Short-staffed due to Covid, overgrown cemeteries offer a historical view – dotted with bees and butterflies

Image of tombstone surrounded by tall grass and wildflowers.

(VTDigger) While many Vermonters went months without a haircut during the Covid-19 quarantine, some of the state’s cemeteries are still waiting for a trim. This year’s disruption has forced some cities to reconsider their maintenance practices, and some people think the wilder look could be worth keeping. “Most people are glad to see the wildflowers coming. So it’s just, how long do we let it go?”

Stuck at home, scientists discover nine new insect species

Image of scientists in front of microscope in makeshift lab at home.

(Wired) Without a DNA sequencer, two Los Angeles entomologists relied on two of biology’s oldest tools: microscopes and lots of free time. Sifting through thousands of insects previously collected via a citizen science project, they ended up discovering nine new species of small flies. “It definitely makes me appreciate what scientists of the past were able to accomplish with rudimentary tools. I don’t have an ergonomic chair at home; I don’t have a fancy microscope. We are all feeling appreciation for things we take for granted.”

‘National nature service’ needed for green recovery in England

Image of wildflowers by trees and water.

(The Guardian) The national government must “seize the day” and create a national nature service to restore wildlife and habitats in England, say a coalition of the country’s biggest green groups. It said such a move would create thousands of jobs, a more resilient country and tackle the wildlife and climate crises. The coalition has drawn up a list of 330 projects that are ready to go, including flower meadows, “tiny forests” in cities and hillside schemes to cut flooding. It said a service to fund the projects and train workers would create 10,000 jobs and be part of a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Get off the grass and let the wildflowers and the bees flourish, council told

Image of wildflowers.

(The Scotsman) Stirling Council is being called up to change its approach to grass cutting with two petitions asking the local authority to back down on trimming back verges and other green spaces on a regular basis. “Normally these spring wildflowers wouldn’t have the chance to bloom as grass cutting starts before their flowering period, but this year, as a result of lockdown, they have been left alone to do what they do best; feed the bees, and provide a beautiful display to cheer us all up in the process.”

Croatia region declares natural disaster after 50 million bees were poisoned

Image of honey bees on comb.

(Euractiv) Beekeepers were shocked and devastated when they encountered a “carpet” of millions of dead bees lying on the ground in a northern region of Croatia. The local government has declared a natural disaster. Veterinary inspectors and forensic scientists are looking into what caused the deaths. Pesticide poisoning, though not officially confirmed as yet, is suspected to be the cause of this ecological disaster.

Soap bubbles could assist with pollination

Image of soap bubble on flower.

(CNN) Researchers found that a soap bubble solution made with the right surfactant, an optimized pH, calcium, other minerals and chemicals was effective at retaining pollen grains on the thin film of the bubbles, transporting them to the targeted flowers, and facilitating germination. While the fruit-bearing rate of the control group was about 58%, bubble and hand pollination both achieved a rate of around 95%. Soap pollination also called for much fewer pollen grains than other methods did.

Teenagers create 13-mile ‘Bee Byway’ in their town to save native bees

Image of two boys in field.

(The Week) Using a geographic information system, the teenagers plotted a “Bee Byway”, identifying dozens of sites across Newport News, Virginia, where they could plant native and bee-friendly plants. During the pandemic, the boys have delivered plants to more than 60 homeowners, so they could add to the Bee Byway without worrying about going out to a nursery.

Protecting insect habitats is saving multitudes

Image of American burying beetle being held in hands.

(Reasons to be Cheerful) Over the past couple of months, construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline has faced two legal challenges. One is from a Native American tribe concerned that pipeline workers might spread the coronavirus to their communities. The other is driven, in part, by an inch-long beetle. A colorful scavenger of grasslands and forest understories, the American burying beetle is an endangered species, and on April 15, a federal judge in Montana ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers, in its haste to build the pipeline, had violated the insect’s protected status. The Endangered Species Act has been a conservation triumph for numerous species, including insects.