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December 20, 2007

Dear Friends,

Welcome to my journey. This may be the only report all year that I actually type, as I have not yet departed and still have access to e-mail. Throughout 2008, I will be off-line and dispatching reports by hand, from various rural mailboxes around the land.

I see the plan of my year, such as it is, as being something like half of a daisy. The disk flowers are centered on Gray’s River, Washington, near the mouth of the Columbia River, where I live. (This is the area I wrote about in my recent book, Sky Time in Gray’s River: Living for Keeps in a Forgotten Place, Houghton Mifflin, 2007.) The ray flowers represent my excursions out and back, of which there will be several during the year. I will travel primarily by automobile–my 1982 Honda Civic (Powdermilk), starting out with 354,000 miles on the odometer. At this point, the only flights I intend to take will be to Alaska in midsummer and Hawaii at the end of the year, to wrap things up with the few (2) but beautiful Hawaiian endemics. Somewhere in the middle, I anticipate a long figure eight of an Amtrak trip.

My objective, as you know, is to encounter as many of the 800 species of North American butterflies north of Mexico (based on the new Pelham Catalog) as I possibly can in the year 2008. I don’t intend to merely tick them off, but to indulge in deep and revealing encounters with the butterflies, their habitats, and the landscapes and people and stories that make up their whole continental context. Of course I’ll be looking at the state of habitats and how traditional ranges are responding to climate change. It is these stories and perceptions and findings that will make up the pith of Swallowtail Seasons.

Many have asked if I will be taking pictures. I will not. Butterfly photography has come a vast distance since my Watching Washington Butterflies (1974), in which color photos of wild butterflies were first used in a field guide. But I have not come along with it! I will be working in word-pictures, which are my stock-in-trade. In this way, and insofar as it will be a Big Road Trip and a heck of a field outing, Swallowtail Seasons will resemble Chasing Monarchs (2000). But whereas that foray involved seeking one species in one general direction over three months, this one will address hundreds of species, every which way, for an entire year. I can’t yet quite comprehend, much less express, what an immense privilege this opportunity represents. And what a challenge.

Spontaneity will be the watch-word, as I’ll need to adapt to weather, fickle flight periods, information flashes, and many other variables. Thus I will make very few dates, commitments, or engagements, though I look forward to visiting and going afield with many old and new friends during the year. So be forewarned–you might get a call when I’m in your neighborhood! The same goes for my own “flight plans.” While I will have an extremely general outline of movements, I’ll need to be able to divert, detour, and digress, to shuck and jive, to pull a U-ey or hang a left at the flash of a wing or the rise of a cloud. Therefore, any prediction of when I will be where will be unreliable by definition. In rough terms, however, I will be orienting my travels around a number of “grail butterflies”–a dozen or maybe a score of species that I have always wanted to see, but which have so far eluded me–such as the short-tailed swallowtail of the Maritimes, the yellow Eversmann’s parnassian of the Far North, the Atala of southern Florida, or Behr’s sulphur of the High Sierra. The localities and flight periods of these will dictate many of my movements, and I will hope to pick up many of the other species along the way as I seek these special endemics.

So to start I shall head south down the Pacific Coast into the New Year. I intend to begin with the overwintering monarchs of the central California coast. A few other species fly year-round or at least very early in the year from the Bay Area southward. I will be looking out for West Coast ladies, gulf fritillaries, buckeyes, and cabbage whites in the early days, as well as some of the first spring emergents such as margined whites, echo azures, and western pine elfins. The farther south I get, the more species should be peeking out, including some early orange-tips and sulphurs. Spring rains and wildflowers in the desert will dictate many of my initial results. Before I return north from the first outing, I hope to find the precocious advance-guard of arguably one of the most beautiful of North American butterflies, the sonora blue. It shimmers with a truly empyrean blue, both the fore- and hindwings splashed with fire-engine orange. I have seen it only once, on a Super Bowl Sunday in San Jose.

Until the next word then, from the field,


The Washington Butterfly Association buys Bob Pyle a symbolic first tank of gas for the grand adventure at Bob’s local shop, the Rosburg Store, in Gray’s River Valley. From left to right: Butterfly Association members Al Wagar, David Droppers and Bob Pyle.


The Xerces Society December 20, 2007 - The Xerces Society

Arriving in Stores: Bee Better Certified Blueberries

Bee Better Certified has grown significantly since its launch during Pollinator Week 2017. Since then, we have certified 9 farms—and now, in summer 2019, we have reached another milestone: the first product licensed to display the Bee Better Certified seal is now arriving in stores.

