Category: biodiversity

Pesticides impair honey bee flying abilities

Nonlethal exposure has significant impacts, new study shows

Exposure to nonlethal levels of neonicotinoid pesticides hampers honey bee flight. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

The evidence keeps mounting that pesticides are the main driver of honey bee declines. In a new study, scientists with the University of California San Diego showed that a commonly used neonicotinoid pesticide (thiamethoxam) can significantly impair the ability of otherwise healthy honey bees to fly, raising concerns about how pesticides affect their capacity to pollinate and the long-term effects on the health of honey bee colonies.

Previous research has shown that foraging honey bees that ingested neonicotinoid pesticides, crop insecticides that are commonly used in agriculture, were less likely to return to their home nest, leading to a decrease in foragers. Continue reading “Pesticides impair honey bee flying abilities”

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More coral bleaching forecast this summer

Relentless ocean heat takes toll on reefs worldwide

Parts of the Northern Hemisphere oceans could once again be hit by coral reef bleaching this summer.
Bleaching caused by global warming is overwhelming many coral reefs. Photo via NOAA.

Staff Report

There’s been little let-up in the global wave of coral bleaching that’s been ongoing in various parts of the world since 2014, according to an update from NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch program. To date, the bleaching is the most widespread and damaging on record, including mass bleaching in areas where it’s never been seen before — the northern Great Barrier Reed, Kiribati and Jarvis Island.

And more of the same is expected in in the next few months as the Northern Hemisphere moves toward summer. Based on forecasts for the next two to three months, bleaching is likely in the eastern Pacific. Widespread coral bleaching with significant mortality continues in the Samoas (where bleaching of both shallow and deeper corals has now been confirmed) but is expected to dissipate shortly.

After extensive damage to the Great Barrier Reef, ocean temperatures finally cooled of in April, giving a respite to the corals that survived. Similarly, the corals around Florida also got some relief in the past few months. Get the full update at the NOAA coral reef watch page.

 

 

 

Bat-killing white-nose syndrome found in Alabama cave

A colony of southeastern bats, or Myotis austroriparius. As of 2017, the species joins eight other hibernating bat species in North America that are afflicted with the deadly bat fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome.(Credit: Pete Pattavina, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Public domain.)

Inexorable spread of deadly disease continues

Staff Report

The deadly fungal white-nose syndrome has been detected in a new species of bat in the southeastern U.S. for the first time.

Following winter surveys, the bat-killing disease was found in the southeastern Myotis. To date, nice species of hibernating bats have been identified as susceptible to the disease.

The diseased bat was found in Shelby County, Alabama, at Lake Purdy Corkscrew Cave, owned by the Birmingham Water Works and managed by the Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to cave acquisition, conservation and management. WNS in the southeastern bat was confirmed in the laboratory by the U.S. Geological Survey.

A fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, or Pd, causes WNS, which affects many, but not all bat species that come into contact with it. Of those affected, bat populations have declined by more than 90 percent. Continue reading “Bat-killing white-nose syndrome found in Alabama cave”

Can grizzlies survive global warming?

New study shows many bears still rely on dwindling whitebark pine seeds

An adult grizzly bear in the brush. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

The long-term survival of grizzles in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem may depend on whether they’re willing to switch from eating whitebark pine seeds to other types food.

Some of the bears have already started responding to reductions in whitebark trees by consuming more plants and berries, while others are still focused on finding stashes of the nutritious pine nuts, scientists said in a new study based on analyzing the chemical composition of what the grizzlies eat. Continue reading “Can grizzlies survive global warming?”

Neonicotinoids impede bumblebee egg production

Another study shows pollinator pesticide impacts

A common bumblebee visits a garden in Vienna, Austria. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

It’s no secret that various pesticides are killing bees in many different ways, despite all the lies from chemical companies trying to make you think otherwise. In that battle for truth, and ultimately justice, more science helps, and researchers from the University of Guelph have show now systemic neonicotinoids reduce egg production in wild queen bumblebees.

“Queen bees will only lay eggs when the eggs are fully developed,” said Prof. Nigel Raine, holder of the Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation. If queens need to use energy to clear pesticides from their system instead of investing in eggs, then fewer fully developed eggs will result, he said. “This will likely translate into slower egg-laying rates, which will then impede colony development and growth.” Continue reading “Neonicotinoids impede bumblebee egg production”

Sunday set: Got bugs?

Polli-nation!

Nature’s diversity is astounding at any level, but when you get down to a bug’s-eye view, it can really blow your mind. When I took the lily photo (with the upside-down bee or wasp) I didn’t  notice the second bug until I looked at the image on a larger screen at home. Curious, I started searching around a little bit and it didn’t take me long to learn that it’s a lily beetle, which is considered a pest in gardens, but is part of the natural environment in the Alps. In any case, plants and insects are completely interdependent, just as all living things are woven together in the global fabric of biodiversity. Respect nature, don’t abuse it.

To save monarchs, plant milkweed — lots of it!

New USGS study quantifies conservation needs

A monarch butterfly in Florida. @bberwyn photo.
A group of monarch butterflies covers an oyamel fir tree at an overwintering site in the Piedra Herrada Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Mexico. (Steve Hilburger, USGS)

Staff Report

Saving monarch butterflies means planting a lot of their favorite food, say U.S. Geological Survey scientists, who outlined conservation measures in a new study.

After over-wintering in Mexico, monarchs rely on milkweed plants for food and breeding habitat. But milkweed has been wiped out across millions of acres. The new study measures the need in terms of stems of milkweed.

In the northern U.S. at least 860 million stems were lost during the last decade. After studying the density of Eastern migratory monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico from 1979-2002 and the amount of milkweed plants available to them in North America. The study found that 3.62 billion milkweed stems are needed to reestablish this monarch population, but only 1.34 billion stems remain in the U.S.

“Monarchs in eastern North America are a beloved insect, but they’re in jeopardy, partly due to the loss of milkweeds in cropland,” said Wayne Thogmartin, a USGS scientist and the lead author of the report. “Our study is important because it helps specify the conservation needs of this charismatic species.” Continue reading “To save monarchs, plant milkweed — lots of it!”