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.

New moth species in the Netherlands


Bloxworth snout

On 24 January 2015, biologists looking for wintering bats in an old World War II bunker in Staelduinse Bos nature reserve, found three wintering moths. These turned out to be Bloxworth snout; a new species for the Netherlands.

Bears, ants and flowers in Colorado, USA


This video from North America is called DISCOVERING THE BLACK BEAR.

From Wildlife Extra:

The bear, the ant and the yellow flower – scientist discovers an odd relationship

For a huge Black Bear, a very small ant would hardly seem to make a meal but in numbers these tiny insects are protein-packed.

Not only that, but the fact that bears eat ants is a crucial part of a complicated food chain that has wide-reaching benefits for wildlife in the US.

In a paper published in Ecology Letters, Florida State University researcher Josh Grinath examines the close relationship between bears, ants and rabbitbrush — a golden-flowered shrub that grows in the meadows of Colorado and often serves as shelter for birds.

Scientists know that plant and animal species don’t exist in a vacuum. However, tracing and understanding their complex interactions can be a challenge.

Grinath, working with Associate Professors Nora Underwood and Brian Inouye, has spent several years monitoring ant nests in a mountain meadow in Almont, Colorado.

On one visit, he discovered that bears disturbed the nests, which led him to wonder exactly how this disturbance might affect other plants and animals in the meadow.

From 2009 to 2012, Grinath, Underwood and Inouye collected data on bear damage to ant nests. In the course of this they noticed that rabbitbrush, a dominant plant in the area, was growing better and reproducing more near to the damaged nests.

This video from the USA says about itself:

Rabbitbrush-Nectar Source for Butterflies

18 September 2012

Rubber Rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauswosa) is in bloom now; most all other flowering plants have already gone to seed. Adult butterflies still on the wing that nectar visit these shrubs; at times several lep[idopteran] species can be found at these shrubs. Featured are: West Coast Lady, Hoary Comma, Juba Skipper, and Red Admiral.

The Wildlife Extra article continues:

The reason why was an insect called a treehopper, a tiny cicada-like arthropod that sucks sap out of plants such as rabbitbrush, which damages the plant.

Previous studies had established that ants and treehoppers have a mutualistic relationship, meaning they benefit from one another.

So the team began a series of controlled field experiments to see what would happen to treehoppers, first if there were more ants around and then if there were fewer.

They found that ants didn’t prey on the treehoppers or the rabbitbrush. Rather, they scared away other insects that typically prey on treehoppers.

In a situation where bears disturbed and ate ants, other bugs were free to prey on the treehoppers and the rabbitbrush thrived.

The study also highlighted how a modern phenomenon could end up causing more than just a nuisance.

Bears’ diets are being changed by their proximity to human habitation, and many populations are now eating human rubbish regularly instead of ants and other traditional food sources.

“Bears have an effect on everything else because they have an effect on this one important species — ants,” Grinath says.

“If bears are eating trash instead of ants, that could compromise the benefits the plants are receiving. These indirect effects are an important consideration in conservation.”

A boy discovers wildlife in his own backyard, video


This 28 january 2015 Dutch video is about a thirteen-year-old boy, Lau, who discovers all sorts of invertebrate animals, like insects or spiders, in his own backyard.

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.

Wasp species discoveries, new for Texel island


This video says about itself:

The life cycles of mud wasps, paper nest wasps and bumblebees provides a detailed case study of the reproductive and survival strategies used by living creatures within an ecosystem.

Warden Erik van der Spek on Texel in the Netherlands reports about small wasps in the Slufter area in the island.

One wasp species found there was Anteon exiguum. So far, this species had only been reported, rarely, in the continental Netherlands; not on Wadden Sea islands.

Another species was Goniozus claripennis; also a new species for the Wadden islands.

Tree protects itself against insects and bacteria, video


Warden Pauline Arends made this time-lapse video in Drenthe province in the Netherlands. It shows a foamy soap-like substance at an oak tree. The substance is called saponin. In this way, the tree protects itself against insects and bacteria.

Pauline Arends wrote about this in a blog post.

Bacteria on the North Sea bottom: here.