A blueberry carton with the Bee Better Certified seal is pictured

California Giant’s Bee Better Certified organic blueberries are the first product licensed to display the Bee Better Certified seal and are now arriving in stores. (Photo: California Giant Berry Farms)

In partnership with AC Foods and Oregon Tilth, we’re pleased to announce the arrival of California Giant brand Bee Better Certified organic blueberries. Sourced from farms near Independence, Oregon and arriving soon at a variety of grocery stores (use this locator to find a vendor near you), these berries represent tremendous dedication and conservation ethic by the farms that produced them. To bring these berries to market, AC Foods restored many acres of high-quality native plant habitat and adopted management practices to reduce pesticides and benefit pollinators. (See the full Bee Better Certified standards here.)

Collectively, farmers, food companies, and consumers can re-shape agriculture in a way that will help ensure the survival of pollinators and other wildlife. Purchasing food with the Bee Better label supports the companies that are leading the way on pollinator conservation, and empowers us to continue growing this one-of-a-kind, science-based certification program.

Planting at AC Foods

AC Foods continues to establish pollinator habitat at additional farms, including this pollinator hedgerow being installed in California. (Photo: Xerces Society / Kitty Bolte)

This is also a moment to reflect on the hard work of the Xerces Society, the Bee Better Advisory Board, and Oregon Tilth in this collaborative effort—and to thank the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for the early funding that made this possible. After taking a brief pause to appreciate this achievement, we are getting back to work, continuing our efforts to make farms better for bees.

Thank you for your support; you have all helped us reach another milestone on this journey!

Written by Cameron Newell, Bee Better Certified Coordinator and Xerces Society Pollinator Conservation Specialist.

Additional Resources

For updates on the program or information on what it takes to get certified, please visit the Bee Better Certified website.

Follow Bee Better Certified on social media! We’re on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Learn more about the Xerces Society’s Pollinator Conservation Program.

Click here to donate!

Xerces’ conservation work is powered by our donors. Your tax-deductible donation will help us to protect the life that sustains us.


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Declines in Insect Abundance and Diversity: We Know Enough to Act Now—New Paper Details Why We Need to Act to Protect Insects


Media Contacts:

Matthew Forister, McMinn Professor of Biology, University of Nevada, Reno; (775) 784-6770,

Scott Hoffman Black, Executive Director, The Xerces Society for invertebrate Conservation; (503) 449-3792,

Emma Pelton, Conservation Biologist, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation; (503) 232-6639 ext. 102,

Declines in Insect Abundance and Diversity: We Know Enough to Act Now

New paper details why we need to act to protect insects.

PORTLAND, Ore.; June 24, 2019—On Saturday, June 22, the journal Conservation Science and Practice published a paper that makes the case for greater action to curb the global decline in insects. Insects are vital to life as we know it on this planet. The vast majority of bats, birds, and freshwater fish depend on insects, and humans depend on insect pollination for nutritious fruits and vegetables. Insects provide services of over $57 billion to the US economy. Although we need more study to understand the overall scope and scale of the declines, the research that has been done provides compelling evidence of declines in insect abundance, diversity, and biomass.

“There is no doubt that a great many insect populations and species are suffering and are in some form of decline,” said Matt Forister, McMinn Professor of Biology, University of Nevada, Reno. “Although there is a need for greater investment in basic science and further analyses of existing data, our belief is that the severity of reported insect declines is sufficient to warrant immediate action.”

In addition to the data supporting the decline of insect populations, patterns are emerging that point to the primary drivers of insect declines. The most influential factors are habitat loss and degradation, pesticides, and climate change, although other factors include disease, invasive species, and light pollution.

“There are many factors leading to the decline in insects,” said Emma Pelton, endangered species conservation biologist and western monarch lead for the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “Even though there are still unknowns, taking action to restore, enhance, and protect habitat and curbing pesticides has been shown to help insect populations.”

The paper not only presents the problem, but also provides examples of success stories in insect conservation, from both terrestrial and aquatic environments spanning three continents. The authors also propose actions that can be taken to address insect declines, which can be implemented by various societal sectors including nations, states, provinces and cities, working lands, natural areas, and homes and gardens.

“If we hope to stem the losses of insect diversity and the services they provide, society must take steps at all levels to protect, restore, and enhance habitat for insects across landscapes—from wildlands to farmland to urban cores,” said Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society. “But there is hope because everyone can make a difference. Farmers can add additional habitat and curb pesticide use, governments can make climate adaptation a goal, and even a backyard or apartment balcony can be an important stopover for the smallest of animals upon which we all depend.”



