World’s Biggest Bee Not Extinct

You’d think that the world’s biggest bee would be hard to lose track of. But Wallace’s Giant Bee — an Indonesian species with a 2.5-inch (6.4 centimeters) wingspan and enormous mandibles — was last seen by researchers in 1981; it was feared to be extinct.

However, scientists finally spotted the rare bee in January, in the Indonesian province of North Maluku on the Maluku Islands. They detected a solitary female bee after investigating the region for five days, and a photographer captured the first-ever images of a living Wallace’s Giant Bee (Megachile pluto) at the insect’s nest in an active termite mound.

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Locust Swarms

U.N. officials warned that a locust outbreak is spreading along both sides of the Red Sea from Sudan and Eritrea to Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

They report that heavy rains from two tropical cyclones in 2018 triggered the breeding of locust swarms, with the insects also spreading as far away as Iran.

“The next three months will be critical to bring the locust situation under control before the summer breeding starts,” Food and Agriculture Organization locust expert Keith Cressman said in the statement.

One small swarm of the insects can chomp through as much plant food in a single day as 35,000 people.

Monarch Realm Expands

A small, secluded colony of monarch butterflies has been found after years of searching by park rangers and conservationists.

Rumors of a possible colony around Mexico’s Nevado de Toluca volcano had spawned numerous searches. But a handful of communal landowners stumbled across the tiny colony just before Christmas.

News of the discovery came as officials announced the wintering population of monarchs in 15 acres of their main habitat in the mountains of Michoacan state had increased by 144 percent over the previous year.

The location of the newly discovered colony is being kept secret and will be patrolled by paid conservation workers.


Locust Swarms

A plague of locusts has denuded much of the Greek Aegean island of Agios Efstratios, causing sheep to starve because so much vegetation has been devoured.

Vegetable gardens across the island have also been ravaged. The BBC quotes a local expert who says the locusts will disappear by July or August, but are likely to come back because they are not of the migratory variety.

Efforts to eradicate the swarms have failed.


Kenya holds summit to stop elephant slaughter

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From anti-poaching commandos deployed by helicopter to boosting court prosecutions: Kenya on Friday hosted a summit on how to end ivory trafficking and prevent the extinction of elephants in the wild.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is heading the meeting which groups African heads of state and conservationists in the central town of Nanyuki to boost awareness of the threat of poaching.

On Saturday, the country sets fire to nearly its entire ivory stockpile.

The bonfire will be the largest-ever torching of ivory, involving 105 tonnes from thousands of dead elephants, dwarfing by seven times any stockpile burned before.

Africa is home to between 450,000 to 500,000 elephants, but more than 30,000 are killed every year on the continent to satisfy demand for ivory in Asia, where raw tusks sell for around $1,000 (800 euros) a kilo (2.2 pounds).

The summit aims to raise global awareness and eventually achieve a total ban on ivory trade, while highlighting the multiple methods used in the fight against poachers, from the frontline, where rangers are out on patrol, to the court room.

The Last Dance for Mountain Chicken Frogs

Conservationists will try to bring Montserrat’s two remaining mountain chicken frogs together in the hope they will breed and save the species from local extinction. The male and female are the only known survivors of chytrid fungus disease, which has ravaged amphibian populations worldwide. They currently live about 1,500 feet apart along one of the island’s rain forest streams. Artificial nests will be built to entice the female.

Locust Warnings

The embattled Middle Eastern country of Yemen is bracing for what officials fear will be a large locust plague, which they are afraid to combat with pesticides out of fear of killing the bees that are vital to the country’s agriculture. Ongoing civil conflict, amplified by foreign intervention by the United States, Iran and Saudi Arabia, is also hampering locust control and monitoring. Teams say this resulted in them being unable to kill the locusts before the insects matured enough to swarm.


Locusts Ravaging Madagascar

Madagascar risks having two-thirds of its crops overrun by locust swarms if it fails to act now, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns. “This could very well be a last window of opportunity to avert an extended crisis,” said FAO Director General Jose Graziano da Silva.

The country’s worst locust infestation in 60 years had spread across a wide swath of the country by early April, and FAO says the agency has been falling short in its efforts to raise funds from Western donors to combat the plague.

“If we don’t act now, the plague could last years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars,” cautioned Graziano da Silva.

Experts say there are now more than 500 billion ravenous locusts on the island nation, chomping through about 100,000 tons of vegetation each day.

“The last (locust plague) was in the 1950s and it had a duration of 17 years. So if nothing is done, it can last for five to 10 years, depending on the conditions.”



Madagascar Hit By ‘Severe’ Plague Of Locusts

A severe plague of locusts has infested about half of Madagascar, threatening crops and raising concerns about food shortages. Billions of the plant-devouring insects could cause hunger for 60% of the population.

Currently, about half the country is infested by hoppers and flying swarms – each swarm made up of billions of plant-devouring insects. About two-thirds of the island country will be affected by the locust plague by September 2013 if no action is taken.

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Swarms of desert locusts that began appearing over the past few months in parts of Mali are threatening to spread northward into Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Mauritania. The swarms are believed to have initially emerged last year in the Libyan conflict zone, fed by abundant rainfall and unusually lush and moist conditions during the past summer.

The insects can consume more than their own weight in vegetation each day, and can ravage crops and pastures within hours.


The week’s hottest temperature was 111.7 degrees Fahrenheit (44.2 degrees Celsius) at Tarcoola, South Australia.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 69.3 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 56.3 degrees Celsius) at Russia’s Vostok Antarctic research station.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms Kirk and Leslie in the Atlantic are not expected to impact on land at this stage.

Tropical Storm Ileana remains far off Baja California and is also not expected to make landfall.

Flooding in northern Cameroon kills at least 14 people, displacing 22 000.

Flooding and locust swarms in Chad add to the region’s food crisis.