Endangered Blue Butterfly Gets Protection

Endangered Blue Butterfly Gets Protection

One of the rarest butterflies in the world lives just outside Las Vegas. A small creature, barely an inch long, the Mount Charleston blue butterfly – named for its restricted territory – is so endangered only 100 are known to survive.

For this reason, construction near Las Vegas has its limits as an eight square mile piece of butterfly habitat is now slated to be preserved as a refuge.

The Center for Biological Diversity and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have agreed to set aside what amounts to a little over five thousand acres of prime blue butterfly land. The habitat is squarely within the Spring Mountain National Recreation area, so not all development projects will be curtailed. The protection simply means more hurdles to jump for any type of development process, and discouragement of bug collecting, particularly netting butterflies.

The larger species includes the Shasta blue butterfly, first identified in the 1920s. In 1928, the Mount Charleston sub-species was discovered. The color of this modest pollinator is a very subtle shade of blue bordering on gray.

The butterfly refuge will include the type of terrain ideal for this species life cycle: open forest, little underbrush, and access to mineralized soil – as well as nectar plants like milkvetch for food.

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How Pollination Works, and Why It Matters

How Pollination Works, and Why It Matters

Much buzz is in the air about endangered insect pollinators, specifically monarch butterflies and honeybees. But just how much food is at stake is not as well publicized. To understand why pollinators are so critical, it helps to know the food growing cycle.

What pollinators do is, essentially, help the plant reproduce. As a result of reproduction, we get seeds and fruits, and a variety of vegetables.

Plants, like other living things, have male and female parts. Sometimes both exist in one plant and sometimes they are separate into individual plants. Male parts produce pollen, which must come into contact with the female anatomy called the stigma. Bees and butterflies deliver pollin when they seek the sweet nectar of the plant, and end up covering their bodies with enough pollin that, seeking a new plant, they transfer it between male and female.

The wind also pollinates plants, but without pollinating insects, the variety of fruit we eat would be significantly reduced. Tomatoes, blueberries, apples and squash are just a small sample of fruits brought to us by pollinating insects.

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Exploring the Inner Lives of Bugs

Exploring the Inner Lives of Bugs

The debate about whether non-humans experience emotions has been more or less settled in one area – mammals. Science as well as pet owners agree that dogs and cats do experience emotional states, from jealousy to anger to sadness. This isn’t much of a leap for anyone who’s spent time with a pet. Many bird owners would agree that they see behaviors linked to specific feeling states in their feathered friends.

But what about bugs – do they feel? Scientists have attempted to get at this question by observing insect behavior. One recent experiment involved putting a group of honeybees through a vortex – a type of mixing machine – to simulate a badger attack on the hive. The bees who were vortexed were then compared to a control group in how they responded to getting either a sweet treat or avoiding a bitter food.

The mixed-up bees reacted to the bitter taste (which carried an unpleasant smell) rather than going after the sweet nectar. Unshaken bees were more resilient and chose the treat. The conclusion – that the downtrodden bees were simply irritated – is where the measure of emotion becomes difficult. Scientists were also able to measure levels of feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin to confirm, in fact, that the bees were in different “moods.”

Other studies, showing that emotions can be passed from one individual to another, would seem to argue that insects are no different from mammals in how they perceive, and share, the good times and the bad.

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Longhorned Beetle Hunted on East Coast

Longhorned Beetle Hunted on East Coast

Giant black traps are being hung from trees in Worcester County, Massachusetts to catch a killer. Victims of the Asian longhorned beetle are trees – and they have fallen by the tens of thousands after this invasive bug climbed the shores of the eastern seaboard not long ago.

Trees suspected of infestation have been chopped down, which amounts to 34,000 in the last seven years. The zone of infestation covers 110 square miles. Although finding stricken trees means removal, it may save much more of the forest from destruction.

The goal is to not just reduce beetle populations, but eradicate it.

This latest project is part of a long term program by federal and state officials to keep forests in this area safe. Certain pests, particularly non-native beetles, can cause devastation to forests because they are hard to spot and have no natural, native predators.

In the case of the Asian longhorned beetle, the damage to trees may not be apparent for up to two years.

In Boston, a concerted effort to wipe the beetle off the map was successful because the damage was detected early due to observant citizens.

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Wet Conditions Bring Insects Inside

Wet Conditions Bring Insects Inside

In places with a rainy spring and summer – which includes much of the country these days – the bugs are multiplying like bunnies. Now that it’s heating up and the heart of summer approaches, all those baby spiders and ants are looking for a safe, dark home.

Spiders reproduce at huge rates and if there is enough food for them to munch on, will proliferate in attics, basements and crawl spaces. A brood of 300 babies is not uncommon for many spider species.

Excess rain has the effect of promoting plenty of plants, which gives a steady food source for insects and spiders. Due to their sheer numbers, some will crawl inside your house.

They don’t crawl out of drains, as is commonly believe, but generally spin their way down from the ceiling and often seek out drains for water sources.

Before bringing in the big guns to eradicate spiders, ants and other critters from your premises, research the most effective and least toxic removal method. Remember, most spiders are helpful, non-poisonous, and eat other bugs. Ants are a different story, as they can do structural damage, but they can still be removed with minimally toxic chemicals.

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Summertime Spiderfest

Summertime Spiderfest

Arachnophiles have to meet somewhere and the state of South Dakota is a good bet this summer. An assistant professor of biology at Dakota Wesleyan University has turned South Dakota into an annual meeting place for the American Arachnological Society (AAS) this year.

Brian Patrick offered some space for a AAS meeting few years ago, and now the main event – their annual meeting – will be in town to discuss, trade spider tales, and with any luck, spot a new species.

South Dakota is estimated to have about a thousand spider species, but only 400 have been identified by scientists. So the chances of finding new specimens to add to the list are reasonably good.

Patrick notes that spiders have developed a bad reputation, mostly unfairly. While he concedes that we are hard-wired to be fearful of certain “non-cute mammal looking things” he also notes that those fears can be overcome.

“In our evolutionary past, it was well known that certain types of organisms could hurt us,” Patrick said. “It’s deeply rooted in us with a genetic basis, and it’s what keeps us safe. The two prime directives of life are survive and reproduce. Those who are very risky do not always survive. If you touch the eight-legged thing to see what happens, you probably won’t come back and it will do some damage.”

The arachnological society will be meeting for five days, and will bring 77 spider experts from as far away as Japan, Australia and the Czech Republic.

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Illinois Man Dies After Bee Stings

Illinois Man Dies After Bee Stings

Randy Robinson was allergic to bees, but that didn’t keep him from enjoying the outdoors. He was a big fan of boating and fishing, and worked for many years at a boat factory in Benton, IL.

On Wednesday afternoon, Robinson was mowing his lawn when he accidently disturbed a beehive in his yard. The bees swarmed, and he was bitten multiple times.

Sister-in-law Kimberly Robinson-Hall said that medical workers pulled 12 stingers from Robinson’s face.

After the incident, Robinson hurried to the house and immediately called his brother, then dialed 911. When Mark Robinson got to the house he found his brother Randy on the bathroom floor, barely able to speak. He did say one word, “truck,” and Mark ran to get his EpiPen from the vehicle so he could give him a shot.

But by the time Mark returned, minutes later, the treatment was not fast enough.

When medical workers arrived, they transported Mr. Robinson to the hospital, but he died from anaphylactic shock the next day at 9:45 a.m.

His sister-in-law remembers “Uncle Randy” as friendly and fun, often helping out neighbors.

“There wasn’t anybody who didn’t know him,” she said.

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