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Biodiversity: Endangered species protection sought for dwindling monarch butterflies

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Can monarch butterflies be saved?

Pesticides, habitat loss and GMO crops seen as main threats

Staff Report

FRISCO —As monarch butterfly populations dwindle to unprecedented low levels, activists say the colorful and far-ranging insects need protection of the Endangered Species Act to survive. In a formal listing petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a coalition of advocacy groups say the widespread use of pesticides and genetically modified crops are the biggest threats to the butterflies. Continue reading

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Is out-of-state firewood a threat to Colorado trees?

Trees? Or toothpicks?

Beetle-killed trees near Frisco, Colorado.

State Forest Service warns against transporting firewood

Staff Report

FRISCO — It may be a little like the Dutch boy putting his finger in the leaky dike, but Colorado Forest Service officials are warning that transporting firewood from place to place may increase the spread of invasive tree-killing bugs.

Moving firewood even short distances increases the risk to Colorado’s native forests and urban trees. With the 2013 detection of the highly destructive emerald ash borer in the City of Boulder, and ongoing bark beetle epidemics in the state’s mountain forests, the Colorado State Forest Service wants to be sure people are aware of the risks associated with moving firewood. Continue reading

Morning photo: An iPhone set

The little camera that ROCKS

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Hummingbird moth in Breckenridge.

FRISCO —I am still amazed at how much I can do with the iPhone camera during a casual stroll. Friday morning in Breckenridge, I spotted several hummingbird moths feeding on planter flowers at the Riverwalk Center. Not expecting too much, I positioned myself at a good angle to the sun, held the camera close to the blooms and waited for a moth to enter the frame. The shutter speed wasn’t quite high enough to completely freeze the moth’s wingbeat (up to 50 beats per second) but I rather like the slightly blurred effect, giving the image a dynamic quality, and the rest of the frame is pretty darn sharp. Friday evening as the lightning rolled in from the West, I experimented with low-light exposure and, to my surprise, actually managed to catch a sky-brightening flash, leaving the silhouette of Peak 1 fairly sharp, but the foreground highly pixelated (next image). Continue reading

Biodiversity: Even at ‘safe’ levels, pesticides are having catastrophic impacts on aquatic ecosystems

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Dragonflies are taking a big hit from pesticides, even at levels deemed “safe” by lab tests. Bob Berwyn photo.

Study documents dramatic regional decline of insect species

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — After studying ecosystems contaminated with pesticides, scientists say they’ve been able to measure a dramatic loss of invertebrate biodiversity in polluted streams and rivers.

The study is one of the first to document the toxic effects of pesticides at a regional ecosystem level, rather than exptrapolating toxicity from lab tests.

“The current practice of risk assessment is like driving blind on the motorway”, said ecotoxicologist Matthias Liess. “To date, the approval of pesticides has primarily been based on experimental work carried out in laboratories and artificial ecosystems.” Continue reading

Study: Wild insects key to crop pollination

Wild insect populations are critical to pollinating plant life. Bob Berwyn photo.

Wild insect populations are critical to pollinating plant life. Bob Berwyn photo.

Honeybees augment, but don’t replace diverse insect populations

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With a lot of recent concerns focused on the decline of honeybee populations, a new study shows that wild insects even even more important as pollinators for certain crops for crops stocked routinely with high densities of honey bees, including almonds, blueberries, mangos and watermelons.

“Our study shows that losses of wild insects from agricultural landscapes impact not only our natural heritage but also our agricultural harvests,” said Lucas A. Garibaldi, of the Universidad Nacional de Río Negro – CONICET, Argentina.

“We found that wild insects consistently enhanced the number of flowers setting fruits or seeds for a broad range of crops and agricultural practices on all continents with farmland,” Garibaldi said. “Long term, productive agricultural systems should include habitat for both honey bees and diverse wild insects. Our study prompts for the implementation of more sustainable agricultural practices.” Continue reading

Global warming: Extreme spring warmth affects popular firefly watching event in Great Smoky Mountains NP

A firefly closeup, courtesy of Firefly.org. Click on the image to see more great firefly shots.

Warming temps disrupt delicate cycles involving plants, insects and birds

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — If you miss this year’s synchronized firefly display in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you can blame it on freakishly warm spring weather, perhaps linked to predicted weather extremes caused by global warming.

Because of the unseasonably warm spring, the synchronized fireflies in the park  are displaying earlier than ever recorded, according to park officials.

Fireflies are in trouble as it is, with habitat loss and artificial night lighting cited as the main threats to their survival by Firefly.org. A rapidly changing climate probably won’t help their chances, as the timing of larval emergence and the blooming of plants the insects depend on changes. Continue reading

Morning photo: Critter cam

Bugs, birds, bison …

Stopping at a gas station a few miles south of New Orleans, I spotted this unusual translucent green dragonfly sitting on a Bungee cord holding down luggage on the car roof. I grabbed the small Fuji Finepix, turned on the flash and snapped a couple of quick frames.

SUMMIT COUNTY — Today was #FriFotos on Twitter, a social media chat that involves posting photos about a different topic each week, and this week the topic was animals. Turns out I have quite a few critter pics, including domestic dogs, dolphins, sea birds and, yes, even a few insects.

A petrel soars above the waters of the Drake Passage, between Tierra del Fuego and Antarctica.

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