Tuesday, July 21, 2015

National Moth Week July 18-26, 2015

National Moth Week celebrates the beauty, life cycles, and habitats of moths. “Moth-ers” of all ages and abilities are encouraged to learn about, observe, and document moths in their backyards, parks, and neighborhoods. National Moth Week is being held, worldwide, during the last full week of July. National Moth Week offers everyone, everywhere a unique opportunity to become a Citizen Scientist and contribute scientific data about moths. Through partnerships with major online biological data depositories, National Moth Week participants can help map moth distribution and provide needed information on other life history aspects around the globe.
This year, National Moth Week will spotlight the Sphingidae family of moths found throughout the world commonly called hawk moths, sphinx moths and hornworms.   
Why moths?
<![if !supportLists]>§  <![endif]>Moths are among the most diverse and successful organisms on earth.
<![if !supportLists]>§  <![endif]>Scientists estimate there are 150,000 to more than 500,000 moth species.
<![if !supportLists]>§  <![endif]>Their colors and patterns are either dazzling or so cryptic that they define camouflage. Shapes and sizes span the gamut from as small as a pinhead to as large as an adult’s hand.
<![if !supportLists]>§  <![endif]>Most moths are nocturnal, and need to be sought at night to be seen – others fly like butterflies during the day.
<![if !supportLists]>§  <![endif]>Finding moths can be as simple as leaving a porch light on and checking it after dark. Serious moth aficionados use special lights and baits to attract them.
7 Moths that Make Butterflies Look Boring
42 7/24/2013 // By Dani Tinker
I still like butterflies, but let’s be honest, moths need some love. They just aren’t as popular as butterflies, and they certainly should be! Both belong to the large order of insects, Lepidoptera, which refers to the tiny scales covering most moth and butterfly wings. I used to freak out when I touched a moth or butterfly wing because there was a powdery residue. Turns out, that’s the scales rubbing off their wings. Although they can usually still fly, their fragile wings are easily damaged and it’s best to handle with extreme care or not at all.
Moth species dominate the Lepidoptera order almost 10 to 1, with over 11,000 species in the U.S. alone! I chose a few moths to highlight that give butterflies some stiff competition.
#1: Snowberry Clearwing Moth
Is it a bumblebee? A hummingbird? Nope, this magnificent creature is a Snowberry Clearwing moth. It’s one of a few species of moths found flying by day, while most are active at night. They mimic the flight of hummingbirds, hovering to sip nectar. This moth belongs to the family Sphingidae
, commonly known as sphinx  or hawk moths. These are some of the fastest flying insects in the world, clocking speeds at over 33 m.p.h.! The two threatened and endangered moths in the U.S. are both sphinx moths. Take a look below if you want to learn more.
The clearwing moth hovers as it drinks, resembling a hummingbird. (Photo by Flickr/vickisnature)
#2: Luna Moth
Luna moths are really freaking amazing. No mouth. Don’t eat as adults. Only live for a week. This photo is one of the Luna moths I encountered while camping in North Carolina. I may have carried it around on this stick for awhile. Don’t judge.
Luna moths are fairly common in the Eastern U.S. near forests. (Photo by Kevin Heath)
#3: Texas Wasp Moth
This species has evolved to mimic paper wasps to protect themselves. Predators that are adverse to wasps will stay away from these moths as well. Pure genius. And easy on the eyes.
(Photo by Flickr: Clinton & Charles Robertson)
#4: Atlas Moth
This species is the largest moth in the world (measured by wing surface area). Female Atlas moths can reach a total wing surface area of over 62 square inches and wingspan of over 12 inches! Imagine those giant flappers headed toward you.
(National Wildlife Photo Contest Entry by Andrea Mosley)
#5: Winter Moth
There are several families of moths with flightless females, including the Winter moth. Notice that the female does have wings, they are just too small to support flight. That must be the most frustrating thing in the world, to have wings, but not be able to fly. Thanks for nothing, tiny wings.
Winter moths mating, the flightless female is on the right. (Photo by Flickr: Jenn Forman Orth)
#6: Uropyia meticulodina
There is apparently no common name for this moth. And no words are necessary. Except that I will now and forever be paranoid while stepping on dead leaves.
The wings of this moth curl to resemble dead leaves! (Photo by Flickr: Shipher Wu
Welcome wildlife into your own backyard! Find the best native plants  to attract butterflies to your yard. Then, make your yard an official NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat®!

