Archive for November, 2010

Army ants have a reputation for annihilating everything in their path as they march through the jungle.

But the most complete study of its kind has found that army ants are creators of whole worlds, not destroyers.

More than 300 species, ranging from birds to tiny mites, depend in part on a single species of army ant for their survival, scientists have discovered.

That means army ants support a greater number of other life forms than any other known species. [Read full article]

BBC Earth News


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Gardens are able to sustain a greater number of bumblebee nests than farmed land, a study involving genetic analysis and modelling has suggested.

DNA samples were taken from two species by UK researchers in order to build up a picture of nest density and how land use affects the creatures.

Previous studies have shown that bumblebee numbers are declining in western Europe, Asia and North America.

The findings have been published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

The team said that the importance of gardens tied in with the findings of earlier studies, which suggested the habitats provided a stronghold for the creatures “in an otherwise impoverished agricultural environment”. [Read full article]

BBC Science & Environment News

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Widespread use of insecticides affecting bee populations but also causing decline in numbers of birds, butterflies and moths, warns Dutch toxicologist

A new book is blaming the significant decline of bird and bee numbers across Europe on the use of certain pesticides in agriculture.

In The Systemic Insecticides: A Disaster in the Making, toxicologist Dr Henk Tennekes suggests that dangerous insecticides known as neonicotinoids are seriously affecting bird and insect life, and their continued use could result in an ‘environmental catastrophe’. [Read full article]

The Ecologist

From the books website introduction:

Bird populations are declining rapidly across Europe, seemingly without reason. Could a new class of insecticides – the so-called neonicotinoids – be to blame?

Since their introduction in the 1990s, neonicotinoids have become the most widely used insecticides worldwide. They are revolutionary because they are put inside seeds, and permeate the whole plant, which is why they are called systemic insecticides. Any insect that feeds on the crop dies. Neonicotinoids are the most effective insecticides ever. The downside is that any bee or butterfly that collects pollen or nectar from the crop is poisoned. Neonicotinoids also seep out of storage or are washed out of the soil into waterways and groundwater. The book describes how the use of neonicotinoids leads to a general decline of insects and common birds.

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