Friday, December 16, 2011
Saturday, December 10, 2011
An elusive bumblebee, which was last seen in 1956, was recently found living in the White Mountains of south-central New Mexico, scientists announced Monday (Dec. 5).
Known as "Cockerell's bumblebee," the bee was first described in 1913 using six specimens collected along the Rio Ruidoso, a river located in the Sierra Blanca and Sacramento Mountains, N.M. Over the years, one more sample was found in Ruidoso, and 16 specimens were collected near the town of Cloudcroft, N.M.
The last Cockerell's bumblebee sample was collected in 1956. No other specimens had been recorded until Aug. 31, when a team of scientists from the University of California, Riverside, found three more samples of the bee species in weeds along a highway north of Cloudcroft.
"When an insect species is very rare, or highly localized, it can fairly easily escape detection for very long periods of time," Douglas Yanega, a senior museum scientist at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), said in a statement.
Cockerell's bumblebee has the most limited range of any bumblebee species in the world, having been spotted only in an area of less than 300 square miles (777 square kilometers), according to the researchers. By comparison, the rare "Franklin's bumblebee" species, which was last seen in 2003 and is on the verge of extinction, is known from a distribution covering about 13,000 square miles (33,670 square km).
Cockerell's bumblebee was able to fly under the radar for so long because the area where the species lives is rarely visited by entomologists, Yanega said. The bee species has also "long been ignored because it was thought that it was not actually a genuine species, but only a regional color variant of another well-known species," Yanega explained.
An assessment of the genetic makeup of the three newly discovered specimens gives fairly conclusive evidence that Cockerell's bumblebee is a genuine species, the researchers said.
It is not unusual for an insect species to be rediscovered after several decades, when people might otherwise have believed it had gone extinct, Yanega said. UCR entomologists rediscover many "lost" insect species like the Cockerell's bumblebee, as well as discover entirely new species, at the rate of several dozen species every year.
"There are many precedents – some of them very recently in the news, in fact – of insects that have been unseen for anywhere from 70 to more-than-100 years, suddenly turning up again when someone either got lucky enough, or persistent enough, to cross paths with them again," Yanega said. "It is much harder to give conclusive evidence that an insect species has gone extinct than for something like a bird or mammal or plant."
Cockerell's bumblebee does not appear to be facing extinction. The bumblebee dwells in an area that's largely composed of National Forest and Apache tribal land, it is "unlikely to be under serious threat of habitat loss at the moment," Yanega said.
However, the researcher notes that since the bee species' biology is completely unknown, it may require additional formal assessments in the future.
You can follow LiveScience writer Remy Melina on Twitter @remymelina. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience and on Facebook.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Now....I'm not sure if you all realize this, but a cornered garter snake is not much different than any other cornered animal. That snake came out fighting, lunging.....open mouthed, and bent on scaring the hell out of us. My brother was very helpful....as he stood behind me yelling...."well go on catch it!"
It was then that I realized my brother was as scared of the snake as our mom! I accused him of being a chicken.....and all he said was "SO?" It took several minutes and numerous attempts before I finally caught the snake. Marty fetched a brown paper bag to put it in and he walked it up the road to an abandoned field. When he got back, and mom got done scolding him for bringing a nasty vile creature into the house, I had the chance to ask him how it got out in the first place. He took me into his room, with a puzzled look on his face and said "I don't know, I had it in this large jar and made sure to put a paper towel over it" I nearly died laughing.
I've had many other interesting experiences with snakes and each one as reinforced my love of them. Recently I joined a group of conservation minded individuals called the RARR (Rise against rattlesnake roundups). This group is trying to bring about necessary changes to the way rattlesnake roundups are being done. Numerous (1,000's) of rattlesnakes are removed from their natural habitat and thrown into buckets and boxes.
They are transported to the event, where they are often frozen for several hours to allow for easier handling when they sew their mouths shut. These snakes with their sewn mouths are then passed around from person to person to have their picture taken with for a fee. These snakes die from stress within hours. Many of the snakes are skinned while still clinging to life and sold by the pound. The snakes are exposed to the elements and left in the sun with no water or shelter. Many snakes die from exposure alone. The officials that run the roundups claim they hold the event to control an overpopulation of rattlers. They want to make it a safer environment for people. This all sounds upstanding and full of good intentions, until you find out that they are shipping snakes in from Texas and other areas. If they are so overrun with venomous snakes, then why bring more into the state? It is obvious the snake populations are plummeting and they can no longer find them in large concentrations. Many snake hunters will locate a den site of hibernating rattlesnakes and gas out or burn out the snakes. They are able to remove many many snakes in one fell swoop. Rattlesnakes only mate every other year and they do not have large litters when they do. It is very easy to hunt these snakes to the point of extinction. Many counties throughout these snakes range our now free of rattlesnakes.
Missouri traditionally could claim that timber rattlesnakes were found in every county in the state.....not anymore. There are more counties without timbers than with them. The few that have them remaining are showing signs of reduced numbers. We as humans have to stop our way of thinking when it comes to creatures that we do not understand, or like, or that make us fearful. We have no moral right to try and remove every animal that we deem unworthy of existence. No one will argue that snakes aren't cuddly or cute. Snakes can be creepy, simply because they are so different from 4 legged mammals. These differences should be respected and we should try to understand that snakes serve a vital role in the habitats where they are found. Killing them out only causes an unbalance in that ecosystem.
I am proud to be a part of a group that is working so hard to protect a species that many find unworthy of our consideration. As part of my involvement with this group I created a new blog entitled Rattlesnake Education and Awareness. My hope is that like me, many of you like the creepy side of nature. The side of nature that is often misunderstood. The side of nature, that makes nature and being outdoors so much more interesting. Please take time to visit the blog, become a follower and help us support the ongoing effort to educate the public. Hopefully through education we can all become better informed and make wiser decisions where wildlife is concerned.
If anyone is interested in contributing content to the new blog, just email me. We will be happy to have writers come on board and share their reptile (and amphibian) experiences with our followers.