Will we find Franklin's bumble bee again? Rare bee rediscovered in UK. Help scientists learn about plasterer bees. And the murder hornet murder mystery is now streaming.
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How likely is it that we'll find Franklin's bumble bee again?
Photo by Brendan White, USFWS
Last week we all read the news that Franklin’s bumble bee was officially added to the Endangered Species List in the U.S. This week, I published my latest story with National Geographic about the bee and the possibility of finding it again. I hope you’ll give it a look.
One of the most interesting parts of reporting this story was hearing how optimistic people involved with the search are about finding the bee again. Although Franklin’s hasn’t been seen since 2006, fifteen years isn’t actually that long a time to go without seeing a small, rare and highly-mobile creature that’s still somewhere on the landscape. There are countless examples of all sorts of species being rediscovered after having disappeared. The average length of time is 61 years. And since 1889, over 350 species have been rediscovered, with times ranging from 3 to 331 years.
This was one of those stories where I learned quite a bit while working on it. And I want to thank the people who took the time to answer numerous questions for me – much appreciated!
(Kent Online) It hasn’t been seen in Britain since 1934 and it was assumed to be extinct.
(Phys.org) Monarch butterflies are faced with catastrophic decline. Their dire situation led to the creation five years ago of this program set up by the Montreal Insectarium to document monarch breeding grounds. The data is used by researchers to determine zones in need of protection.
(BBC) A group of amateur botanists called the Rebel Botanists have started a mission to label so-called weeds on verges and pavements.
(Yale Environment 360) Scientists have long drawn up a Red List to alert officials about wildlife and plant species threatened with extinction. Now some say it’s time to flip the script and create a “green status” category that identifies how to bring these species back to sustainable levels.
(BBC) A beekeeper speaks of his devastation after about a million of his bees were killed when their hives were doused in petrol and set alight.
(CBS Minnesota) The Lawns to Legumes program offers up to $300 to cover the cost of planting a pollinator habitat in your yard. It’s a competitive grant. Last year 7,500 people applied, proving the demand for more funding. An additional $2 million helps extend the program to more bee-loving Minnesotans. Applications will be accepted through February 15, 2022. Funding notifications are emailed a month later.
(Center for Biological Diversity) Three neonicotinoid insecticides likely harm all of the country’s 38 protected amphibians and roughly three fourths of all other endangered plants and animals, according to long-anticipated studies recently released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
(WGCU, audio) The Florida Museum of Natural History is looking for your help to track two species of native bee that you’ll probably hear before you see. Southeastern plasterer bees are super-fuzzy, fast-flying and most active from August through October when wildflowers are in full bloom. But you won't find them buzzing around in active hives, they’ll most likely be flying solo. Very little is known about the bees’ biology but a project is underway to learn more.
(Twitter, Victoria J. MacPhail @VJMacPhail) “Did you take any pictures of a #bumblebee on the weekend? Submit to bumblebeewatch.org today and you could be our 100,000 submission! We're at 99,916 observations at the time of this tweet!”
(Twitter, Jake Cecala @BeesOnEarth) “A granular neonic, applied at only 1/3 label rate, reduced solitary bee reproduction by a staggering 90%. We found some interesting interactions between irrigation level and insecticide use on floral resources, but more irrigation did not translate into any benefits for the bees.” Original paper
(Scientific American) Plants with blue flowers, ranging in tone from indigo to cyan, have been studied disproportionately even though blue is one of the least common flower colors.“Our findings don't so much suggest that researchers focus on prettier plants, but rather that more conspicuous, easy-to-locate and colorful flowering plants are the ones receiving more attention.”
(The Conversation) Flies are the second most common type of pollinator. While we know animals may see color differently, little was known about how fly pollination shapes the types of flowers we can find in nature. In a new study this gap in our knowledge by evaluating how important fly pollinators sense and use color, and how fly pollinated flowers have evolved color signals.
(Entomology Today) Insects help pollinate 80 percent or more of the world’s flowering plants, including around three-quarters of agricultural crops that we humans value. But daytime pollinators get most of our attention. Pollinators that fly at night – and, yes, there are a lot of them – have gotten much less scrutiny. A new study looks at their impact on apple tree pollination in Arkansas as compared with their daytime counterparts.
(Science News) Moths flock to streetlights, bewitched by their luminous brilliance. But bathing in brightness all night seems to have consequences for the grounded forms of these fliers. Illuminated stretches of English roads housed up to 52 percent fewer moth caterpillars than adjacent dark patches, researchers report. Streetlights could be contributing to declining insect populations in developed areas, the researchers say.
(Wired) “Attack of the Murder Hornets” currently streaming on Discovery+ plays out like a spooky murder mystery. But the insects are scary enough; they don't need horror movie tropes.
(Phys.org, Lancaster University) Researchers seeking ways to discover more about bee behavior without disrupting the nest have built the world's first ‘wild bee nests’ with built-in webcams. Using 3D printing and molding, they created a light-proof chamber with a small narrow entrance pipe. Once buried beneath ground, the prototype dome-shaped nests have already proven to be popular with queen bees on the hunt for a safe place for a nest. Robust enough to withstand the elements, the nests offer a safe potential nesting site which can even withstand the attention of large mammals such as cows. And because the nests already have cameras installed in them before being put in the ground, it’s possible to see what the bees are up to without the need to disrupt or distress their colony.
(Scientific American) To cut down on the human work of beekeeping, some commercial and hobbyist operations are installing new sensors, about the size of a smartphone, in individual hives.
One More Thing…
The meme that keeps on giving. From Dr Manu Saunders @ManuSaunders via Twitter.