Jul 20
Photo of male Greek goldenring Cordulegaster helladica helladica

Greek goldenring (Cordulegaster helladica)

Species: Greek goldenring (Cordulegaster helladica)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: Like other dragonflies, the Greek goldenring is a supreme aerial predator, hunting a range of other insects in flight.

The Greek goldenring is a large, beautifully patterned dragonfly with wide yellow rings encircling its otherwise black abdomen. It also has bright yellow markings on its thorax, and its eyes are large and green. Male and female Greek goldenrings are similar in appearance, but females are slightly larger, growing up to about eight centimetres in length. Like other golden-ringed dragonflies, the female Greek goldenring lays its eggs by driving them into the sandy sediments of rivers and brooks in a distinctive rhythmic, vertical flight. The eggs are likely to take a few weeks to hatch, but the larvae do not transform into adults for around two to six years, depending on the altitude. As its name suggests, the Greek goldenring is endemic to Greece, where it is found in the south of the country and on a number of islands.

Populations of the Greek goldenring are severely fragmented, and are believed to be declining due to habitat destruction and water extraction by humans. Some previously reported sites for this species have dried up in recent years, and drought and forest fires are also significant threats which could potentially increase due to climate change. Three subspecies of Greek goldenring are recognised, one of which is classified as Critically Endangered as it inhabits just a single spring at the Delphi archaeological site. No specific conservation measures are currently targeted at this threatened insect, but forest preservation and the control of water extraction have been recommended. The single site at Delphi also needs greater protection.

 

Find out more about European dragonflies and their conservation at the British Dragonfly Society and the European Red List of Dragonflies.

You can also find out more about conservation in Greece at WWF – Active conservation projects in Greece.

See images of the Greek goldenring on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Jul 19

Bumblebees imported from Europe infected with parasites pose a serious threat to the UK’s wild and honey bee populations, according to a new study.

Honey bee image

Honey bees are vital pollinators

Deadly imports

Each year, more than a million bumblebee colonies are imported by countries across the globe to pollinate a variety of crops, with the UK alone importing between 40,000 and 50,000. Although the colonies are said by the global suppliers to be disease free, a recent study in the Journal of Applied Ecology has found that more than three-quarters of those imported into the UK each year are riddled with parasites.

Bees and disease

Scientists purchased 48 commercially produced bumblebee colonies, each containing up to 100 bees, from three different European suppliers during 2011 and 2012, and screened each one for parasite DNA. The results showed that an alarming 77% of the colonies were infected with parasites, a situation which has serious implications for the health of the UK’s native wild bees and honey bees, many of which are already suffering severe declines.

These parasites will undoubtedly be spilling over into wild and honey bees and very probably having negative effects on them,” said lead researcher Professor William Hughes, from the University of Sussex. “It is no great leap to think that damage is already being done.”

Honey bee worker image

Parasites carried by imported bumblebee colonies may pose a serious risk to the UK’s native bee populations

Parasites

The results of the study revealed that the imported bumblebee colonies carried several different parasites, five of which were found in the bees themselves and three in the pollen provided by the suppliers as food. These parasites included three main bumblebee parasites (Crithidia bombi, Nosema bombi and Apicystis bombi), three honey bee parasites (Nosema apis, Ascosphaera apis and Paenibacillus larvae), and two which infect both bumblebees and honey bees (Nosema ceranae and deformed wing virus).

With the decline of pollinating insects in the UK in recent years, food producers are becoming increasingly reliant upon imported bees.

Over a million colonies are imported globally – it’s a huge trade,” said Professor Hughes. “A surprisingly large number of these are produced in factories, mainly in Eastern Europe. We couldn’t grow tomatoes in this country without these bumblebees. We sought to answer the big question of whether colonies that are being produced now have parasites and, if so, whether those parasites are actually infectious or harmful.”

Buff-tailed bumblebee image

Scientists are calling for stricter regulations regarding the import of bumblebees

Severe consequences

The potential impacts on native wild bee and honey bee species could be extremely severe, from harming the bees’ ability to learn, which is vital for finding food, to killing them outright. In Argentina, native bee species are already being driven to extinction as a result of imported parasites, and the authors of the recent study are recommending that urgent action is required in the UK to improve the effectiveness of disease screening and to close damaging loopholes.

Call for action

Scientists are calling for authorities to strengthen measures to prevent the importation of parasite-infected bumblebee colonies, by introducing proper colony checks upon arrival in the UK. While there are strict regulations in the UK regarding the import of non-native bumblebees, including ensuring that the colonies are disease free and are only kept in hives from which the queens cannot escape, no such regulations apply to imported colonies of native bee subspecies.

Bees and other pollinators are responsible for the production of three-quarters of the world’s food crops, but heavy pesticide use, rising disease, and starvation due to habitat destruction are all contributing to worrying declines in many species.

The introduction of more or new parasite infections will, at a minimum, exacerbate this, and could quite possibly directly drive declines,” said Professor Hughes.

Honey bee image

Honey bee in flight, laden with pollen

Pesticide ban

Earlier this week, the EU voted to successfully suspend the use of fipronil, a common pesticide, due to the serious risk it poses to bees. Currently used in more than 70 countries, this insect nerve agent will be banned from use on corn and sunflowers in Europe from the end of 2013.

Tonio Borg, European Commissioner for Health, said, “In the aftermath of the restriction on use of neonicotinoids, I pledged to do my utmost to protect Europe’s honey bee population, and today’s agreement with member states not only delivers on that pledge but marks another significant step in realising the commission’s overall strategy to tackling Europe’s bee decline.”

Read more on this story at BBC News – Imported Bumblebees pose ‘parasite threat’ to native bees and The Guardian – Imported bumblebees pose risk to UK’s wild and honeybee population – study.

