on whether the state should strictly limit the use of neonicotinoid pesticides which are linked to the die-off of honey bees and population declines of other insects and birds. The bill would limit the use of the chemical, and not allow it to be used as a preemptive or prophylactic treatment, but would allow it for use in response to a specific infestation on a farm. The measure to limit the use of neonic pesticides has already been approved in the State Senate.


Why do bees buzz?

(Twitter, Mario Vallejo-Marin @nicrodemo) “I had lots of fun writing up this paper now available... I review the mechanisms by which bees buzz in defence, flight, thermoregulation, mating, communication, and of course buzz pollination!” Original paper

The origin and evolution of pollen transport in bees

(Twitter, Zach Portman @zachportman) “Happy to announce I have a new preprint: ‘The origin and evolution of pollen transport in bees (Hymenoptera: Anthophila)’... It’s rather long and complicated, but I can explain the most important points in a few tweets.” Preprint

A tale of two pollinators: More evidence of neonicotinoids’ effect on wild bees

(Entomology Today) A pair of studies published in August and September look at how exposure to the neonicotinoid imidacloprid affects common eastern bumble bees and a species of mason bee. In the first study, exposed bumble bees were less efficient foragers, flying farther between flowers rather than visiting the closest rewarding flower. In the other, mason bees given nesting choices that included contaminated soil showed no avoidance response at all.

Hoverflies navigate using sun and body clock

(ScienceDaily, University of Exeter) Pied and yellow-clubbed hoverflies – which are important pollinators – spend their summers in locations such as the UK and Scandinavia, then fly to the Mediterranean and North Africa in autumn. The insects keep the sun on their left in the morning, then gradually adjust to maintain a southward route as the day goes on.

Invasive cheatgrass spreads under city lights

(Scientific American) In his seminal 1949 book A Sand County Almanac, American naturalist Aldo Leopold warned of the perils of cheatgrass – a tall and hairy invasive plant that originated in Europe and Asia. Today cheatgrass outcompetes native species across large swaths of the western U.S., displacing sagebrush steppe grasses and threatening grain and cattle farms. But a new study shows cheatgrass also seems oddly and particularly drawn to the bright lights of city life – a rare twist for researchers who usually tackle such invaders in fields and forests, not back alleyways and boulevards.

Isotope mapping sheds rare light into migratory routes, natal origins of monarch butterflies

(ScienceDaily, University of Ottawa) A biology student traveled 20,000 kilometers collecting milkweed, creating isotope analysis of monarch butterflies’ annual migration journey, hoping to identify factors behind this threatened insect's decline.


Monarchs on radar

(Twitter, Ed Russo @EdRussoWX) “Here’s a more detailed look at the #butterfly migration seen on radar over central Oklahoma Monday evening. The #monarchs hitched a ride on a north wind behind the boundary as it swung through. They’re final destination is a mountain forest in central Mexico.”

This little California beach town is the best place to see the great monarch butterfly migration – but they need your help

(Travel & Leisure) Just as the air begins to cool and the days become that much shorter, the iconic monarch butterflies make their arrival along the California coast. While you may be able to spot a good handful of butterflies now, just a few years ago, you'd be able to spot them by the millions. “There were once so many butterflies that the sound of their wings was described as a rippling stream or a summer rain.”

Pets can help fight climate change with an insect-based diet. Owners just need to come around to the idea.

(Washington Post) Many pet owners reflexively bark “No!” when their dog or cat prepares to feast on a bug. But despite what scientists call the “yuck factor,” insects could be a sustainable secret ingredient for the booming pet food industry. About a quarter of Americans are cutting back on eating meat, many alarmed by the fact that livestock farming causes up to 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Yet for all the humans observing meatless Mondays, opting for Impossible burgers or swearing off meat entirely, 180 million furry members of U.S. households are fed beef, lamb, poultry or pork in just about every meal.

One More Thing…

“WTF does this have to do with ‘science’?! Many of these ‘bugs’ are declining, part of the UK’s #BiodiversityCrisis… Rather than spinning the negative, why don’t you highlight the positive @YouGov?” From Prof. Jeff Ollerton @JeffOllerton via Twitter.