Minnesota wraps up 30-year biological ‘census’

Image of researcher in forest.

(Minnesota Public Radio) The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is putting the finishing touches on the state’s first comprehensive survey of this corner of the earth. Hundreds of scientists have spent more than three decades scouring the state, county by county, for rare and common plants and animals, as well as intact ecosystems that represent the land as it once was. “And what we’ve found is a mix of not so good news and good news.”

Bumble bee experiments in lockdown

Image of hand holding a bumble bee in a vial.

(Jeremy Hemberger) The chaos brought about by the global coronavirus pandemic has not only claimed lives, it has disrupted experiments in labs across the world. Some scientists can thankfully carry on their pieces of work at home or in back yards, including those of us who study bumble bees. This post lays out the supplies needed to rear bumble bees on a budget at home, how to capture and install queens, providing colonies optimal conditions, and some hints that might make troubleshooting issues easier.

Photographing insects in the field: basic tips for success

Image of beetle on leaf.

(Entomology Today) If you’ve tried using a macro lens to photograph arthropods in the field, you know it can be far more challenging than shooting in the lab or studio. As the lens gets closer to the subject, a movement of even 1 millimeter can throw your target area out of focus. Here are some tricks we use to obtain sharper, more detailed, and better-composed macrophotographs in the field.

For bees and other wildlife, a stretch of sand is a land of plenty

Image of researcher with net standing in front of sand dune.

(Chesapeake Bay Program) Near a swampy forest littered with trash, two biologists went searching for insects. A chance of rain had dampened their morning prospects, but with the temperature climbing, the mild afternoon in March held the chance that their target species would be active: ground-nesting bees and tiger beetles. “Sand habitats are a cornerstone of where we go to look for rare things, but also should be the cornerstone of conservation.”

Rolled cardboard makes a handy insect-sampling tool

Image of rolled cardboard trap tied to tree.

(Entomology Today) Collecting information on insects and other small arthropods is time-consuming and expensive. The methods used to collect arthropods living in the microhabitats of trees can be especially challenging – and destructive. But a group of Israeli researchers have developed a simple and seemingly effective arthropod trap: rolled-up tubes of corrugated cardboard tied to trees with string. They captured numerous types of insects including cockroaches, spiders, wasps and bees.

Invest in pollinator monitoring for long-term gain

Image of strawberries next to a free-standing hedgerow

(The Niche, pg. 10) Despite urgent need, monitoring insect pollinators, especially wild bees and hover flies, has often been considered too expensive to implement at a national scale. A research team is studying how to improve pollinator monitoring in the UK in a cost-effective manner. This research examines hidden benefits of monitoring schemes. By pooling data and expertise from a wide range of resources, the costs of schemes have been estimated to be between £5,600 ($6,900) for a small volunteer-led scheme collecting basic data and £2.8 million ($3.5 million) per year for professional monitoring of both pollinating insects and pollination to the UK’s crops. Overall, for every £1 invested in pollinator monitoring schemes, at least £1.50 can be saved from costly, independent research projects.

eDNA provides researchers with ‘more than meets the eye’

Image of woman collecting soil.

(Curtin University) Researchers from Curtin University have used next generation DNA sequencing to learn more about the different species of plants, insects and animals present in the Pilbara and Perth regions of Western Australia. As animals and organisms interact with their environment, they leave behind traces of their DNA through things like droppings, skin cells, saliva, and pollen. “This study was the first of its kind to systematically test terrestrial substrates for eDNA, and it also was the first time that some of these particular substrates were analyzed.”