Rotterdam may pave its roads in recycled plastic

© VolkerWessels
Asphalt is not pretty stuff. It emits 27 kilograms of CO2 for every tonne produced; it absorbs heat and contributes to urban heat island effects. Meanwhile, our mountains of plastic are rising faster than they can be downcycled into lawn chairs and plastic lumber.
Perhaps not for too much longer. A Dutch construction firm, VolkerWessels, is proposing a new form of roadbed made from recycled plastic. According to Gordon Darroch in the Guardian,
The plastic roads are lighter, reducing the load on the ground, and hollow, making it easier to install cables and utility pipelines below the surface. Sections can be prefabricated in a factory and transported to where they are needed, reducing on-site construction, while the shorter construction time and low maintenance will mean less congestion caused by roadworks. Lighter materials can also be transported more efficiently.
© VolkerWessels
They are going to try it out in Rotterdam. Rolf Mars of VolkerWessells' subsidiary KWS Infra, claims that "plastic offers all kinds of advantages compared to current road construction, both in laying the roads and maintenance."
An interesting idea that is probably more logical than paving it in solar cells. It will be interesting to see how this works in cold climates when plastic gets brittle. More in the Guardian.

Monday, July 20, 2015

5 Hot Water Heater Options for Green Home Improvement

If you’re remodeling your home, thinking about the water heater might seem rather dull. However, this is one place where a home renovation can save you money. Here are some descriptions of energy efficient water heaters.
Gas Water Heaters: If you want to go with a traditional gas water heater, choose one that is Energy Star certified, guaranteeing the most efficient technology. They are slightly more expensive than less efficient models, but it is estimated you gain back this money in fewer than three years.
Tankless Water Heater
Tankless Water Heater: Conventional water heaters use energy 24/7 to keep your water hot, even when you’re not using it. Tankless or demand water heaters heat the water as it flows through the pipes, so it only heats what you need. This creates a substantial savings on energy costs. Demand water heaters provide hot water continuously, so you don’t have to worry about it running out. They are also quite a bit smaller than conventional tank water heaters and some can be installed outside, saving space indoors. They make an ideal home improvement project because they have a life expectancy of 20 years, far more than conventional heaters.
Heat Pump Water Heater
Heat Pump Water Heaters: A new technology, electric heat pump water heaters could save the typical family quite a bit each year when compared to a standard electric heater. They work similarly to heat pumps that are used for heating and air conditioning purposes and combine with your HVAC system. They work by drawing in warm outside air to heat the water, so they are only effective in warm climates. Homeowners can recoup the higher initial investment over time. (Most estimates are around three years.)
Gas Condensing Water Heaters: This is an even newer technology, only introduced in 2010. Using more efficient heat exchangers to capture heat from the fuel source, gas condensing water heaters can shave 30 percent off your energy bills and reduce your carbon dioxide emissions. Greater efficiency allows them to provide a continuous stream of hot water, so you don’t have to worry if you’re the last one to shower!
Solar Water Heater
Solar Water Heaters: Solar water heaters can cut your water heating bill and your carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent compared to an electric hot water heater. This is the equivalent of not driving your car four months a year; a solar water heater’s average lifespan is 20 years, much longer than that of a traditional gas or electric water heater. Although solar water heaters take 5-10 years to pay for themselves, you can offset this cost with a federal tax credit. Enterprising do-it-yourselfers can save thousands by building their own systems.
Which water heater are you considering for your next home improvement project?
Joaquin Erazo, Jr. is the senior vice president of marketing and public relations at Case Design/Remodeling, Inc. Find a home remodeling company near you or read our home remodeling tips blog.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Melbourne treemail phenomenon

