Hong Kong butterflies decline

This video says about itself:

Hong Kong Wetland Park spotlights butterflies

30 April 2013

With their fantastic colors and fanciful wings, butterflies are one of nature’s most enticing creatures for photographers and insect lovers. “The Flying Beauties” exhibition is now open at Hong Kong Wetland Park, featuring the most common butterfly species in Hong Kong and specimens from around the world. Visitors can learn more about butterfly anatomy, life cycle, survival strategies and courtship behaviour.

The park will host related activities, aimed at enhancing awareness of butterfly conservation. Wetland Park Manager (Education & Community Services) Josephine Cheng said Wetland Park’s Butterfly Garden offers an ideal habitat for butterflies and is a great spot for butterfly watching. The park has abundant nectar and larval food plants, and recorded 157 species — about 60% of the total number of butterfly species in Hong Kong.

Showcases also offer visitors a rare opportunity to get close-up and observe caterpillars feeding on young leaves. Survival strategies – More than 500 specimens help illustrate a butterfly’s life cycle in the park’s scenic models, including living, eating and mating habits. To avoid predators such as birds, butterflies have special strategies. “Some butterflies can pretend to be some similar but poisonous species, with colorful patterns on their wings, to avoid having their predators eat them, while some other species pretend to be a leaf so that they can hide themselves in the natural environment,” Miss Cheng said.

Special events – Wetland Park is presenting the exhibition from April to October 28. Butterfly specialists will share their knowledge and tips, including techniques for identifying and photographing them, in lectures to be held during the exhibition period. Speakers will also share worldwide hotspots for butterfly watching and the importance of butterfly conservation. Guided tours will teach participants about common species in Hong Kong. The park is also organising a photo collection activity, playgroups and a butterfly cotton bag-making class.

From the South China Morning Post:

Butterfly numbers dip at key Tuen Mun site in Hong Kong

Ernest Kao

Thursday, 12 February, 2015, 12:35am

The number of butterflies spending the winter at a key Tuen Mun site fell to a six-year low this season, possibly due to a changing climate and disruptions to migratory patterns, a study has found.

According to environmental group Green Power, which conducted the study between November and last month, the number of danaidae butterflies at Siu Lang Shui – a wooded former landfill site near Butterfly Beach – dropped over 80 per cent this winter.

From the 230 recorded in 2013-14, the number fell to just 41 this winter, the lowest since the green group’s first survey in the winter of 2009-10.

Danaidae, or milkweed butterflies, are a common subspecies [rather, a family, or subfamily]. They include the crow, tiger and monarch butterflies.

The group’s senior environmental affairs manager, Matthew Sin Kar-wah, said numbers fluctuated from year to year. They hit a high of 5,469 in 2012-13, before dropping again this winter.

It is not known what caused the sudden surge in 2012, nor the reasons for this winter’s drop.

“When everyone was disappointed about the low numbers, it suddenly jumped back up in 2012 and we all thought it was a recovery,” said Sin. “That is why we can’t say for sure whether [this year’s] drop indicates a good or bad trend.”

Two other major sites – Deep Water Bay on Hong Kong Island and Fan Lau on Lantau Island – also saw major drops.

The group suspects two factors are at play. One was a relatively warmer climate in East Asia, which may have deterred the butterflies from flying further to escape harsh winters.

Another possible reason was a change in the environment of stopover points along migratory routes. Rapid urban development on the southern mainland may have altered or even destroyed natural habitats, disrupting migratory patterns, Sin said.

Monarch butterfly news

This video is called Monarch Mania! Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle.

From mongabay.com:

Monarch butterfly population rises a little, but still perilously low

Jeremy Hance

January 28, 2015

The world’s migrating monarch butterfly population has bounced back slightly from its record low last year, but the new numbers are still the second smallest on record. According to WWF-Mexico and the Mexican government, butterflies covered 2.79 acres (1.13 hectares) in nine colonies this year in the Mexican forests where the insects overwinter. This is a 69 percent increase from last year’s nadir of just 1.65 acres (0.67 hectares), however, the new numbers remain hugely concerning.

