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California’s most famous butterfly nearing death spiral

Western monarch butterflies spend the winter in more than 300 forested groves along the California coast, including large populations in Riverside and Los Angeles counties, Pacific Grove, Monterey and at Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz. They can normally be seen from November to March. With the number of butterflies declining rapidly, here are four things governments and the public can do to help:

Protect and manage California overwintering sites.

Syngenta and Bayer Agree to Ban of 12 Bee-Harming Pesticides

Twelve pesticides made with chemicals shown to harm bees and other pollinators are slated to be banned as part of a proposed settlement with the manufacturers, the EPA announced Dec. 12. The pesticides, marketed by Syngenta AG., Bayer AG, and Valent USA Corp., contain either thiamethoxam or clothianidin, two chemicals in the neonicotinoid class that are linked to declining bee populations.

Truths about pesticides

Chemical agriculture is destroying the ecosystems that sustain all life. Pesticides are a key culprit in the decline of bees, butterflies and other pollinators — leading some scientists to warn of a “second silent spring.” , Pesticides wreak havoc on the soil by killing the organisms that are the basis of soil life. And they pollute rivers, lakes and oceans, leading to fish die-offs.

Organic food may reduce your risk of cancer

To reduce your risk of cancer, you know you should quit smoking, exercise regularly, wear sunscreen, and take advantage of screening tests. New research suggests another item might be added to this list: Choose organic foods over conventional ones. A study of nearly 70,000 French adults who were tracked for an average of 4.5 years found that those who ate the most organic foods were less likely to develop certain kinds of cancer than the people who ate the least.

Monarch butterfly numbers plummet 86 percent in California

The number of monarch butterflies turning up at California's overwintering sites has dropped by about 86 percent compared to only a year ago, according to the Xerces Society, which organizes a yearly count of the iconic creatures. That’s bad news for a species whose numbers have already declined an estimated 97 percent since the 1980s. Each year, monarchs in the western United States migrate from inland areas to California’s coastline to spend the winter, usually between September and February.

Exposure to imidacloprid during early development induces long-lasting changes in behavior and brain function in mice

We assessed the effects of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid (IMI) in adult male and female mice after in utero and early postnatal exposure. Pregnant mice were infused with IMI (0.5 mg/kg/day) from gestational day 4 to the end of nursing at postnatal day 21. The young adult offspring were studied in a series of biochemical and behavioral tests. To assess reproducibility, the behavioral analyses were conducted in three separate studies using multiple exposed litters. Exposure to IMI reduced fecundity, and in adult offspring, decreased body weight in male but not female pups.

The blackbird has become nearly extinct in Prague and Central Bohemia

The common blackbird has disappeared from about 50 percent of Czech gardens, following the outbreak of a dangerous mosquito-carried African bird disease in the summer of last year, the Czech Union for Nature Conservation said on Thursday. The blackbird (Turdus merula), which used to be the country’s most common garden species, has become nearly extinct in Prague and Central Bohemia after being hit by the Usutu virus. The disease, which can also be transmitted to other bird species, was first detected in the country in 2011.

We’re Edging Toward Biological Annihilation

When American entomologist Bradford Lister first visited El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico in 1976, little did he know that a long-term study he was about to embark on would, 40 years later, reveal a “hyperalarming” new reality. In those decades, populations of arthropods, including insects and creepy crawlies like spiders and centipedes, had plunged by an almost unimaginable 98% in El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest within the US National Forest System.