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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

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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.

Continue reading

Environment: Bumblebees in decline

Populations of some bumblebee species have declined by as much as 96 percent in recent decades.

Research suggests genetic factors and parasites are factors

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The buzzing of bumblebees during summer is a comforting sound, but it’s also an economic factor in multibillion dollar tomato and berry crops, as the insects intentionally use those vibrations to shake loose pollen. Their robust size and long tongues also help them pollinate efficiently, but recent studies have documented an alarming decline in bumblebee populations in North America and the U.S.

Altogether, bees pollinate about 90 percent of the world’s commercial plants, so the decline has spurred environmental and economic concerns, along with more studies, and the results are not good. Most research is pointing toward a significant loss, possibly due to the introduction of a tiny parasite that’s common in Europe. In one of the most significant research efforts, scientists at the University of Illinois said populations of four common species of bumblebees have dropped by 96 percent in recent decades. Continue reading

Morning photo: Macro

Shelter from the storm

An ant takes shelter under a spreading blossom at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail. Click on the image to visit the gardens online.

SUMMIT COUNTY — It’s not true macro photography, I admit. I don’t have a fancy macro lens, just a little point and shoot Fuji Finepix that I carry wherever I go. This summer I played with the macro setting on the Fuji, learning that, if the light is just right, and I hold the darn thing steady, I can capture some decent images. With a bit of digital cropping and sharpening, it’s close enough to get a little taste of the macro world. 

Click here to see previous editions of the morning photo essays. And you can support independent journalism in Summit County by visiting our online photo galleries and buying prints. Of if you like what you see in our daily photoblogs, contact us directly, bberwyn@comcast.net. Online photography at Imagekind, framed prints and greeting cards … More Summit County images online at RedBubble …Click on the read more button to see a few more “macro” images. Continue reading

Morning photo: Nectar

A bumblebee pays an evening visit to fireweed blossoms in Frisco, Colorado

Our morning photo helps show there is life after death in Summit County's devastated lodgepole pine forests, where wildflowers, lodgepole seedlings and aspens are all starting to thrive.

SUMMIT COUNTY — We have some more fun photo links today. Click on the read more button and then click on the photos below to see more. Continue reading

Beetles infested another half-million acres in 2009

An aerial image clearly shows reddish-brown areas of trees killed by beetles in contrast with stands of green aspens north of Highway 6 in the vicinity of Keystone.

Forest experts concerned about Front Range impacts after seeing an explosion of new beetle activity in Larimer County in 2009

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Although the pace of pine beetle attacks in Summit County may have slowed slightly last year, the overall spread of the insect infestation shows no signs of slowing in the southern Rockies, forest experts said Friday as they released the results of aerial surveys from 2009.

Another half million acres of lodgepole pines were hit by the tiny bugs last year, and there are indications that the insects are spreading into new areas with vast stands of as-yet untouched lodgepoles. Most alarming was the rapid spread into the Front Range, especially in Larimer County, where 220,000 acres of trees were affected.

In Montana, 2.7 million acres of lodgepoles were infested by pine beetles in 2009, according to a story in the Billings Gazette.

Federal and state foresters said that, if the pine beetles decide to attack ponderosa pines in a big way, Front Range forests could be in big trouble. Ponderosas are also in the five-needle pine family, but thus far, the beetles have been spreading mostly through lodgepole forests west of the Continental Divide during the current outbreak.

Continue reading

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