Insects

Warmer temperatures across the region from climate change are making insect pests hungrier. That’s according to a new study published in the journal Science.

Luke Runyon / KUNC/Harvest Public Media

Americans waste a staggering amount of food. Instead of letting it rot and wreck the environment, some entrepreneurs want to put it to work feeding insects, and see the potential to revolutionize how we feed some of the livestock that provide us our meat.

Phil Taylor’s enthusiasm for insects is infectious. The University of Colorado Boulder research ecologist beams as he weaves through a small greenhouse in rural Boulder County, Colorado. A room about the size of a shipping container sits inside.

It's a breeding chamber, Taylor says. “I hesitate to say it, but it’s called ‘the brothel.’”

Take A Look Inside The Colorado Lab Trying To Breed Better, More Helpful Bugs

Jul 21, 2016
Dan Garrison / for Harvest Public Media

Halfway down a dead-end road in the small farming town of Palisade, Colorado, is a research facility known as "The Insectary." Scientists at the lab develop "biocontrol insects," bugs adapted to attacking other insects and the plants harmful to agriculture. Colorado's Insectary is the oldest and largest facility of its kind in the United States.

It's here that the Colorado Department of Agriculture is finding ways to kill pests dead – without the aid of chemicals.

David Steinmann

Native American legends spoke of a gateway to the underworld, with noxious clouds of steam spewing from the Earth. Humans would pass out in a few minutes if they enter the cave because of the lethal levels of hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide. Located on the side of Steamboat Springs' Howelsen Hill, the ancient cave was formed by hot spring water flowing through the travertine rock.

This dark, slimy, stinky site -- Sulphur Cave Spring -- is also the only place in the world a new species of tiny worms have been found.

'Swarm Season' Has Beekeepers Hustling For New Hives

Jun 7, 2016
Brian Seifferlein / Harvest Public Media

Late spring is swarm season, the time of year when bees reproduce and find new places to build hives. Swarms of bees leave the nest, flying through the air, hovering on trees, fences and houses, searching for a new home.

It’s a rough time for bees, with the vital pollinators under threat. U.S. beekeepers report losing about a third of their honeybee colonies each year in recent years, and the figure increased from 2014 to 2015. North America’s 4,000 other species of native bees are also declining.

While a new neighborhood beehive can be stressful for homeowners, it’s an exciting time for beekeepers, who see it as an opportunity.

Sandy and Chuck Harris / Creative Commons License

Monarch butterflies are disappearing. Scientists agree that in the last 20 years, populations of the black and orange insect have been in precipitous decline. But there's much less certainty on what’s causing them to vanish.

As each new scientific paper on monarch decline is published, the image becomes slightly less opaque. So far, potential culprits include disease, climate change, drought, deforestation, and sparse nectar plants. Blame has been cast on everyone from loggers to farmers to suburban developers.

In the battle to save the migratory monarch, advocates have zeroed in on a simple, leafy weed.

Therese Glowacki / Boulder County

Wood infested with an invasive beetle is being used to heat some Boulder County buildings, including the jail.

The Emerald Ash Borer has been in Colorado for years now, but remained undetected until 2013, when it was found in the city of Boulder. So far, it’s the furthest point west that EAB has been detected, prompting a quarantine to keep Ash wood from leaving the county. No one has been able to stop or eradicate the EAB.

The entrepreneurs behind Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch are gearing up to grow insects, like these mealworms, for people to eat.
Luke Runyon / KUNC, Harvest Public Media

Beef, poultry and pork are staples of the American diet, baked into the country’s very culture, and backbones of the agricultural economy. But lately, the meats have been saddled with some baggage.

Consumer groups are crowing about everything from meat safety to the health implications of a meat-heavy diet to environmental concerns about large-scale livestock operations.

All the hubbub gives savvy entrepreneurs a business opportunity to offer up alternatives, and eke out a little space on the American dinner plate for their products: plant-based burgers, lab-grown chicken breasts, and cricket tacos.

Bee Hotels Give Native Species A Place To Call Home

Jul 9, 2015
Abigail Wilson / Harvest Public Media

A patchwork of bamboo and paper tubes, with diameters no bigger than a nickel, are stacked artfully inside a 4-by-4 wooden frame near the edge of a public hiking trail in Lawrence, Kan.

Organized by size, each hollow tube is about 8 inches long, designed as nests for Kansas’ wild bees. This structure is called a bee hotel.

As concerns about diminishing honeybee populations continue to grow, North America’s 4,000 other species of native bees are also declining. In response, “bee hotels” are springing up all over North America and Europe.

Ashley Harrigan / Flickr - Creative Commons

Whether you call them fireflies or lightning bugs, they are just not very common in the west - but not impossible to find. In fact, thanks to a wetter summer, we may be seeing more of them right now.

“Probably a lot of people have never seen fireflies if they grew up in Colorado,” said Whitney Cranshaw, a Colorado State University entomologist. “Fireflies are always here. The issue is we don’t have a lot of fireflies.”

In Colorado, they can be found in small pockets near permanent water sources. During the larval stage they feed on things that thrive in wet areas – including slugs, snails, and earthworms.

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