Tuesday, November 24, 2009
FOR DECADES, NOBODY in the US had seen the bee. The silver-haired black Epeoloides pilosula was once widespread in New England, often found where native yellow loosestrife plants grew. But as the region’s pastoral landscapes gave way to forests, the bee lost its sunny open home. In 1927 it was spotted in a Needham meadow and then, despite years of searching, not again. By the start of this century, dejected bee lovers were forced to conclude that the insect was likely extinct in the US. Then, one bright June day in 2006, eureka: The bee was found in a hillside meadow by David Wagner, a University of Connecticut conservation biologist conducting a two-year bee survey in southern New England. Once the species was confirmed, there was a celebratory Mexican dinner and a published paper that rippled through the conservation world. If a rare bee like that could be found again, biologists reasoned, maybe there were other rare bees, plants, and wildlife hidden in similar environments. Even more remarkable, though, was the environment where this find was made: In a 250-foot-wide power line corridor off Route 163 in Southeastern Connecticut. Transmission corridors have long been considered symbols of environmental degradation, with their enormous steel skeletons and high-voltage lines slicing through forests, wetlands, and salt marshes; they divide the landscapes that thousands of species need to survive. Yet now they are gaining a new reputation: As critical homes for faltering species of birds, bees, butterflies, plants, and a host of other species.more from Beth Daley at the Boston Globe here.
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