Thursday, May 28, 2015

Potato leaf hoppers arriving earlier and are more destructive

Data on potato leafhoppers goes back over 60 years and scientists have documented that they are arriving about 10 days earlier than they used to.  As damage also tends to be worse in warmer years, scientists are evaluated if climate change is causing the early arrival and increase in plant damage.  Indeed, the timing and severity of potato leafhopper corresponded to the increase in temperature.  This change can impact management of crops which are affected by the leafhoppers, a particular challenge as their feeding can go undetected for a short time after infestation.

potato leafhopper (Empoasca fabae) by Steve L. Brown, University of Georgia,

Read more about the study:  Climate change boosts a migratory insect pest
Potato leafhopper images: Empoasca fabae
For more information: potato leafhopper wiki

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Opah, the first warm-blooded fish

Deep in the water, where the light barely reaches, creatures tend to live life in the slow-lane.  Rather than chasing prey all about, they are usually ambush, opportunistic feeders with very little energy spent on actively swimming.  The opah (Lampris guttatus) is like finding a race car among roller skates.

The opah has an unusual blood vessel system in which vessels around the gills wrap around vessels which lead back to the core.  Blood is warmed in the core of the body and the heat is passed to blood coming back from the gills.  This means that the opah can maintain a temperature about 5C (41F) above the surrounding water from 150-1,000 ft deep.  Maintaining a warmer temperature not only helps them to resist the effects of cold water, but it can also boost their eye and brain function and muscle output and capacity.

Source Article: First fully warm-blooded fish: The opah or moonfish

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The bees are disappearing; U.S. beekeepers lose 40% in 2014-2015

Bees have been in the news the last several years for their decreasing populations.  An annual survey of U.S. beekeepers reports that they lost, on average, 40% of their honey bee colonies from April 2014-April 2015.  While loss of bees during winter is not unexpected, the loss in the summer was surprising.  During the winter, beekeepers lost 23.7% of their colonies, a decrease from 23.7% the previous year.  During the summer, beekeepers reported a loss of 27.4%, up significantly from 19.8% last year.

The survey represents about 15% of the total bee colonies in the U.S., with about 6,000 beekeepers responding.  Of beekeepers with under 50 colonies ("Backyard beekeepers"), the varroa mite was majorly responsible for the decline.  However, it is unknown why commercial beekeepers had substantial losses.

varroa mite (Varroa jacobsoni) on honeybee by Pest and Diseases Image Library,

Source Article: U.S. beekeepers lost 40 percent of bees in 2014-15

Friday, May 22, 2015

Sawflies population boom killing ponderosa pines

With significant portions of Colorado experiencing conditions that are abnormally dry to severe drought (Drought Monitor), and tree defenses down due to the drought, a population boom in pine sawflies (Neodiprion autumnalis) has become another stress on ponderosa pines in the west.  In 2014, pine sawflies defoliated 7,400 acres of pine forests and a sawfly egg survey predicts another year of moderate to heavy defoliation.  The sampling plan is based on one developed in New York for a different species of sawfly and pin, and it may not quite fit the situation for Colorado.

pine sawflies (Neodiprion autumnalis) by USDA Forest Service - Region 2 - Rocky Mountain Region Archive, USDA Forest Service,

This is Colorado's first attempt at predicting the defoliation by pine sawfly by egg counting, and if it is successful, it could be used to generate a model for future outbreaks.  As chemical controls should be applied at egg hatching, the plan can help inform applicators of where the heaviest infestations are likely to occur.

Denver Post: Sawfly wasp outbreak spreading through Colorado's ponderosa pines
Colorado State Forest Service: Pines Southeast of Denver Expected to Suffer Damage from Sawfly this Summer
Franktown District, CSFS: Potential for Pine Sawfly (Neodiprion Autumnalis) Defoliation of Ponderosa Pine Forests in Elbert County, CO, in 2015

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Invasive monk parakeets come from one small region

Introduced species that are able to successfully establish and become invasive usually come from a very small sample of the native gene pool and so have little genetic variability.  By evaluating the genetic make-up of the introduced population and compare it to samples from the native population, researchers can sometimes define the origin of the introduced species.

monk parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) by Stephanie Sanchez,

The monk parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) is from South America and is now found in North America, Europe, and Africa where it was sold as pets for many years.  Evaluation of the genetic information within mitochondrial DNA and nuclear microsatellites showed that all of the established invasive populations within Europe and North America are from the same haplotype (groups of DNA sequence variations).  This haplotype, called Monarch1, only occurs in two small populations in its native range, Entre RĂ­os, Argentina and Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, and it is uncommon even in its native population.  The low genetic diversity doesn't seem to be affecting the invasive populations success in any of the sampled locations.

Invasive Plant Management and Greater Sage-grouse Conservation

Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies recently released a report on the impact of invasive plants and Greater Sage-grouse conservation.  Check it out here and for more information go here.

Photo by Terry Spivey, USDA Forest Service,