Scientists have found ancient fleas from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Some are nearly an inch long — compare to modern fleas that top out around half that size — and the fleas seem to be adapted to biting through the hides of dinosaurs.
In this photo, you can see some kind of fluffy, white specks on the paddle of a cactus. Those are scale insects, microscopic bugs that like to cover themselves in balls of white wax and nibble on prickly pear. You can also see a fingertip smeared in bright red goo. That's what happens when you squish up scale insects. Humans have been doing this for hundreds of years, using the insects' bodies to create a striking, natural dye.
More commonly known as cochineal, the dye turns up in everything from sausage to yogurt. Typically, you'll hear scale insects described as "beetles". They aren't. And that had given me a totally incorrect mental image of what they looked like, so I thought it would be cool to share a couple of Flickr photos that show the insects in their natural habitat — both in their living and, er, more "processed" forms.
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The Kite Patch is the subject of a very successful Indiegogo fundraiser, and holds the promise of a lasting peace between mosquitoes and humans. It bears a compound designed by UC Riverside entomologist Anandasankar Ray that confuses mosquitoes' ability to track and follow concentration gradients of CO2, which is how they locate humans. However, the product couldn't be marketed in the USA without further testing, hence the crowdfunding campaign, which will send thousands of patches to Uganda, where they will be used as part of a wider trial in fighting malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases. The actual nature of the compound is confusing: the Wired article describes it as both "toxic" and "nontoxic" and the crowdfunding FAQ calls it "nontoxic."
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Valérie Choumet at Paris's Institut Pasteur anaesthetized a mouse, stuck a microscope in a flap of its skin, and induced a mosquito to bite it. The result is the best footage yet of the weird, flexible, questing mouth of a mosquito, which can bend and twist and fork as it seeks out blood vessels.
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Meet Kyle Kandilian, a 20-year-old University of Michigan-Dearborn student who raises tens of thousands of cockroaches
, in his apartment, for fun and profit. Depending on the species, Kandilian's roaches can be had for as little as a dime a dozen, or as much as $200 for a very special individual bug. He's using the money to help pay for college. — Maggie
Meet Cochliomyia hominivorax
— a delightful insect that manages to me more horrifying that even Mark's favorite Central American friend, the botfly
. How much more horrific? Check out the name. Roughly translated from Latin, "homnivorax" means "eater of man"
. — Maggie
This smashing, insect-embroidered coat is part of the Valentino Fall 2013 couture line.
Valentino fall 2013 couture details
(via Crazy Abalone)
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.
The venerable Bug Girl has some better shots of this phenomenon at her blog, along with lots of great information explaining how the heck Uraba lugens ends up making this questionable fashion statement. She also offers this helpful advice:
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.
Image: Uraba lugens, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from dhobern's photostream
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.
"What's Up, Doc?" (Radiolab)
Excellent signage at a 76 gas station, via Telstar Logistics' Instagram. It's a few years old, but part of a brilliant larger campaign by Venables Bell & Partners.
From 1957, a disturbing, patronizing, racist Shell ad for pesticides, selling the superiority of big agribusiness.
Weekend Event - White
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
At Wired, Ed Yong has an incredible long-read story about the researchers who are figuring out how and why individual animals sometimes turn into groups operating on collective behavior
. That research has implications far beyond the freakish, locust-filled laboratories where Yong's story begins. Turns out, bugs and birds can teach us a lot about the brain, cancer, and even how we make predictions about our own futures. — Maggie
Sean and Steph Mayo created an exquisite series of LEGO bugs for the "Creepy Crawly" category in the 2013 MocAthalon building competition. See them all in this Flickr set. (Thanks, Jake Dunagan!)
Carrianne Bullard made this teaset out of the wings and legs of cicadas. It's got a lovely Silence-of-the-Lambs meets Tinkerbell vibe.
Carrianne Bullard (Object Cicada wings, legs)
(via Bruce Sterling's Tumblr)