Insects

4:30pm

Mon March 25, 2013
The Salt

Are Agriculture's Most Popular Insecticides Killing Our Bees?

Originally published on Thu March 28, 2013 8:42 am

Workers clear honey from dead beehives at a bee farm east of Merced, Calif.
Marcio Jose Sanchez AP

Environmentalists and beekeepers are calling on the government to ban some of the country's most widely used insect-killing chemicals.

The pesticides, called neonicotinoids, became popular among farmers during the 1990s. They're used to coat the seeds of many agricultural crops, including the biggest crop of all: corn. Neonics, as they're called, protect those crops from insect pests.

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11:20am

Mon March 25, 2013
Environment

EPA Stung With Lawsuit Over Potentially Bee-Killing Pesticides

Michael Myers Creative Commons/Flickr

A coalition of beekeepers and environmental groups says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency isn’t doing enough to protect the nation’s declining bee population from pesticides.

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10:33am

Thu March 14, 2013
The Two-Way

Monarch Butterfy Population Falls To Record Low, Mexican Scientists Say

Originally published on Thu March 14, 2013 12:47 pm

Monarch butterflies in December 2008 at the Sierra del Chincua sanctuary in Angangueo, in the Mexican state of Michoacan.
Mario Vazquez AFP/Getty Images

Monarch butterflies that once covered 50 square acres of forest during their summer layover in central Mexico now occupy fewer than 3 acres, according to the latest census.

The numbers of the orange-and-black butterflies have crashed in the two decades since scientists began making a rough count of them, according to Mexico's National Commission of Natural Protected Areas.

At a news conference Wednesday, the commission said the count was down 59 percent from December 2011 levels, when the insects filled 7.14 acres of fir trees in central Mexico.

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5:10am

Sat March 9, 2013
Middle East

When Insects Go Biblical: Swarms Head Toward Israel

Originally published on Sun March 10, 2013 6:47 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

If it just sounded like this, might not be all that bad.

(SOUNDBITE OF GRASSHOPPER)

SIMON: That's a grasshopper, and this is the sound of what happens when grasshoppers go biblical, and become a swarm of locusts.

(SOUNDBITE OF SWARM OF LOCUSTS)

SIMON: Just such a swarm of locusts have entered Israel's Negeve desert on Friday and that's bad news for farmers because the insects eat everything that's green.

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3:04pm

Thu March 7, 2013
The Salt

If Caffeine Can Boost The Memory Of Bees, Can It Help Us, Too?

Originally published on Thu March 7, 2013 4:13 pm

Adam Cole/NPR iStockphoto.com

Who knew that the flower nectar of citrus plants — including some varieties of grapefruit, lemon and oranges — contains caffeine? As does the nectar of coffee plant flowers.

And when honeybees feed on caffeine-containing nectar, it turns out, the caffeine buzz seems to improve their memories — or their motivations for going back for more.

"It is surprising," says Geraldine Wright at Newcastle University in the the U.K., the lead researcher of a new honeybee study published in the journal Science.

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