“The population increase is welcome news, but the monarch must reach a much larger population size to be able to bounce back from ups and downs,” said researcher Tierra Curry with the Center for Biological Diversity, adding that “this much-loved butterfly still needs Endangered Species Act protection to ensure that it’s around for future generations.”

Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it would consider adding the vanishing insect under the country’s Endangered Species Act. Currently, the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is not at risk of extinction, but its migration is. Monarch butterflies in the Eastern U.S. are famous for their epic migration spanning some 1,900 to 4,500 kilometers (1,200 to 2,800 miles) from Canada to the mountains of central Mexico every year. Each migration takes several monarch generations to complete, often three to four.

In the 1990s—when scientists first started counting the area filled by migrating monarch butterflies in Mexico—the overwintering habitat never dipped below 13 acres (five hectares). The largest population covered 44.95 acres (18.19 hectares) in 1993. But the trend over the last decade has been one of extensive decline, with various rises and falls.

A decade ago, conservationists were largely concerned with deforestation and illegal logging in Mexico’s overwintering forests. However, due to work by indigenous groups, locals, and the Mexican government that threat has been largely neutralized, at least for the time being. Today the biggest threat is the loss of food and habitat across the U.S. and Canada due to herbicides and increasingly intensified agriculture.

According to WWF, herbicide use in the U.S. for soy and corn killed off 58 percent of the country’s milkweed from 1999 to 2010, resulting in a monarch decline of 81 percent. The development of genetically modified crops has exacerbated the situation as these crops are resistant to the popular herbicide, Roundup. However, Roundup and other herbicides containing glyphosate decimate milkweed populations. Monarch butterfly caterpillars feed solely on milkweed, meaning the species requires a road of milkweed from Canada through Eastern and Central U.S. down to Mexico in order to survive. But agriculture policy in the last couple decades, especially in the U.S., has resulted in a massively fragmented milkweed route.

“The 2.79 acres occupied by monarchs this winter should serve as additional motivation for the leaders of Canada, Mexico, and the United States to translate the commitment they made in Mexico in February 2014, to concrete and immediate actions,” said Omar Vidal, Director General of WWF-Mexico. “It is crucial that we restore and protect the habitat of this iconic species in all three countries, but above all that we limit the use of herbicide and land conversion in the United States and maintain efforts to avoid deforestation in Mexico.”

Conservationists say that planting milkweed in gardens may benefit the monarch, however gardeners must plant the right variety of milkweed and make sure the milkweed hasn’t been coated with a popular insecticide in the neonicotinoid family. Research has shown that neonicotinoids may harm pollinators, such as bees and butterflies.

Monarch butterflies aren’t the only pollinators in trouble, many of the world’s pollinators have undergone drastic declines in recent decades. Experts point to possible impacts such as pesticides, habitat loss, and disease.

For monarch butterflies, loss of migration means more disease: here.

Monsanto’s Roundup system threatens extinction of monarch butterflies – report.

Morpho butterflies and stick insects at the botanical garden

This video says about itself:

16 December 2014

What does it mean to be blue? The wings of a Morpho butterfly are some of the most brilliant structures in nature, and yet they contain no blue pigment — they harness the physics of light at the nanoscale. Learn more about these butterflies here.

On 11 January 2015, to the botanical garden again.

In the biggest hothouse, two aquariums. One for bigger fish species, like Botia histrionica. And one for smaller species like wrestling halfbeak; and some shrimp.

In the Victoria amazonica hothouse, again morpho butterflies. Today, they don’t show their blue upper sides of their wings, but the brownish undersides, while sitting on red mangrove bushes on the pond banks. Red mangrove belongs in the Indo-Pacific region; not in the morpho butterflies’ native Americas. The morphos didn’t seem to mind.

There were morpho caterpillars as well. On the pot of a peanut plant. Peanut plants, contrary to red mangrove, are native to South America. And they belong to the Fabaceae family, favoured by morpho caterpillars for food.

This video is about Morpho peleides caterpillars.

This video is called Hatching of Blue Morpho butterflies (Morpho peleides).

The axolotls are still in their aquarium, not far from the orchids.

In a hothouse beyond the Victoria amazonica and the orchids, a smallish Eucalyptus tree in a pot. Several adult giant prickly stick insects from Australia in the tree. A juvenile on the rim of the pot.

