The U.S. Geological Survey is posting photos of insects on itsFlickr page
, offering a macro look at this hidden world. First up, this Festive Tiger Beetle (
) was found on top of a butte in Badlands National Park that had ancient windblown sand at its crest. Here, this sand specialist can build its long burrows.SEE ALSO: Bug Photos to Haunt Your Dreams
This Agapostemon bee species is one of the most common native bees in the eastern United States. In almost any field there can be hundreds, if not thousands, of these bees visiting a wide variety of blooming plants. One of the largest of the sweat bees, it still goes undetected if you don't get down on your knees, face close, among the flowers. This one was collected at Colorado National Monument, Mesa County, Colo.Animals and Bugs That Look Like Flowers
This wild bee (
), a female from Grand Tetons National Park, was collected as part of a study of climate change. Most species in this genus are black , but a few, like this one, are as the Latin in name implies, glittering jewels.Bugs Make Art: Photos
This is an unknown species of Robber Fly from Charles County, Md. Robber flies, a very large and widespread type of fly, feed on many different kinds of insects, making them a key player in maintaining the insect balance in different environments.SEE ALSO: Scary Fly, Dragon, New Dolphin in Week's Animals
One species of the rarely seen leafcutting bee, this is
from the sandhills of North Carolina. Leafcutter bees are so called because they cut plant leaves to create the cells in their nests. The bees tend to build their homes in rotted wood or in the strong stems of plants.Cockroaches: The Ultimate Survivors: Photos
is a type of jumping spider. This one was found in Beltsville, Md., but
lives in fields and prairies across North America. It feeds on seasonal plants.Animal Superpower -- The Eyes Have It: Photos
Sam Droege, USGS
Eggplant Tortoise Beetles like eggplants (go figure), eating holes in the plants' leaves. From the underside, the insects look quite queenly, with their ruffled collars. This one was gathered at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, in Anne Arundel County, Md.Grab-and-Go Beetle Hoards Poo and Gallops
The Karner blue butterfly,
Lycaeides melissa samuelis
, is endangered. Karner blue butterflies feed on nectar from many different types of flowers, but their larvae can survive on the leaves of only one specific plant, which has been decimated by habitat loss or change.7 Insects You'll Be Eating in the Future
Deer flies like this one, despite their groovy eyes, deliver a ferocious bite. And no wonder: when the female bites (males don't bite), she lacerates the skin and when the blood flows, sponges it up with her mouth. There are over 110 species of deer fly.Caterpillar to Butterfly in 3D: Photos
Centris bees, like this one, make their homes in holes, either in trees or in the ground.
The biggest visual difference between damselflies and dragonflies are their wing positions when resting. Dragonflies hold their wings open, while damselflies close them above their backs. This Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly (
) was found on a Beltsville, Md. stream.
The U.S. federal government is getting serious about the decline in bees and other pollinators, forming a federal task force to address the crisis.
“Given the breadth, severity, and persistence of pollinator losses, it is critical to expand Federal efforts and take new steps to reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels,” President Barack Obama wrote in a presidential memorandum on Friday.
Simply put, insects ensure that we have fresh food to eat. Honeybees allow farmers to produce at least 90 crops in North America, according to a White House fact sheet. Certain crops, like almonds, need honeybees to survive. California's almond crop alone depends on 60 percent of all beehives in the country for successful crops.
On a global level, 87 of the top 115 crops depend on animal pollinators.
It's getting harder and more expensive to keep bees alive. There has been almost a 60 percent decline in the number of managed beehives in the United States over the past 60 years, the fact sheet stated.
Kept bees, as well as wild bees, bats, monarch butterflies and others, are in deep trouble and have been for years because of disease, loss of genetic diversity, exposure to pesticides and other, less-understood factors. Around 30 percent of honeybee colonies fail each year, twice the pace of historical averages.
A major problem for honeybees is Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a phenonmenon where a hive suddenly dies. The exact causes of CCD aren't known.
Pretty dire picture, right? Now the government is taking some concrete steps: throwing $50 million at the problem in next year's budget, for one. They’re also forming a task force (which usually produces a yawn), but then telling that task force to do things like clean up and expand pollinator habitats. A public education push is also planned so that everyone understands how important pollinators are to our future food safety.
The White House actually hit the nail on the head: "Pollinators contribute substantially to the economy of the United States and are vital to keeping fruits, nuts, and vegetables in our diets. Over the past few decades, there has been a significant loss of pollinators—including honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies—from the environment. The problem is serious and poses a significant challenge that needs to be addressed to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impacts on the agricultural sector, and protect the health of the environment."
No pollinators, no fresh veggies, fruits or nuts, unless we pollinate crops ourselves, which is happening in countries like Korea and India, where insect pollinators are disappearing, leaving humans to flit from flower to flower.
Hat tip to the BBC