Monarch butterflies’ ancestry, new research


This video is about monarch butterfly migration.

From Science News:

Monarch butterflies’ ancestors migrated

The insects originated in North America, genetics study finds

BY Kate Baggaley

5:06pm, October 1, 2014

The earliest monarch butterflies arose in North America and were migratory, contrary to what scientists believed. Over time, the butterflies evolved populations in other locations, some of which stay put year-round, scientists conclude October 1 in Nature.

Because many of the monarch’s closest butterfly relatives live in the tropics and do not migrate, “the thought was that the butterflies [came] from South and Central America and became migratory from resident populations,” says Tyler Flockhart, a conservation biologist who concentrates on monarchs at the University of Guelph in Canada. “But that doesn’t seem to be the case.”

Clouded yellow butterflies in the Netherlands


This is a video about a Common Clouded Yellow butterfly.

Translated from the Butterfly Foundation in the Netherlands:

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

The next generation of the Common Clouded Yellow, a migratory butterfly, is currently flying again. In places where the species bred in August you can sometimes find ten to fifty butterflies together.

These reports of large numbers of Common Clouded Yellow butterflies come for example from the floodplains of the major rivers and from Zeeland, but the Maasvlakte has the biggest numbers. Here 100 Common Clouded Yellow butterflies can still be seen together on flowery fallow land.

Common Clouded Yellow butterflies come in the spring, in May and June, from the south to our country and reproduce here. The descendants of those immigrants appear in August and these reproduce again. The third generation is now flying, especially places where reproduction went well and where sufficient flowering plants are present are favourites. They will also migrate again and can then be seen everywhere in the country, but large numbers together you will find especially on the breeding sites.

Ichneumon wasp larvae leave caterpillar, video


This video says about itself (translated):

September 30 2014

An ichneumon wasp has deposited its eggs in this caterpillar. The larvae then eat their hosts from the inside. These larvae have just crawled out of the caterpillar of a garden white butterfly. Now they are spinning cocoons to transform into wasps. Filmed by Toon Gevers.

Butterflies dying in Fukushima


This video from China is about a pale grass blue butterfly.

From BioMed Central:

Are butterflies still fluttering in Fukushima?

September 23, 2014 at 9:00 am

In this guest blog, Joji M. Otaki discusses the impact feasting on radioactively contaminated leaves has on the surrounding blue butterfly population.

The collapse of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011 is the second largest nuclear accident, next to Chernobyl, in the history of mankind. Many theoreticians and politicians have claimed, without any field-based or experimental evidence, that there are no harmful biological effects caused by the released artificial radionuclides.

Even worse, some biologists have claimed that there are no biological impacts in the polluted area, based solely on fragmentary data from a short survey or a non-informative experiment (or based on irrelevant data) that have no power to resolve the issue. These claims were often relatively well advertised.

However, this situation has changed in recent years. For example, it has already been reported that some animals, especially butterflies, decreased in number in the polluted areas in Fukushima, based on field surveys conducted by Prof. Timothy Mousseau and his colleagues. We have been working on the pale grass blue butterfly, Zizeeria maha, to evaluate the biological impacts of the accident … . We are sure that this species of butterfly was considerably affected by the accident, based on several field surveys, rearing experiments in our laboratory, external exposure experiments, and internal exposure experiments, some of which have already been published. The internal exposure experiments were performed in the previously published papers by feeding Okinawa larvae (least affected in Japan) leaves contaminated at high levels.

Now in the paper just published in BMC Evolutionary Biology, we tested if leaves contaminated at relatively low (or very low) levels from places where many people live could be harmful to this butterfly from Okinawa. As expected, leaves contaminated at very low levels (e.g., Okinawa, 0.2 Bq/kg; Atami, 2.5 Bq/kg) did not show any significant effect. However, to our surprise, leaves contaminated at relatively low levels, approximately 100 Bq/kg (e.g., Koriyama, 117 Bq/kg), resulted in a mortality rate of more than 50%. This result differs from the previous one which was based on leaves contaminated at relatively high levels (e.g., Fukushima, 7,860 Bq/kg; Iitate-flatland, 10,170 Bq/kg) see). Because the breeding lines used in these two experiments were different, the difference indicates sensitivity variation within this single species.

