This is Uraba lugens, a caterpillar that wears a bunch of its old heads on top of its current head like the world's most ridiculously macabre hat. The part of this photo where the otherwise horizontal caterpillar goes vertical? That's a pyramid of exoskeleton head capsules, stacked in descending order from smallest to largest.
If you do happen to see one of these, you should not touch it! Apparently these caterpillars are covered with highly itchy and irritating spines–which seems to make their chapeau of old heads a bit redundant.
In 1961, Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Barney Rubble, and literally a thousand other cartoon characters (see vide above), was in a terrible car crash that put him in a coma. Nothing could rouse him until his surgeon addressed him as Bugs Bunny. Of course, Blanc's response was: "What's up, Doc?" Here's a 2012 short episode of Radiolab where they interview the surgeon, a neuroscientist, and Mel Blanc's son, Noel.
Not only are insects a more resource-efficient food source than meat (and more nutritious, to boot), you're also already eating them, writes Mary Hall at Mind the Science Gap. Insect parts are considered unavoidable, natural "defects" in foods and the FDA makes allowances for them, including up to 30 insect parts per average chocolate bar, up to 10 whole aphids for 2.5 cups of spinach, and up to 10 fly eggs (or, if you prefer, 5 eggs and one maggot) per serving of tomatoes. It all sounds gross, but when you consider all the benefits of bug eating (and the fact that many, many reviews proclaim them to taste delicious) it might be best to think of this news as a wakeup call. You're eating bugs already. Why not do it intentionally? — Maggie
The crab-louse is in apparent decline, a situation that some doctors and entomologists attribute to widespread Brazilian waxing. Though, as Skepchick points out, there's a huge industry that stands to make a lot of money from this claim, and not a lot of evidence to back it up:
“Pubic grooming has led to a severe depletion of crab louse populations,” said Ian F. Burgess, a medical entomologist with Insect Research & Development Ltd. in Cambridge, England. “Add to that other aspects of body hair depilation, and you can see an environmental disaster in the making for this species.”
...“We put the flag out, so to speak, if we see a case of pubic lice nowadays,” [Janet Wilson, a consultant in sexual health and HIV] said in an e-mailed response to questions. “The ‘habitat destruction’ of the pubic lice is increasing and they are becoming an endangered species.”
Edward Archbold, 32 had just competed in a roach and worm-eating contest at a south Florida reptile store when he keeled over and died. (The video above shows the contest in progress.) Archbold was hoping to win a python. Not surprisingly, Ben Siegel Reptiles has retained lawyers who are waving waivers. From CNN:
Archbold swallowed roach after roach, worm after worm. While the store didn't say exactly how many Archbold consumed, the owner told CNN affiliate WPLG that he was "the life of the party."
"He really made our night more fun," (store owner) Ben Siegel told the station…
Luke Lirot, who says he is legally representing the store, said in a post on the store's Facebook page that all participants "signed thorough waivers accepting responsibility for their participation in this unique and unorthodox contest."
"The consumption of insects is widely accepted throughout the world, and the insects presented as part of the contest were taken from an inventory of insects that are safely and domestically raised in a controlled environment as food for reptiles," Lirot said.
Male peacock spiders are fuzzy, strangely adorable, and boast a brilliantly colored abdomen that they flip up and use as a prop for an elaborate (for a spider) mating dance.
In this video, the mating dance of the peacock spider has been helpfully set to music, so you can really see why his abdomen makes female spiders wanna shoop.
This particular specimen is apparently a representative of an as-yet-unnamed species of peacock spider. You can read more about this species, and what makes it different from its cousins, in this paper by Jürgen C. Otto and David E. Hill, who also made the video.
Longtime readers will remember my morbid affection for Scutigera coleoptrata—aka, the house centipede—a species of oddly adorable, 30-legged, mostly harmless arthropods that frequently set up housekeeping in bathrooms and basements*. Originally native to the Mediterranean, they now live ... everywhere. (And please, feel free to imagine these buggers speaking in comic, stereotypical Italiano-Greek accents from now on. God knows I will.)
Now, YouTube musician Pink Torpedo has created a song dedicated to promoting peace and understanding between humans and Scutigera coleoptratas. I dig it!
*Side note: Scutigera coleoptrata do not always live in your house. But, when they do, they prefer to live in damp places. Thus, their affinity for bathrooms. Why? Because they don't actually breathe through their mouths. Like many arthropods, Scutigera coleoptrata get their air intake via little valves all along their exoskeleton. These valves are called spiracles. In most species that have them, spiracles can be opened and closed.
Kathy Keatley Garvey has won the Association for Communication Excellence gold medal for her rare photo of a honeybee leaving behind its stinger in an unfortunate (but now immortalized) human. Ms Garvey comes from a line of California dairy farmers who have kept bees since the mid 19th century. She is a communications specialist at UC Davis in the Department of Entomology. Andrea Gallo reports in the Sacramento Bee:
Garvey recognized an opportune time to capture this photo when she was walking with a friend. A bee came close to him and started buzzing at a high pitch. She said that's normally a telltale sign that a bee is about to sting, so she readied her camera and snapped four photos.
The images showed the progression of the sting, but the most interesting part was that the bee's abdominal tissue lingered behind, she said.
"As far as I know, nobody's been able to record anything like this," Garvey said. She said the only time she's seen it illustrated was in a textbook.
Step Gently Out is children's picture book in which poet Helen Frost's verse accompanies the incredible garden insect photographs of artist/photographer Rick Lieder. I've written here many times about Rick's Bugdreams photos, and they never fail to impress and move me. Lieder's photographic portraits of bugs are all the sweeter for his method, which is to patiently crouch in his Michigan back-yard for hours and hours, waiting for the shot; it's a wonderful alternative to the traditional dead-bug-on-a-pin photos I grew up with.
Frost's poem is a sweet accompaniment to Lieder's pictures, a very light narration for photos that really speak for themselves. We got this book this week, and it's a real favorite with me and my four-year-old, and has sparked many conversations and bug-watching expeditions on the way home from day-care. To this end, there's a nice entomological appendix with interesting facts about all the bugs featured in the book.
Stunning close-up photography and a lyrical text invite us to look more closely at the world and prepare to be amazed.
What would happen if you walked very, very quietly and looked ever so carefully at the natural world outside? You might see a cricket leap, a moth spread her wings, or a spider step across a silken web.
In simple, evocative language, Helen Frost offers a hint at the many tiny creatures around us.
And in astonishing photographs, Rick Lieder captures the glint of a katydid’s eye, the glow of a firefly, and many more living wonders just awaiting discovery.
For our Michigander readers, Rick and Helen will have a gallery show at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art featuring the photos, and including a signing on April 6.