New fossil pushes back physical evidence of insect pollination to 99 million years ago

Artist rendering of the newly-discovered beetle.

(Indiana University) The revelation is based upon a tumbling flower beetle with pollen on its legs discovered preserved in amber deep inside a mine in northern Myanmar. This discovery pushes back the earliest documented instance of insect pollination to a time when pterodactyls still roamed the skies – or about 50 million years earlier than previously thought.

Helpful insects and landscape changes

Image of potato beetle.

(Michigan State University) “One of the take-homes from our review is that natural enemies can be more abundant when agricultural landscapes are made up of smaller farm fields. Some natural enemies need resources found in other habitats or in crop field edges. We think when habitat patches are small, they are more likely to find their way back and forth between these habitats and crop fields, or from one crop field into another.”

Insect decline more extensive than suspected

Image of farmland.

(Technical University of Munich) Researchers collected more than one million insects at 300 sites. They were able to prove that many of the nearly 2,700 investigated species are in decline. In recent years, certain rare species could no longer be found in some of the regions studied. Both in forested areas and grasslands, the scientists counted about one third fewer insect species after 10 years.

Robust evidence of declines in insect abundance and biodiversity

Image of meadow plant bug on leaf.

(Nature) Rumors of insect declines have been around for some time. However, much of this evidence has come from biodiversity databases — records of species sightings, mostly collected by volunteers, and usually gathered in a haphazard fashion. Seibold and colleagues finally fill the gap by reporting species richness, abundance and biomass for a wide range of arthropod taxa recorded using standardized sampling. The results show clear evidence of substantial declines in arthropod abundance and biodiversity.

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.”