Indeed, in our experiments, a mortality rate never reached 100%, even in feeding leaves contaminated at extremely high levels. In other words, some are completely fine at least morphologically, but others are heavily ill or dead. Sensitivity to radiation varies very much among individuals.

The ingestional impacts appear to be transgenerational, as the body size (more precisely, the forewing size) of this butterfly decreased in the offspring generation. Moreover, the sensitivity of the offspring generation increased, resulting in very high mortality rates. Interestingly, feeding the offspring larvae non-contaminated leaves resulted in low mortality rates.

Of course, we do not know how much of our experimental results from the pale grass blue butterfly are applicable to humans. However, it is widely believed among modern biologists that insights obtained from one biological system are largely applicable to other systems. This is why biologists study model organisms such as the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Studies on this insect have greatly contributed to our understanding of humans.

To my knowledge, there have been no cases of human health effects of the Fukushima accident reported in scientific literature thus far, although anecdotal evidence has been around. To be sure, human-based studies are slow, descriptive, less conclusive, and more often a target of political pressure, compared with insect studies, but of course human studies are necessary. I believe that at least some studies on human health will appear sooner or later in scientific literature.

‘Remember Fukushima': Thousands rally against nuclear restart in Japan — Common Dreams: here.

Tepco struggling to win approval of fishermen over water-discharge plan — The Asahi Shimbun; The Japan Times: here.

Tritium up tenfold in Fukushima groundwater after Typhoon Phanfone — The Japan Times; Fukushima plant prepares for typhoon Vongfong — IANS, Yahoo! News: here.

About a third of the 180 monitoring cameras installed at the experimental Monju fast-breeder reactor were found broken during a safety inspection last month, a source familiar with the matter said, renewing concerns about safety management at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, which runs it: here.

More than 25,000 people will never go home because of Fukushima contamination — Rob Edwards, Sunday Herald: here.

37 little grebes, one great crested grebe, wheatears


This is a little grebe video from Belarus.

On 21 September 2014, to Voorne island.

Between The Hague and Rotterdam, a grey heron on a lamppost. Not so unusual. However, on lampposts next to it: two white storks, more unusual.

A few kilometer more south: again, three white storks on lampposts.

Near Rotterdam, again a stork on a lamppost. As it is still rather early in the morning, are they waiting for higher temperatures, with better conditions for soaring, continuing their autumn migration to Africa?

On Voorne island, first to Strypsche wetering nature reserve.

This is a video about ruff mating season at Strypsche wetering on 2 May 2014.

We saw ruffs on 21 September there too. Not in mating season mood and plumage, but in autumn migration mood and plumage.

Other Strypsche wetering birds: redshanks, ruff relatives. Northern lapwings, more distant relatives. A big golden plover flock landed. Egyptian geese. Mallards. Snipe.

Four great cormorants flying overhead.

Again and again, flocks of scores of barnacle geese, maybe just arrived from the Arctic, fly, calling, to a field where hundreds congregate.

Shoveler ducks flying.

On the bank, yellow common fleabane flowers.

A barn swallow flies.

A buzzard sits on a fence.

We continue to another fence: a male and a female kestrel sitting next to each other.

We arrive at another part of the Strypsche wetering. Many Canada geese. Some of them look like being injured. Probably because of hunters who can’t shoot straight.

Ten gadwall ducks flying. Five grey lag geese flying.

We arrive at the sand dunes closest to the beach. A flock of common linnets. A blue tit.

On rock in the water, a great black-backed gull.

Closer to us, swimming, a big surprise: at least 37 little grebes, probably many more. Such a big flock is unusual for this species. Every now and then, some of the birds fly a short distance and land again. A great crested grebe swims along with them.

At nature reserve Hoekje Jans, a Cetti’s warbler sings. Also unusual at this time of the year.

A little egret flying.

A red admiral butterfly on a bush. Which species of bush? Elaeagnus multiflora, or Elaeagnus umbellata?

A smaller butterfly: a speckled wood.

A comma butterfly.

At the Slikken van Voorne nature reserve, flowers of yellow-wort and seaside centaury.

This is a video about the Slikken van Voorne.

