Lawsuit challenges USDA’s failure to protect endangered species from insecticide. Citizen science finds multiple habitats need protecting to save U.K. bumble bees. Plus: The bee genome project.
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Photo: Pieter Haringsma
(British Ecological Society) Researchers have used 10 years of bumble bee abundance data, collected by citizen scientists, to provide the most detailed overview currently possible of bumble bee habitat requirements across the U.K. The researchers found a wide range of differences between bumble bee species in the types of habitat they are associated with. This suggests that a one-size-fits-all approach to bumble bee conservation will not effectively protect all species and that conservation efforts need to be carefully tailored to particular species.
(The Guardian) Mexican experts have said that 35% more monarch butterflies arrived this year to spend the winter in mountaintop forests, compared with the previous season. Experts say the rise may reflect the butterflies’ ability to adapt to more extreme bouts of heat or drought by varying the date when they leave Mexico.
(The Guardian) The increase in the number of species listed as “vulnerable” from nine in 2011 to 16 today is a warning that time is running out to save the 58 resident species, according to Butterfly Conservation, which compiled the red list from scientific monitoring data according to the criteria set out by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. But there are positive trends on the list, which covers data from 2010-19, with two of the species most threatened with extinction – the large blue and the high brown fritillary – moving out of the most at-risk category after targeted conservation.
(AP) Some nature advocates are worried that Maine residents are killing the wrong caterpillar as they seek to wipe out an invasive species that causes a rash with its toxic hairs.
(AP) Scientists believe the hornets, first detected in the Pacific Northwest state in 2019, are confined in Whatcom County, which is located on the Canadian border north of Seattle.
(Seattle Times) The Washington State Department of Agriculture recently announced a new public project to help monitor Asian giant hornet activity in the state. The project requires participants to “adopt” paper wasp nests and monitor them weekly from June through October to see if they are visited by hornets. Whatcom County residents have reported Asian giant hornets attacking paper wasp nests in the past two years. In 2021, the department tracked a hornet’s activity, and observed it repeatedly return to the same nest and remove the paper wasp larvae.
Questions about DIY pesticides for homeowners
(Twitter, colinpurrington @colinpurrington) “On Facebook these days 100% of my ads are from companies selling DIY pesticides to homeowners who desire a property free of all arthropods. I asked one, @getpestie, whether the chemicals will help control fireflies and they said yes. Website also says the spray will kill bees.... For those curious, it seems like @getpestie sends you pyrethroids (e.g., lambda cyhalothrin) and/or neonicotinoids.”
(Twitter, colinpurrington @colinpurrington) “Got served up another pesticide ad this morning, this one from @Wondercide. Its ‘Outdoor Pest Control’ is advertised to completely eliminate your mosquitoes for the entire summer. And somehow the spray will only kill mosquitoes, somehow sparing bees, butterflies, and children.”
Photo: Rich Hatfield, Xerces Society
(Xerces Society) The Xerces Society and Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s secretive Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for failing to properly consider harms to endangered species caused by insecticide spraying across millions of acres of western grasslands. The main insecticide sprayed is diflubenzuron, which kills insects in their immature stages. It is typically sprayed from airplanes over areas of at least 10,000 acres. Studies have shown the insecticide reduces populations of bees, butterflies, beetles, and a wide variety of other insects. Aquatic invertebrates consumed by endangered fish and trout are also vulnerable.
Photo: Getty Images
(PBS) To bolster our knowledge of bee biology and behavior, a new effort dubbed the “Beenome100 Project” is building a first-of-its-kind library of dozens of different bee genomes. Researchers can use that information to tackle big picture questions like how to protect these tiny creatures, and how they’ve evolved alongside us over time. Beenome is just one of the many initiatives affiliated with the Earth BioGenome Project, an ambitious international effort to sequence the genomes of nearly 2 million named eukaryotic species.
(Twitter, Tomer Czaczkes @tomerczaczkes) “We let bees visit artificial flowers offering sucrose and water repeatedly. We used three different feeder types which emphasise or reduce various ways in which sucrose and water differ. We simply asked whether the bees could choose the sugar first... And they could! Interestingly, though, the bees could only choose sugar over water if they took a moment to inspect the options before choosing.” Original paper
(ScienceDaily, University of Cincinnati) Biologists say nighttime light pollution can interfere with the remarkable navigational abilities of monarchs, which travel as far as Canada to Mexico and back during their multi-generational migration. Researchers found that butterflies roosting at night near artificial illumination such as a porch or streetlight can become disoriented the next day because the light interferes with their circadian rhythms. Artificial light can impede the molecular processes responsible for the butterfly’s remarkable navigational ability and trigger the butterfly to take wing when it should be resting.
(GOV.UK) The survey is being co-ordinated by the U.K. Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. Their Flower-Insect Timed Count survey asks people to spend 10 minutes a day collecting data on the number of insects that visit particular patches of flowers, including dandelion, buttercup and lavender. The free ‘FIT Count’ phone app will help track pollinator numbers and movements, providing crucial data that can be used to support pollinators in our natural environment. It could reveal previously unknown colonies of pollinators, where numbers are diminishing, or how populations are shifting in response to climate change.
(Phys.org, University of California - Riverside) UC Riverside scientists have a new chemical weapon to seduce and kill the invasive, long-nosed beetles destroying California palm trees by the tens of thousands. A new $1.1 million grant from the California Department of Pesticide Regulations is enabling project “Fatal Attraction”, which will test the pheromone in urban areas of San Diego County. The treatment represents a more environmentally friendly way to reduce invasive beetle populations than the strategies currently being used: injecting the soil around the palm trees with neonicotinoids.
(British Ecological Society) A BES member from Nigeria is looking for international collaborators on a project that proposes to examine the effect of climate change and urban green space on pollinator diversity. By gaining perspectives on these areas of policy from other countries, it will help show the gaps in current Nigerian and South African policy and suggest improvements that are possible.
Photo: Yanko Design
(Yanko Design) This one-room house is located on an olive farm in a village in southern Italy. The room fits two people, and the house itself has an exterior that looks like a honeycomb. But aside from just having a bee theme, there are actually nine apiaries or beehive boxes surrounding you. There’s even one of those boxes hanging from the ceiling near your bed.
Photo: NASA, Wikimedia Commons
(ScienceDaily, University of Exeter) A new study examines new ways of using these technologies to track the availability of flowers, and says this could be combined with behavioral studies to see the world through the eyes of insects.
One More Thing…
“Ironclad Beetle. Huh.” From Wisconsin Insect Research Collection (WIRC) @WIRCInsects via Twitter.