Find out more about honey bees on ARKive.

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author

Jul 18

Summer has officially arrived here in the UK, and the sunny days mean that the ARKive team are itching to get out and about and enjoy the good weather. For those not lucky enough to be out enjoying the sunshine just yet, why not have a browse through some of our favourite summer photographs to get you in a summery mood?

1. Bees

Honey boo photo

One of the insects most commonly associated with summertime is the bee. This photograph beautifully captures a buff-tailed bumblebee feeding on the nectar of a summer flower.

2. Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly photo

Summer is also the main time to find butterflies. Caught mid-flight, these monarch butterflies are shown during their long distance migration. This species can travel around 3,000 miles at speeds of up to 80 miles per day.

3. Common starfish

Common starfish photo

The common starfish is widely associated with visits to the seaside and exploring rockpools. Sand, seaweed and the sighting of an occasional starfish definitely represent the summer holidays for many people. If you plan to explore the coast this summer, make sure you try our Beach Treasure Hunt!

4. Arctic fox

Arctic fox photo

The Arctic fox  is superbly adapted for life at sub-zero temperatures, and while this species is known for its pristine, white winter coat, during the summer it is almost unrecognisable.

5. Lesser crested tern

Lesser tern photo

There is nothing like cooling off in the water on a hot summer’s day, and we love this shot of young lesser crested terns piling into the water to take a dip.

6. Emperor dragonfly

Emperor dragonfly photo

A dragonfly darting around a pond is a favourite summer sight. This photo beautifully captures the emperor dragonfly mid-flight.

7. Sunflower

Sunflower photo

Sunflowers are always a bright and cheery sight. Did you know that each sunflower is not a single flower, but many small reddish-brown disk flowers surrounded by yellow ray flowers?

8. Montipora coral

Montipora coral photo

As almost everyone hopes for a summer getaway, this image of montipora coral shows clear skies and sparkling blue sea.

9. Southern plains gray langur

Southern plains gray langur photo

There is nothing better than a breath-taking view on a summer’s evening, and these southern plains gray langurs seem to have picked an excellent spot!

10. West Indian Manatee

West Indian manatee photo

This water looks so inviting that we almost feel jealous of this West Indian manatee!

Which of ARKive’s photos represent summer for you? Use the comments form below and let us know!

Jul 13
Photo of pink pigeon, side profile

Pink pigeon (Nesoenas mayeri)

Species: Pink pigeon (Nesoenas mayeri)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: In the 1980s, a tiny grove of cedar trees which housed the entire wild population of pink pigeons became known as ‘Pigeon Wood’.

Also known as the Mauritius pink pigeon, the pink pigeon is a rare endemic bird found only on the island of Mauritius and the adjacent Ile aux Aigrettes. As its name suggests, the pink pigeon has a pink head, neck and breast, although its back is brown and it has a reddish-brown tail. This species breeds in most months of the year, with both adults helping to raise the brood of two chicks. The pink pigeon feeds on buds, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds of both native and introduced plants. Although this pigeon originally inhabited native evergreen forest, it is now mainly found among non-native trees such as the Japanese red cedar.

The pink pigeon underwent a dramatic decline in the last century due to severe deforestation combined with predation by introduced mammals such as mongooses, rats and cats. Cyclones are also a potential threat to this rare bird and can destroy its nest sites. By the early 1990s, the situation for the pink pigeon had become critical, with just ten individuals left in the wild. Fortunately, intensive conservation efforts have rescued this endemic bird from the brink of extinction, with a captive breeding programme increasing the wild population to over 350 individuals today. Other efforts to protect this species include habitat restoration, predator control and providing supplementary food. Although the pink pigeon still requires continued management if it is to survive, the miraculous recovery of this species is considered to be a great conservation success story.

 

Find out more about the pink pigeon and its conservation at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust – Mauritius pink pigeon.

Read more about conservation on Mauritius at the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation.

You can also find out more about the wildlife of Mauritius and other Indian Ocean islands on the ARKive Indian Ocean islands page.

See images and videos of the pink pigeon on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Jul 6
Photo of captive female Rameshwaram parachute spider, camouflaged among dead leaves

Rameshwaram parachute spider (Poecilotheria hanumavilasumica)

Species: Rameshwaram parachute spider (Poecilotheria hanumavilasumica)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: Instead of using a web to catch prey, the Rameshwaram parachute spider actively catches its victims by ambushing them and injecting paralysing venom.

The Rameshwaram parachute spider is a colourful, tree-dwelling tarantula with an attractive pattern of light and dark markings. As its name suggests, this species is found on Rameshwaram Island, off the coast of Tamil Nadu, India, although it also occurs on adjacent parts of the mainland. It can be distinguished from other spiders in its genus by the distinctive yellow colour on the underside of its front legs. Although relatively little is currently known about the Rameshwaram parachute spider, it is likely to live in dark, well-protected cavities such as tree holes or inside house walls. This species feeds mainly on insects. Females can live for several breeding seasons, and may produce up to 52 young at a time. The Rameshwaram parachute spider typically lives in tree palm, coconut or tamarind plantations, but also occurs in human habitations.

The main threat to the Rameshwaram parachute spider is habitat loss, as the plantations it inhabits are being destroyed to make way for houses and other developments, as well as rice fields. This rare spider occurs in only a few highly fragmented locations, and its remaining patches of habitat are very small. Although not common in the pet trade, this attractive tarantula has also been known to be exported. Unfortunately, the Rameshwaram parachute spider is not protected by law. Proposals to create a spider sanctuary at the Hanumavilasum temple, which is home to the largest colony of this species, were sadly never put into practice.

 

Find out more about conservation in India at Conservation India and Wildlife Conservation Society – India.

See images of the Rameshwaram parachute spider on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

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