Leaf letters: fan email for Melbourne's trees pours in from around the world
Wednesday 15 July 2015
Emails from overseas as part of Melbourne’s Urban Forest Visual project have urged English elms to savour the Ashes and warned a Chinese elm to ‘keep away from fire’
Trees in Melbourne have been receiving fan mail from around the world since the city council’s project to assign an email address to each one received worldwide publicity.
A recent article in the Atlantic Monthly is the latest to fuel the global response to the scheme, with some letter writers expressing their admiration, intense homesickness and making suggestions such as to “keep away from fire”.
The 70,000 trees are mapped in a project called Urban Forest Visual, with each tree assigned an identification number.
City of Melbourne councillor Arron Wood said their original intention was to help residents report tree vandalism or branches dropping – instead “people began sending emails professing their love for trees”.
Since launching in May 2013, the website has received more than 3,000 emails to individual trees. The emails have come from as far afield as Russia, Germany, the US, Britain, Hungary, Moldova, Singapore, Brazil, Denmark and Hong Kong.
Some of the trees’ fans have never set foot in the city:
Brush Box (ID 1039919) 14 July 2015
Hello, dear Tree.
I read about this wonderful project and suppose to write you from another side of Earth - Russia. I hope you have a good care and don’t sick. One day we will meet, may be.
Other writers have attempted to make contact with compatriots:
English Elm (ID 1032245) 14 July 2015
Are you and your fellow English Elms enjoying the Ashes series as much as we in England are, and are you giving the native Aussie trees some stick over their team’s performance?
And some have provided sage advice for their tree:
Chinese Elm (ID 1289990) 19 February 2015
Hi tree,
My Name is Tina I’m from Germany. I like trees all over the world, you know. Let me tell you something about German trees. They live in huge woods and because it rains often in Germany they almost never suffer from draught. This might sound heavenly to you but believe me Germany is not heavenly in winter - it’s freezing cold and quite dark. I wish I could come and tell you more about them but Australia is damn far away from here.
Keep away from fire!
Sending you best wishes from Germany
The most popular tree is a 13m-tall golden wych elm (ID 1028612) on Punt Road estimated to be about 70 years old.
The tree has received seven emails to date, including this one on 30 January:
Hi tree on the corner of Punt Road and Alexandra Avenue and that little street that goes up the side,
How are you? How old are you?
I’ve always wondered about you ever since my slightly strange driving instructor (who always smelled like cat food and peppermints) told me you were his favourite tree.
I hope they don’t knock you down.
The project is part of a wider push to revitalise Melbourne’s greenery, with aims to double canopy cover from 20 to 40% by 2040. Wood believes this will cool the city’s summertime temperatures by 4C.
More than four in 10 of Melbourne’s trees will be lost over the next 20 years due to old age. Having planted 12,000 new trees in the past four years, the city is on track to replace those trees and increase canopy cover.
Wood is pleased with the project’s success. “We know that Melburnians are passionate about their trees, parks and gardens. We were surprised and delighted to find that many people all over the world feel the same way.”

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Mighty Geiger trees: Tough but versatile

