Friday, June 29, 2012

Second mongoose trapped on Kaua`i

In case there was a question about whether mongooses are established on the island, a second Kaua`i mongoose in under two months was trapped yesterday afternoon at Nawiliwili Harbor.

(Image: Young Brothers crew on Kaua`i with trapped mongoose. Credit: KISC.)

The first was trapped in May between Kaua`i Lagoons and the Lihue Airport. That was a large mature adult. Yesterday, employees at the Young Brothers terminal at Nawiliwili Harbor spotted one running between shipping containers—a little more than a mile from the first trapping.

Keren Gundersen of the Kaua`i Invasive Species Committee provided a blow-by-blow.

Young Brothers employees Nolan Fernandes, Keith Marugami, Jason Langtad, Wendell Kam managed to chase the mongoose under a shipping container. The Kaua`i Invasive Species Committee was called, and Joe Kona, Joseph Aguon-Kona, Mugs Kaneholani, Cleve Javier, Ray Kahaunaele and Gundersen responded with traps.

Local fisherman Jason Matsumoto, who was washing his boat at the Nawiliwili Small Boat Harbor nearby, loaned his hose and the animal was flushed out from under the container and it ran into a trap. Tests will be performed to determine the age of the animal.

Investigation revealed a report the night before that someone at the small boat harbor had been chasing a mongoose the night before.

Gundersen said her office continues to receive credible reports of mongoose sightings at locations around the island.

“We are trying to paint a more complete picture in regards to possible mongoose population numbers on Kaua`i. This way, it will be possible to move forward with plans for eradication and protection of high value areas like bird sanctuaries,” she said.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

Good news: Papahanaumokuakea is now number two.

The good news is that Hawai`i's Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument was established as the largest marine preserve of its kind in the world.

The other good news for global ocean conservation is that we've just become number two.

(Image: The complex array of marine protected areas around Australia. Credit: Commonwealth of Australia.)

Australia has announced a new no-take marine reserve in the Coral Sea, which covers a massive region of ocean. It takes in some existing protected ocean and adds more. The protected species include some of the same ones protected by Papahanaumokuakea, like the green sea turtle, many fish species, reefs, and seabirds.

A press release on the Australian announcement, from the Pew Environmental Group, is here

“The Coral Sea no-take marine reserve, known in Australia as a national park zone, would span 503,000 square kilometers (194,000 square miles) and will be the world’s second largest fully protected no-take marine reserve. This is part of a larger marine protected area in the Coral Sea, which is nearly 1 million square kilometers (386,100 square miles) in area,” Pew says.

By constrast, Papahanaumokuakea is 140,000 square miles. More on it, here.

Australia itself says it amounts to a big chunk of water: “Once proclaimed under Australia’s national environment law, the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve will protect the waters of the Coral Sea that fall within Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This area covers approximately 989,842 square kilometres—which is more than half the size of Queensland.”

And for those with a more European geographical leaning, that's about the size of Spain. Here'sAustralia's proposal for the reserve

© Jan TenBruggencate 2012

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Varroa mite kills honeybees two ways: Hawai'i research

Researchers studying honey bees in Hawai'i have found that the varroa mite, besides weakening and killing bees itself, also spreads a devastating bee-killing virus.

Indeed, in places where the mite has spread, infections of the deformed wing virus (DWV) have increased from being in 10% to 100% of the bees in infected hives.

An international team of researchers, including two from the University of Hawai'i, used the relatively new infestation of varroa mites in the Hawaiian Islands to study how the virus spreads along with the mite. Their work is in the June 8, 2012, issue of Science and the June 7 issue of Science Express.

In other parts of the world, the combination of the mite and the virus has led to colony death. That has also happened in Hawaii, but only after the mites have been in place for a long period to time--two years or more. Varroa mites are sucking pests that live off the blood of bees. They will often begin feeding on bees that are still in the larval stage.

The DWV can spread on its own, but is much more effectively spread by the mite, which can inject the virus directly into the bee's body.

The researchers also found that as the mites spread the virus, they have also played a role in the genetics of the virus, resulting in significantly lower viral diversity. In varroa-infected colonies, only a single strain of DWV is now dominant, they found.

The varroa mite is in all the state's major bee-farming islands except Kaua'i. A 2005 study by University of Pennsylvania Diana L. Cox-Foster and Xiaolong Yang found that varroa mite infestations reduce bees' immune response, making them more susceptible to infection.

Some reports indicate that in the absence of the mites, bee hives can sustain infection with DWV, but that instances of actually deformed bees increase when mites are present--perhaps because of the mite-induced reduced immune response.

There are signs of hope with regard to the mite, whose scientific name is Varroa destructor. Some strains of honeybees have a self-cleaning gene that causes them to groom the mites off themselves.

 And, researchers in both Great Britain and the United States are studying fungi that may help control varroa mites. A U.S. Department of Agriculture report on this is here:

 The Hawai'i mite-virus work paper is: "Global honey bee viral landscape altered by a parasitic mite," by Steven J. Martin and L. Brettell, University of Sheffield; A.C. Highfield and D.C. Schroeder, Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom; E.M. Villalobos and S. Nikaido, University of Hawai'i; G.E. Budge and M. Powell, Food and Environment Research Agency, York, UK.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2012