About the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation

The Xerces Society is an international nonprofit organization that protects the natural world by conserving invertebrates and their habitat. Established in 1971, the Society is a trusted source for science-based information and advice and plays a leading role in promoting the conservation of pollinators and many other invertebrates. We collaborate with people and institutions at all levels, and our work to protect bees, butterflies, and other pollinators encompasses all landscapes. Our team draws together experts from the fields of habitat restoration, entomology, plant ecology, education, farming, and conservation biology with a single passion: Protecting the life that sustains us.

To learn more about our work, please visit or follow @xercessociety on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

University of Nevada, Reno

Nevada’s land-grant university founded in 1874, the University of Nevada, Reno ranks in the top tier of best national universities by U.S. News and World Report and is steadily growing in enrollment, excellence, and reputation. The University serves more than 21,000 students. Part of the Nevada System of Higher Education, the University is home to the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and Wolf Pack Athletics. Through a commitment to world-improving research, student success, and outreach benefiting the communities and businesses of Nevada, the University has impact across the state and around the world. For more information, visit

Emergency Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for Delaware Firefly

Media Contacts:

Candace Fallon, Senior Endangered Species Conservation Biologist and Public Lands Lead, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation,  (954) 815-5429,
Tara Cornelisse, Senior Scientist, Center for Biological Diversity, (971) 717-6425,

For Immediate Release

BETHANY BEACH, Del.; May 15, 2019The Center for Biological Diversity and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation filed an emergency petition today seeking Endangered Species Act protection for the critically imperiled Bethany Beach firefly.

The rare firefly has been documented at only seven sites along the Delaware coast  virtually all of them smaller than a football field. The wetland area that is home to the firefly’s largest-remaining population is currently being developed.

If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grants the emergency request it would be the first time Endangered Species Act protections have been awarded to one of the nation’s approximately 170 firefly species.

“Without immediate protections, the magical green flashes known to generations of children will be snuffed out forever,” said Dr. Tara Cornelisse, an entomologist who is a senior scientist at the Center. “We can’t stand by and let development, climate change and pesticides wipe out these amazing creatures, along with their wetland homes that many species depend on.”

The Bethany Beach firefly has been pushed to the brink of extinction by urbanization, light pollution, habitat fragmentation, pesticides and climate change-induced sea-level rise and storm surges.

The firefly has nearly disappeared from three of its seven remaining sites. Six of the firefly’s seven remaining populations are in state parks, but only a single firefly was found at two of those sites during the most recent survey.

“We’re on the brink of losing a unique piece of Delaware’s biodiversity, one that symbolizes the very habitats that have drawn so many people to this state in the first place,” said Candace Fallon, petition coauthor and senior conservation biologist at the Xerces Society. “There’s no question that this firefly urgently needs our help to prevent it from going extinct.”

Ongoing construction at the Tower Shores development continues to destroy important habitat for the firefly’s strongest remaining population. Loss of that population would greatly lessen the species’ chances of survival because these fireflies are weak fliers and rarely disperse beyond the habitat in which they were born.

When a population is lost it severely decreases connectivity between habitats, potentially reducing the number of mates available and, in turn, the number of eggs laid by females.


The Bethany Beach firefly is only found within 1,500 feet of the shore, making its habitat extremely vulnerable to rising sea levels and increases in storm surges caused by climate change. The combination of higher water levels near housing developments and popular recreation areas has resulted in frequent spraying of pesticides to control mosquitoes with chemicals toxic to fireflies.

The Bethany Beach firefly flies at full darkness so that females can spot and blink in response to a male’s bright double green flash. After mating the females will continue to flash, but this time mimicking other firefly species to lure in males to eat them and gain their valuable protective toxins. These mating signals can be disrupted by habitat changes, and light pollution can change their courtship behavior and mating success.

Firefly larvae sometimes hunt communally, and feed on slugs, snails, earthworms and other insects by injecting paralyzing fluid before consuming their prey.

Fireflies live on every continent except Antarctica. But just as in Delaware, many of their populations are threatened by habitat destruction, light pollution, climate change and pesticides.







The Xerces Society is a nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. Established in 1971, the Society is a trusted source for science-based information and advice. We collaborate with people and institutions at all levels and our work to protect pollinators encompasses all landscapes. Our team draws together experts from the fields of habitat restoration, entomology, botany and conservation biology with a single passion: protecting the life that sustains us. To learn more about our work, please visit or follow us @xercessociety on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.


The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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