This video from the USA says about itself:

Extatosoma tiaratum has the common names giant prickly stick insect, spiny leaf insect, Macleay’s spectre, and as the guide at the San Bernardino Natural History Museum calls them, the giant Australian leaf insect. The giant Australian leaf insect is a large species of stick insect endemic to Australia. It has big “bug eyes” like a cartoon character!

Outside in the garden, a blue tit and great tits.

Many blackbirds feeding on fruit which has fallen from trees.

Monarch butterfly research in the USA

This September 2014 video from the USA is called Monarch Biology: Eggs and Caterpillars.

From Associated Press:

Missing monarchs: School’s science project is good news for butterfly

By Mary Landers

01/10/2015 12:01:00 AM MST

SAVANNAH, GA. — There are no butterflies in Savannah Country Day‘s butterfly garden this cool December morning. But that doesn’t deter monarch butterfly researcher Dara Satterfield, who has found wintering monarchs nearby.

“We are seeing monarchs breeding year-round at Wormsloe and at The Landings,” said Satterfield, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Georgia.

Satterfield’s research has pointed to a connection between non-native milkweed and the behavior and health of monarchs. Milkweed, a tropical plant that grows year-round, lures monarchs into sticking around all year, too, instead of migrating.

But less travel hasn’t proven healthy for the iconic butterflies. Monarchs that stay put have more trouble with a tiny parasite that weakens or kills them and kills others.

The parasite is a microscopic, single-celled organism called Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, or Oe for short, that infected females transmit to the plants where they lay their eggs.

Satterfield discovered Country Day’s garden on its website and asked to visit. The “yes” from science teacher Bill Eswine led to fourth- and fifth-graders’ involvement in the research. The students marked with flags orange flags the gardens’ dozens of milkweed plants. Then students examined those plants for eggs and caterpillars.

They found no evidence of monarchs at all.

What sounds like a scientific bust is really a bonanza for Satterfield. The Country Day site is one for her to revisit come spring when its migrant monarchs return.

She’ll look at the levels of the parasite in butterflies here and in those at overwintering sites such as Wormsloe and The Landings.

“In spring we can compare disease levels,” Satterfield said. “It’ll work out.

Climate Change Messing with Mother Nature’s Timetable: Consider the Monarch Butterfly: here.

Monarch butterfly protection in the USA?

This video is called Monarch Butterfly Amazing Migration.

From Wildlife Extra:

Monarch butterflies to be considered for special protection in US

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has announced it will be conducting a status review of the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Monarch butterflies are found throughout the United States and some populations migrate vast distances across multiple generations each year.

Many monarchs fly between the US, Mexico and Canada – a journey of over 3,000 miles.

This journey has become more perilous for many monarchs because of threats along their migratory paths and on their breeding and wintering grounds.

Threats include habitat loss – particularly the loss of milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s sole food source – and mortality resulting from pesticide use.

Monarch populations have declined significantly in recent years.

The Fish and Wildlife Service was petitioned by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and scientist Dr Lincoln Brower to list a subspecies of monarch (Danaus plexippus plexippus).

The substantial information presented was considered to be indicative that listing may be warranted.

The Service will now conduct a status review, and to ensure this review is comprehensive, scientific and commercial data and other information is being requested through a 60-day public information period.

Specifically, the Service seeks information including:

The subspecies’ biology, range and population trends, habitat requirements, genetics and taxonomy;

Historical and current range, including distribution patterns;

Historical and current population levels and current and projected trends;

The life history or behaviour of the monarch butterfly that has not yet been documented;

Thermo-tolerance range and microclimate requirements of the monarch butterfly;

Past and ongoing conservation measures for the subspecies, its habitat or both;

Factors that are the basis for making a listing determination under the Endangered Species Act.

The notice was published in the Federal Register on 31 December and it is requested that information be received by 2 March 2015.

