Scientists are using weather radar to devise detailed bug maps

Image of weather radar dish next to open field.

(Washington Post) As meteorologists are all too aware, not everything that shows up on their radar is related to weather. Sometimes, it’s a mass migration of grasshoppers, millions of mayflies hatching at once or an angry horde of flying ants. While forecasters normally try to remove the bugs from their data, a group of meteorologists are now joining forces with insect researchers to study them.

Georgia’s first pollinator count will take a census of bees and butterflies

Image of girl counting insects on flowers.

(WABE) Atlanta gardeners say they’re seeing fewer butterflies and lightning bugs. But researchers don’t really know how their populations have changed here. They don’t know how most insects’ populations have changed. The state’s first-ever pollinator census, kicking off this week, could help start to get some answers. It’s a statewide citizen science project, a count of the bees and butterflies that land on flowers in yards, parks and at schools.

Scientists decry ‘ignorance’ of rolling back species protections in the midst of a mass extinction

Map of the United States.

(Washington Post) In North America alone, at least 277 plant and animal species have gone extinct. In the past 500 years, humans have wiped out nearly 2 1/2 percent of amphibian species, 2 percent of mammals and birds, and about 1 percent of reptiles and fish. At a geological scale that’s a stunning rate of extinction in a vanishingly brief period of time. However, the full list of the fallen is composed primarily of mollusks, insects and other more obscure organisms – and it is egregiously incomplete. “We’re obliterating landscapes before we’ve even had a chance to catalogue the species that lived there.”

This tiny insect could be delivering toxic pesticides to honey bees and other beneficial bugs

Image of mealybugs on a leaf.

(Science) A common pesticide may be causing more collateral damage than thought. According to a new study, neonicotinoids can kill beneficial insects such as honey bees, hoverflies and parasitic wasps by contaminating honeydew, a sugar-rich liquid excreted by certain insects. This can devastate more insects across the food web than nectar contaminated with insecticides could, the research team says, because honeydew is more abundant, especially in agricultural fields.

Declines in insect abundance and diversity: We know enough to act now

Image of wildflowers in prairies strips.

(Conservation Science and Practice) “The scientific community has understandably been focused on establishing the breadth and depth of the phenomenon and on documenting factors causing insect declines. In parallel with ongoing research, it is now time for the development of a policy consensus that will allow for a swift societal response… To these ends, we suggest primary policy goals summarized at scales from nations to farms to homes.”

Wildfires disrupt important pollination processes by moths and increase extinction risks

Image of landscape after wildfire.

(EurekAlert/Newcastle University) Previous studies have shown the flush of pollen-producing wildflowers after a fire can benefit the day-time pollinators such as bees and butterflies. In contrast, the team found that night-time moths, which are important but often overlooked pollinators, were much less abundant and with fewer species found after the fire. This is likely due to the moths’ inability to breed in burned areas if host plants are destroyed by fire.

Insects, imperfect knowledge, and the imperative of action

Image of insect collection.

(Anthropocene) There indeed seem to be many fewer bugs than there used to be – but precisely how few, and for what reasons, is still a matter of some debate. Of the species that have been reviewed, though, some 40 percent are considered threatened. These include more than one-quarter of North American and European bumblebee species. “Acting with imperfect knowledge is something that we do all of the time, in our personal and professional lives. It is a rational response to reductions in insect abundance and diversity.”