Fairchild column: Geiger trees are tough but versatile
A sprawling yellow Geiger.  Kenneth Setzer – Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
By Kenneth Setzer
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
Upon moving to the South, I remarked on some outstanding smallish trees with bright orange flowers. They are Geiger trees, I was told — orange Geigers. That name stuck with me, probably from growing up watching ’60s and ’70s TV where people often and inexplicably seemed to have Geiger counters at hand. But these tropical trees have nothing to do with detecting radiation.
What we call Geigers all belong to the genus Cordia. There are a good number (250-300) of them; Fairchild alone has a dozen species growing throughout the garden. Some Cordia are found naturally in India, Australia, the Middle East and tropical Africa, though most are Neotropical.
The three found most commonly in Florida landscapes are the orange Geiger (Cordia sebestena), yellow Geiger (C. lutea) and white Geiger (C. boissieri). All three share some similarities: The bark is rough, deeply furrowed, and exfoliates — it feels and looks like coarse manila rope. Their foliage consists of velvety, rather large egg-shaped leaves, begging to be stroked. Their flowers, besides differing in color, all have a crinkly crepe-paper appearance and trumpet shape, similar to some geraniums.
Native or not, the stunning orange Geiger.  Kenneth Setzer – Fairchild Botanic Garden
The common name “Geiger,” legend has it, was bestowed by J.J. Audubon: While visiting his friend John Geiger in Key West, he supposedly was so impressed by the orange blossoms on a tree in Geiger’s yard — or possibly the neighbor’s yard — that he named it the Geiger tree. The problem is, Geiger built his house — now the Audubon House and Tropical Gardens — in 1846-1849. Audubon had already included orange Geiger flowers in his painting of white-crowned pigeons, circa 1832. Ah, pesky details!
While the orange-flowered Geiger is usually the show stealer, its origin is also in question. Some sources I found claim it is a Caribbean-Lower Keys native. Other sources, including Audubon, suggest it was introduced from Cuba into Key West through the commerce of the early 1800s.
Geigers are tolerant of salt spray, so they make nice coastal trees. All three are very drought tolerant. My own Geiger tree is the white (Cordia boissieri), native to Mexico and extreme southern Texas, where it’s called Texas white olive. White Geiger has the added benefit of more cold tolerance; mine has never shown damage from our occasional wintertime dips into the upper 30s.
Growing slowly to about 25 feet, it’s compact, but with a spreading crown. I’ve pruned mine to encourage upward, not outward, growth. Orange Geigers get a few feet taller but with similar spread.
Grow them in full sun; Geigers take even our harsh midday sun. Sandy, alkaline soil such as in South Florida is also not a problem. I watered mine as a seedling after planting, but only for a couple weeks. In about ten years, it has grown to about 10 feet and never requires irrigation or fertilizer.
Geigers may lose leaves in winter. When warm rains return, however, new foliage will appear followed by clusters of flowers, and small, spherical fruit will follow. Birds eat them to an extent, but I don’t see a lot else eating the fruit from my white Geiger.
The unscented flowers attract moths, skipper butterflies and bees. While I see denser flower clusters in the rainy season, they do flower all year long.
The Geiger seems unperturbed by scale, aphids, thrips and whiteflies. Geiger tortoise beetle larvae (Eurypepla calochroma) may feed on the foliage of orange Geiger, causing minor, temporary cosmetic damage. In ten years, I’ve seen a total of three on my (white) Geiger tree, but being on the wrong species, they apparently didn’t stay long enough to lay eggs. I wouldn’t mind seeing more; they are spectacularly beautiful metallic gold beetles.
Kenneth Setzer is writer and editor at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Exotic fruit trees for sale on Saturday in West Palm Beach

Dragon fruit Getty Images
The sale will feature some of the world’s most exotic edible fruit trees, including dragon fruit, jackfruit, lychee, sugar apple and more.
That orange or mango tree in your backyard is lonely.
Find an exotic companion for it Saturday at the Tropical Fruit Tree & Edible Plant Sale in West Palm Beach.
The biannual sale, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the South Florida Fairgrounds, features some of the world's most exotic edible fruit trees, including jackfruit, lychee, sugar apple, figs, guava, grumichama, dragon fruit, black sapote and more.
The sale is sponsored by the Palm Beach Chapter of the Rare Fruit Council International, established in 1970.
"These are subtropical and tropical fruit trees that thrive in our lush South Florida environment," said Susan Lerner, plant sale chairwoman and immediate past-president of the group.
The sale features thousands of fruit-bearing trees, including at least 50 varieties of mango trees.
"There also are delicious peach and nectarine trees that have been developed for our region. We'll have those for sale, too," Lerner said.
And there will be samples of exotic fruits to try and buy.
"The best time to plant a tropical fruit tree is five years ago," said Lerner, referring to trees having to mature before they bear fruit. "Plant a tropical fruit tree today."
The Tropical Fruit Tree & Edible Plant Sale is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the South Florida Fairgrounds, 9067 Southern Blvd., West Palm Beach (Agriplex Building at Gate 5). Info: 561-478-7444, PBRareFruitCouncil.org.

