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ENVIRONMENTAL NOTEBOOK: Freeze threatens fire ant population | Registration open for birding contest

by Ashton Eley | February 28, 2021 at 4:57 a.m.

Freeze threatens fire ant population

The record cold may decrease the state's fire ant populations, according to a Monday news release from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Fire ants are an invasive species that originate from a warmer climate and are not as resilient to the low temperatures as ticks and flies, according to the news release.

"This pest ant has expanded its range about as far north as it can under normal winter conditions. And north Arkansas is the northern limit of its range," extension entomologist Kelly Loftin said. "Although imported fire ants are native to South America, they survive most Arkansas winters; however sustained cold can cause a temporary population reduction."

When areas of the state saw seven days straight of below freezing temperatures, the number of fire ant colonies decreased, he said. About 1½ years later, fire ants returned to the prior population level.

The same principle will most likely hold true for row crop pests.

"We can safely say the redbanded stink bugs and southern green stink bugs will be knocked back for the next several years," extension entomologist Ben Thrash said. "I think many our native species will be relatively unaffected."

Effects of the deep freeze on insects that migrate to Arkansas is not yet known, according to the news release.

Registration open for birding contest

Audubon Arkansas opened registration this month for its BirdLR Birdathon, according to its website.

This competitive search is one of many "birdathons" around the country expected to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for bird conservation, according to the Feb. 5 news post.

The registration deadline is March 15.

The Arkansas competition will put the money toward a bird conservation and environmental education work at the Little Rock Audubon Center, according to the news release.

Teams of two to five people can bird anywhere, fundraising $250 minimum, or a backyard team of one person or a household can watch for birds from their own home, raising a minimum of $100.

All teams will have 24 hours to search for species on May 1.

Prizes will be announced for several categories at the virtual Bird Bash on May 16.

Registration forms are online at: http://ar.audubon.org/bird-lr.

Once a team is signed up, members can make a profile fundraising page.

Fruit breeding site yields new peach

The Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station's fruit breeding program has developed a new, white flesh peach with low acid that ripens in June, according to a news release from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Whitewater is the 11th peach to be released from the program since its founding in 1964, according to the Wednesday news release.

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