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Hoverfly (Eupeodes corollae) by Thomas Bresson via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0
Hoverfly (Eupeodes corollae) by Thomas Bresson via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Non-Bee Insects Are Important Pollinators, Too

Hoverfly (Eupeodes corollae) by Thomas Bresson via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0
Hoverfly (Eupeodes corollae) by Thomas Bresson via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

There’s no doubt that our planet’s honeybees are in trouble. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has decimated apiaries and wild bee colonies on three continents, and scientists still don’t fully understand what’s causing it. And CCD is more than just a threat to the bees. Agriculture depends on honeybees to pollinate crops from almonds to watermelons [PDF]. Without the bees, say experts, our food supply and our economy will suffer. 

But bees are not the only pollinators out there. In fact, says a new study, non-bee insects may be just as busy as bees when it comes to pollination. Which ones? “Almost any insect you can think of,” ecologist Margie Mayfield told Scientific American. 

Mayfield and more than 50 other researchers from around the world analyzed 39 scientific studies of crop pollination. The studies spanned five continents and examined pollination of 17 different crops, including coffee, apples, mangoes, and radishes, as well as almonds and watermelons. The analysis showed that flies, beetles, butterflies, ants, and wasps were responsible for nearly 40 percent of the workload. That number varied by crop and location; in some places, that number reached 50 percent. In other places, non-bee bugs were the only pollinators. 

This is really good news, Mayfield and her colleagues report in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science. Non-bee insects are a bit more resilient than bees. They can roll with the punches and aren’t as dependent on wild habitats. 

The next step may be convincing farmers that these other bugs are doing them good, Mayfield said in Scientific American. "I've encountered farmers in California and in South Africa and in Australia who spray their pesticides largely at night, because that's when the bees have gone back to their hives. And they do that with the idea that we'll spare our pollinators and control our pests. But that very much takes the assumption that only bees are important pollinators." 

Global concern for honeybees is a wonderful thing. Perhaps in time we can extend that interest to the rest of the little workers flitting from flower to flower, quietly supporting our way of life.

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Courtesy of The National Aviary
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Animals
Watch This Live Stream to See Two Rare Penguin Chicks Hatch From Their Eggs
Courtesy of The National Aviary
Courtesy of The National Aviary

Bringing an African penguin chick into the world is an involved process, with both penguin parents taking turns incubating the egg. Now, over a month since they were laid, two penguin eggs at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are ready to hatch. As Gizmodo reports, the baby birds will make their grand debut live for the world to see on the zoo's website.

The live stream follows couple Sidney and Bette in their nest, waiting for their young to emerge. The first egg was laid November 7 and is expected to hatch between December 14 and 18. The second, laid November 11, should hatch between December 18 and 22.

"We are thrilled to give the public this inside view of the arrival of these rare chicks," National Aviary executive director Cheryl Tracy said in a statement. "This is an important opportunity to raise awareness of a critically endangered species that is in rapid decline in the wild, and to learn about the work that the National Aviary is doing to care for and propagate African penguins."

African penguins are endangered, with less than 25,000 pairs left in the wild today. The National Aviary, the only independent indoor nonprofit aviary in the U.S., works to conserve threatened populations and raise awareness of them with bird breeding programs and educational campaigns.

After Sidney and Bette's new chicks are born, they will care for them in the nest for their first three weeks of life. The two penguins are parenting pros at this point: The monogamous couple has already hatched and raised three sets of chicks together.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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iStock

Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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