Speed Limits Could Save Rarest Dragonfly
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.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Slow down, drivers. You could save America's rarest dragonfly.
The Hine's emerald dragonfly is the only dragonfly on the federal endangered species list. The insect's largest remaining population lives in Door County, Wisconsin, where sandy beaches and cherry and apple orchards draw tourists from Green Bay and beyond.
A 2003 study found these summer drivers kill about 3,300 Hine's emerald dragonflies each year, said Amber Furness, a University of South Dakota graduate student. No one knows exactly how many Hine's emerald dragonflies are left, but there are at least 10,000 in Door County and up to 3,000 in the Chicago region. [Dazzling Photos of Dew-Covered Dragonflies & Other Insects]
Door County has posted two dragonfly warning-signs on roads near critical habitat areas. But can drivers really safely avoid a dragonfly at highway speeds, or even spot one from inside a car?
Searching for a better solution, the South Dakota researchers decided to see if dragonfly death rates were linked with speed.
Furness, a conservation biologist working with USD professor Daniel Soluk, mounted GoPro cameras on a pickup truck and drove the Door County roads in 2012 and 2013, varying her speed from 15 mph (24 km/h) to 55 mph (88 km/h) in increments of 10 mph (16 km/h). The cameras picked up each dragonfly's position before impact. Every time Furness hit a dragonfly, she tried to collect the carcass and verify the kill (a screen kept the insects out of the truck grill.)
At speeds below 35 mph (56 km/h), Hine's emerald dragonflies — and other kinds of dragonflies — survive their tumble over the hood, and fly away to live another day, Furness found. Faster speeds kill, according to Furness' research, presented here Thursday (Aug. 14) at the Ecological Society of America's annual meeting. The dragonflies are either killed on impact or they suffer severe shock and fall to the ground, and are run over by a second vehicle.
A Hine's emerald dragonfly.Daniel Soluk
Furness plans to publish the results of her research in a scientific journal, so it can serve as a reference for road planners. Her work was partially funded by the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, which has already altered a bridge to protect the Hine's emerald dragonfly, raising a bridge span on Interstate 355 so the dragonflies can avoid collisions with cars.
"Insects are important too, and there are safer speeds that we can drive to try not to deplete their populations," Furness told Live Science.
While there is no speed that will guarantee a kill-free roadway, a 30 mph (48 km/h) limit would mean a much lower probability of deadly collisions, Furness said.
A dragonfly speed limit is not as far-fetched as it sounds, especially because it would be in place for only part of the year. Adult Hine's emeralds emerge in June and die off by August.
"It may be easier to say we only need to do it during flight season, and during the day, but we need to make sure people are actually doing it, just like any speed limit," Furness said.
Conservationists have already used speed limits and warning signs to protect other endangered species threatened by road crossings, such as Florida's panthers and Key deer, and Hawaii's n?n? birds. The populations of these three species are so low that deaths by car pose a serious hazard to their numbers.
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