Bumblebees Are Being Bumped Off by Climate Change, Scientists Say

by Alan Boyle
July 9, 2015
Scientists say wild bumblebee species are being squeezed into extinction by climate change in North America and Europe — so much so that some of them might need help from us humans to find safe havens.
Their conclusion, published in this week's issue of the journal Science, is based on an analysis of more than 423,000 archived observations of 67 bee species, going back to 1901.
The scientists expected to find that the species have moved northward in response to rising temperatures, as other species ranging from flowers to foxes have done.
That's not what they found. Yes, the bumblebee species dwindled or disappeared in warmer southern climes, retreating an average of about 190 miles (300 kilometers). And in mountainous regions the bees moved up to higher elevations — about 1,000 feet (300 meters) higher, on average. But they didn't move into cooler, higher-latitude regions.
For some reason, bumblebees are being caught in a "climate vise," said University of Ottawa biologist Jeremy Kerr, the lead author of the Science study.
Kerr and his colleagues tried to account for other factors that have been cited as bad for bees, ranging from neonicotinoids and other pesticides to changes in land use — but they said those factors don't explain the losses in the range of the species.
The scientists emphasized that the scenario for wild bumblebees is different from the problems faced by European honeybees.
The concern about honeybees focuses on colony collapse disorder, which has been linked to a host of factors including pathogens, pesticides and diversity loss. But the concern about bumblebees is just as serious, said study co-author Leif Richardson, a bee researcher from the University of Vermont.
Richardson pointed out that bumblebees play a key role in pollinating crops ranging from apples and blueberries to soybeans. "If we see declines in the diversity or abundance of bumblebees, we should expect to see lower crop yields, higher food costs, and perhaps lower food diversity," he told NBC News.
Why bumblebees are bummed
The researchers suggested that bumblebees aren't as capable of coping with warmer temperatures as, say, butterflies, because bumblebees evolved in temperate regions of the world rather than tropical regions.
"You imagine a car that starts running out of coolant and starts blowing steam out the front of the hood. That's kind of like an analogy for what bumblebee species do when it gets too hot," Kerr told reporters.
So why aren't bumblebee species pushing farther northward into Canada, or showing up in more northerly regions of Europe? The reasons for that aren't fully clear: It may be that the plants on which the bumblebee species feed are lacking, Or it may be that the bee colonies have to be of a certain size to take root in new regions. Kerr noted that bumblebee species with larger colony sizes seemed to handle moving into new areas better.
About a third to a quarter of the bumblebee species are in decline, but some species "seem to be expanding their range," said York University's Sheila Colla, another co-author of the study. These include the common Eastern bumblebee in the United States — as well as the buff-tailed bumblebee in Europe, which Kerr called the "dandelion of the bumblebee world."
What is to be done?
The researchers said regular folks could help out the bumblebees by planting bee-friendly crops in their gardens and backyards — native wildflowers, bee balm and milkweed, for example, or even raspberries. Another way to boost the bees is to participate in BumbleBeeWatch.org, a citizen science project that keeps track of bee sightings in North America.
The study touches on the strategy of "assisted migration" — that is, transporting bumblebee colonies to cooler refuges. Kerr said conservation groups and government agencies will have to have a "thoughtful and quick conversation" about when and how to use such a strategy.
"We're playing with fire, and we are now going to begin paying some of those consequences," Kerr said. "If we're interested in conserving species like bumblebees for the future, it is possible that we will need to intervene in a significant and extensive way to help them adapt."
Richardson said assisted migration should be employed with extreme caution.
"We may have to do that, but if recent experience serves, there are perils that we engage in when we start moving species around," he told NBC News. Richardson pointed to the example of the European buff-tailed bumblebee, which was exported to Chile and Argentina to boost pollination but is now considered an extremely invasive species.
He said it would do no good to try saving species after species without doing something about our own species' greenhouse-gas emissions and the effect on global climate.
"To address the root cause of what's happening to the bumblebees, the answer is clear," Richardson said. "And it's as intractable as ever."
In addition to Kerr, Colla and Richardson, the authors of "Climate Change Impacts on Bumblebees Converge Across Continents" include Alana Pindar, Paul Galpern, Laurence Packer, Simon Potts, Stuart Roberts, Pierre Rasmont, Oliver Schweiger, David Wagner, Lawrence Gall, Derek Sikes and Alberto Pantoja.
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