Saturday, September 4, 2010
Reed Calls on Rhode Islanders to Help Spot Ladybugs
PROVIDENCE, RI - In keeping with his efforts to increase hands-on environmental education opportunities for students and help Rhode Island farmers and gardeners, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) is urging Rhode Islanders of all ages, and particularly young people, to pick up their cameras and help investigate the mystery of the disappearing ladybug.
Ladybugs are beneficial insects because they eat other bugs that harm crops. Ladybugs help reduce pollution by allowing farmers and gardeners to use less pesticides and chemicals to protect their plants. It is estimated that insect predation provides $14.5 billion of natural pest removal.
There are more than 450 species of ladybugs, each with its own color and spot combinations. But recently, the populations of several species of indigenous ladybugs, including the once common nine-spotted ladybug, have been decreasing in the northeastern United States.
With the support of a federal grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), researchers at Cornell University launched the Lost Ladybug Project in 2008 "to help scientists better understand why some species of ladybugs have become extremely rare while others have greatly increased both their numbers and range." The project invites the public to help search for nine-spotted and other ladybugs in their own backyards and neighborhoods and send photos of them to lostladybug.org for identification and inclusion in a national database.
The Lost Ladybug Project's goal is to get 100 photos of ladybugs from every state this summer. So far, Massachusetts has contributed 307; Vermont 100; New Hampshire 23; Maine 22; and Rhode Island 9. Coloradans lead the nation with 1,630 documented submissions.
"Ladybugs play a vital role in our ecosystem and this project is a great way to let kids have fun and learn about nature at the same time," said Reed, author of the No Child Left Inside Act, which seeks to strengthen environmental education in America's classrooms and give students more opportunities to learn about nature outside the classroom. "By taking photos and collecting information about the habitats and locations of local ladybugs, Rhode Islanders of all ages can help researchers at The Lost Ladybug Project study and identify the cause of population declines."
"A healthy ladybug population can help keep pests under control and protect local plants and crops. The Ladybug Project is a great opportunity to get Rhode Island students involved in a nationwide search. A Rhode Islander may well find a rare ladybug in their backyard, but even if they don't it is just as important for us to know where they are not as to know where they are," said John Losey, an entomologist and Cornell University professor who co-founded the Lost Ladybug Project. "Every ladybug submitted is an important piece of data. This is an opportunity for anyone to learn while they explore their natural world and contribute to a major ongoing research project at the same time. We applaud Senator Reed's leadership in promoting environmental education in America's classrooms and we greatly appreciate his effort to rally participation in our project in Rhode Island."
"Conservation and environmental stewardship are at the core of our mission here at Roger Williams Park Zoo. Within the Zoo, we strive to impart awareness of the environment and an appreciation for wildlife to our visitors. Outside of the Zoo, we work to promote wildlife and habitat conservation through our own projects and initiatives, as well as through partnerships and collaborations with other environmental organizations," said Jack Mulvena, Executive Director of the Roger Williams Park Zoo, which has been nationally recognized for conservation work such as the American Burying Beetle Recovery Program and the Karner Blue Butterfly Conservation Program.
The Roger Williams Park Zoo and surrounding park land is a great place to look for ladybugs.
To participate in the project all you need is a digital camera, a pen, and paper. Lostladybug.org has a handy field guide that explains how to get started and how to submit your photos and findings to the national database.