Wisconsin Pollinator Newsletter-June 10, 2018

Monarch Butterfly Population Down 14.8%

The population number of eastern Monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico has been released, showing a 14.8 percent decline over last year, continuing the downward trend that has resulted in an overall 90 percent decline from the population high just two decades ago.

Scientists measure area because estimates of individual butterflies in a colony vary too widely to be reliable. Such estimates range from 10 to 50 million monarchs per hectare. In winter 2017/2018, the colonies covered an area of 2.48 hectares (as of December, 2017). Using data from this winter, you can see how imprecise estimates of individual butterflies are.

The declines this year are largely attributed to severe hurricanes durng monarch migration and unseasonably warm fall weather. Yet monarchs continue to face the loss of their spring and summer breeding habitat in the United States, specifically the loss of their only caterpillar host plant, milkweed, and the nectar plants used by adult butterflies.

Collin O'Mara of World Wildlife said, “With monarch butterflies now down 90 percent in the last 20 years, we simply must do more if we are going to be successful in reversing monarch butterfly decline. Americans have made great progress in recent years on protecting and expanding habitat for monarch butterflies, as well as native bees and other pollinators, but the monarch continues to struggle in the face of multiple threats, including degradation of their Mexican mountain forest habitat, rapid loss of milkweed habitat in their central flyway, the increased use of pesticides and other toxic chemicals, and impacts from climate change.

Overwintering Monarch Data
Help Restore Karner Blue Butterfly Population

Plant Wild Lupine!

The Karner Blue butterfly is an endangered subspecies of small blue butterfly which was once found in significant numbers and is now mainly found in other parts of the Great Lakes states, such as Wisconsin and Michigan, in small areas of New Jersey, and also in southern New Hampshire, and the Capital District region of New York.

Karner Blues depend on open areas and has a high regard for the open sunny areas and sandy soils. These conditions encourage the growth of wild lupine, the sole food source for the Karner Blue’s larvae. An adult butterfly is about the size of a postage stamp, so they aren’t equipped to fly far to find new homes or food sources.If its habitat is not managed, shrubs and trees take over and Karner Blues can no longer survive.

Think about adding native Lupines to your gardening and helping restoration efforts of this beautiful butterfly.

Robotic Bees Are Coming

A world without bees may seem far-fetched, but experts are looking for ways to help plants survive without them. Eijiro Miyako, a researcher at Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, has designed what he believes could one day be a partial solution: an insect-sized drone capable of artificial pollination. Coated with a patch of horse hair bristles and an ionic liquid gel, these pint-sized robots can collect and transfer pollen from one plant to another

Although artificial pollination is already possible, it's a tedious, time-consuming process. When done by hand, using a brush to apply the pollen, a person can pollinate five to 10 trees a day, depending on the size of the trees. Tackling thousands of trees takes major manpower and a hefty budget.

Miyako's current robo-bee prototype is still very much a work in progress, far from a real-world field test. For one thing, it's not autonomous. The drones must be remote-controlled, by humans, and can be difficult to maneuver. "It was hard to control the robotic pollinators so that they would precisely hit the target sites," says Miyako. He's looking into incorporating artificial intelligence, GPS, and a high-resolution camera in future prototypes.

A Vaccine For Edible Plants Replacing Pesticides

Novel technologies are being sought to replace the traditional pesticides used to protect plants, particularly edible plants such as cereals. A new collaborative project between the University of Helsinki and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) is shedding light on the efficacy of environmentally friendly RNA-based vaccines that protect plants from diseases and pests.

Plant diseases and pests cause considerable crop losses and threaten global food security. The diseases and pests have traditionally been fought with chemical pesticides, which spread throughout our environment and may be hazardous to human health, beneficial organisms and the environment.

The vaccine triggers a mechanism known as RNA interference, which is an innate defence mechanism of plants, animals and other eukaryotic organisms against pathogens. The vaccine can be targeted to the chosen pathogen by using RNA molecules which share sequence identity with the pest's genes and prevents their expression.

This means that the double-stranded RNA molecules do not affect the expression of genes in the protected plant, but only target the plant disease or pest. RNA is also a common molecule in nature that degrades rapidly rather than building up in the environment.

"The challenge in developing RNA-based vaccines to protect plants has involved the production of RNA molecules. Double-stranded RNA molecules have been produced through chemical synthesis, both as drug molecules and for research purposes, but such production methods are inefficient and expensive for plant protection," Poranen states.

It's difficult to predict when the vaccine will be made available because no relevant legislation exists yet,"

Purple Poppy Mallow: Ground Cover for Pollinators

Purple Poppy Mallow or Winecup, has masses of chalice shaped magenta flowers on trailing, deeply lobed foliage. Excellent as a rock garden plant or ground cover, each plant can spread up to three feet in width. Callirhoe involucrata fits well into formal gardens as well as naturalized areas. It looks great trailing over a wall. The trailing form combines best with contrasting shapes and leaf textures such as Lanceleaf Coreopsis and Rattlesnake Master, or included in an area of mixed grasses.

Early Summer is its peak bloom time, but this Poppy Mallow can continue to bloom all through the summer. The flowering can be prolonged by removing old flowers before they set seed. Easily grown in dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun, Purple Poppy Mallow is very drought tolerant with a long tap root. In optimal growing conditions it can self-seed in the garden.

This plan is the larval host plant for the Gray Hairstreak butterfly.

Join A Wisconsin Beekeeping Club

Wisconsin Beekeeping Clubs Joining a beekeeping club or association is a great way to learn more about bees and beekeeping. It is extremely useful to join a local beekeeping group. It is invaluable to meet other experienced beekeepers to exchange ideas and opinions. There is often the opportunity to borrow equipment, share swarm removal duties and buy supplies in larger, more economical quantities.

Some of these people are experts, they know how to deal with the situation in a safe way for you, and the bees. It’s often said that if you ask 6 beekeepers a question, you’ll get at least eight answers.