Snails and butterflies in Britain

This video is called Snails Time-lapse – The Great British Year: Episode 3 Preview – BBC One.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Why snails are as important as butterflies

Life in the slow lane isn’t dull and snails are every bit as interesting and charismatic as butterflies. With that in mind I am embarking on a quest to find every single species of land snail in the UK

James Harding-Morris

Tuesday 23 December 2014 06.00 GMT

Several years ago I read Patrick Barkham’s The Butterfly Isles in which he describes seeking out all 59 species of the most colourful, visible and well-documented insects in the UK. This is not unique: I met two people during a single day on a nature reserve this July who had achieved the same thing.

Barkham’s book was not about achieving something new; not simply a race to a determined finish line. It was a journey that sought to share the author’s personal passion with a wider audience and, in a time of global biodiversity decline, more champions for nature can only be a positive thing.

I love butterflies, but I believe that our snails deserve more attention.

From an aesthetic standpoint the common brown-lipped snail, which exhibits an exquisite range of shell colours and patterns, easily surpasses the immutable and sombre tones of one of our most common butterflies, the meadow brown. Trochoidea elegans (which possesses the understated common name of ‘top snail’) is surely just as impressive – with its elegant, conical shell – as a small skipper. Acanthinula aculeata, its shell festooned with serrations (named, with little imagination, the prickly snail), clearly has a more punky and aggressive style than any UK butterfly. Our snails have true charisma.

With butterflies, the mountain ringlet is often touted as the species most threatened by climate change. As global temperatures rise, its only recourse is to breed at higher altitudes – and thus in cooler locations. Eventually, though, it will run out of mountain to climb. The mountain ringlet is undoubtedly threatened, but with populations present in the English Lake District and Scotland, it seems in less of a precarious position than the snail Vertigo modesta. Vertigo modesta – the cross whorl snail – is found in only two places in the UK. Both of these are on high mountain summits in north-east Scotland and any change in vegetation cover, which could easily be brought about by climate change, might spell doom for the species in Britain.

Many of our snails have as exacting and vulnerable habitat requirements as our butterflies, but with nowhere near the same level of awareness.

With this in mind, I have set myself a quest. Over the course of 2015 I will be trying to see every single species of land snail in the UK. There are around 120 species scattered across the UK, from the Isles of Scilly to the Highlands of Scotland, including hothouse aliens that are found only in botanic gardens and greenhouses, such as Kaliella barrackporensis in Cornwall’s Eden project. They range in size from the tiny Punctum pygmaeum at 1mm wide, up to the golf-ball sized Helix pomatia, originally introduced to the UK by the Romans. By doing this I hope to highlight the particular beauty of snails, and share their fascinating life stories and the threats they face –and meet the people dedicated to life in the slow lane.

• James Harding-Morris is a schools project coordinator at the RSPB. He will be tweeting his snail quest @UKSnailTrail

Monarch butterfly migration news

This video, in Spanish is about the Sierra Gorda nature reserve in Mexico.

From the World Land Trust:

Monarch Butterflies appear in large numbers in Sierra Gorda

27 November, 2014 – 12:51

Although three weeks late, Monarch Butterflies have started to appear all over Sierra Gorda, stopping off on their long migration to the fir forests further south.

Roberto Pedraza, Technical Officer of Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda, World Land Trust’s (WLT) conservation partner in Mexico took this photograph on 22 November 2014.

He told us: “As you know, Monarch Butterflies are extremely endangered thanks to logging, government ‘protected areas’ that aren’t protected, and industrialised agriculture in the US and Canada.”

Roberto found the big group of the butterflies in the highlands of Sierra Gorda. There were so many of them that the branches of the cedar were bowing under the weight.

He noticed that they had returned to the same place that he remembered them visiting when he was a child.

“When I was young, the oak branches bent under the weight of the butterflies. Now there is a cedar in the same spot, and the same oaks with some butterflies. Unfortunately they are nothing compared with their former numbers, but it’s amazing how they ‘remember’ their wintering grounds in central Mexico, and the good spots to have a nap and a rest during the long journey.”

Traditionally Monarch Butterflies arrive in Mexico on the Day of the Dead, which is celebrated on the first two days of November, and according to Mexican folklore they are said to represent the souls of the dead.

More information

WLT has funded land purchase and conservation in Sierra Gorda since 2007. You can help save more habitat for Monarch Butterflies by making a donation to WLT’s Buy an Acre appeal.