A green-veined white butterfly.

Corn sow thistle.

Northern wheatears between the sparse sand dune vegetation.

A meadow pipit.

Oystercatchers on the mudflats.

Sea spurge.

A dead northern wheatear.

Finally, near the south coast of Voorne, pintail ducks.

Save monarch butterflies, petition


This video is called Amazing Life Cycle of a Monarch Butterfly.

From eNature.com in the USA:

Save Monarch Butterflies Sign Our Petition To Help Protect This Iconic Species! Take action today!
Monarch

Their fluttering migration covers wide swaths of North America. But now their populations are crashing.

Please sign our petition encouraging measures to protect our remaining Monarchs!

Dear Friend,

Monarch butterflies urgently need your help. This iconic, orange-and-black beauty was once common in backyards across the country… but its population has plummeted by 90 percent from the 20-year average.

You can help protect our Monarch butterflies by signing this petition!

Monarch

These delicate creatures weigh less than a gram, but every year they travel thousands of miles — from Canada down to Mexico — in an incredible, multigenerational migration. Generations of schoolchildren have learned about metamorphosis by watching monarch caterpillars transform into butterflies.

But the milkweed that monarchs depend on for survival is now being wiped out by genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant crops, as well as pesticides, human development and climate change

Please sign our petition asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect monarch butterflies under the Endangered Species Act before it’s too late. A “threatened” listing (not as dire a listing as “endangered”) will allow important research and educational activities to continue while protecting this iconic pollinator for future generations.

Will you sign our petition urging action to protect our remaining Monarchs from the threats that may bring their extiction?

Adding your voice to the effort to protect Monarchs will make a difference. Don’t let our Monarch butterflies become only a memory in regions where they were once ubiquitous.

Sign this petition if you agree that our world would be a poorer place without Monarch butterflies.

Thank you for your help– it really can help make a difference!

Sincerely,

Robin McVey

Robin McVey
Public Editor, eNature.com

Take action today!

British Big Butterfly Count results


This video from Britain is called Big Butterfly Count with Sir David Attenborough.

From Wildlife Extra:

Results of the 2014 Big Butterfly Count

The results are in for the 2014 Big Butterfly Count, held over three weeks in July and August and involving nearly 45,000 people spotting almost 560,000 butterflies.

The big winners were the Common Blue (up 55 per cent), Red Admiral (up 43 per cent), Speckled Wood (up 28 per cent) and Small Tortoiseshell (up 22 per cent). The summer was also good for Peacock, which was the most abundant butterfly in this year’s count.

The Small Tortoiseshell, one of the UK’s favourite butterflies, continued its fight back this summer after years of decline, despite enduring the coldest August since 1993.

This is the highest-ever ranking for the Small Tortoiseshell in the Big Butterfly Count and represents an amazing comeback for a species that had become scarce in parts of southern England.

This little butterfly, the populations of which have declined by 78 per cent since the 1970s, saw numbers rise by almost a quarter compared to last summer.

The drop in temperature in August had a knock-on effect on the majority of the UK’s common summer butterflies, curtailing the flight period of some species and hastening others into early hibernation.

It wasn’t all good news, in that the average number of individual butterflies seen per-count dropped from 23 in 2013 to 15 in 2014.

And, in all, 15 out of 21 of the target species decreased compared with 2013, only six species increased year-on-year.

The common white butterflies all recorded a disappointing summer. The Large White was down by 65 per cent, the Small White by 60 per cent and the Green-veined White by 47 per cent. The count’s two migrant species – the Painted Lady and the Silver Y moth – also had a lacklustre year.

Butterfly Conservation Surveys Manager Richard Fox says: “After a good summer in 2013, the big question this year was whether butterflies would continue to recover and build up even greater numbers or slip back again.

“Thanks to another amazing turnout from the public, we know that the answer is a real mixture. The Small Tortoiseshell had a good year in 2013 and this seems to have acted as a springboard for the species, enabling it to increase massively again this summer.

“It’s fantastic news for a species that has lost three-quarters of its population since the 1970s.

“Others such as the Gatekeeper held their ground this year, but sadly, many common butterflies appear to have sunk back from last year’s peak in numbers.”

Results can be found here.