Boing Boing 

"Sticky," gorgeous animated short about saving

Animator Jilli Rose created this lovely animated short about a group of stick insects stranded for 80 years near Lord Howe Island, on a sea stack with only one shrub for protection. It also tells the story of the scientists who discovered them and raced to save them from extinction.

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Eight year old's incredible prize-winning scorpion photo

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Spanish photographer Carlos Perez Naval, age 8, won the London Natural History Museum's Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014 prize for this breathtaking photo of a yellow scorpion. From the photo description:

Carlos had found it basking on a flat stone in a rocky area near his home in Torralba de los Sisones, northeast Spain – a place he often visits to look for reptiles. The late afternoon Sun was casting such a lovely glow over the scene that Carlos decided to experiment with a double exposure for the first time so he could include it. He started with the background, using a fast speed so as not to overexpose the Sun, and then shot the scorpion using a low flash. But he had to change lenses, using his zoom for the Sun, which is when the scorpion noticed the movement and raised its tail. Carlos then had to wait for it to settle before taking his close-up, with the last of the light illuminating its body.

Carlos Perez Naval's Retazos de Naturaleza

And see all the 2014 winning photos here.

Meet Sedgewick the Monarch Caterpillar—and find out what you can do to save his species

Danaus plexippus is in trouble. David Mizejewski raised one to demonstrate its life cycle, and explains what you can do to help them thrive

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Extreme close-ups of bug eyes transform them into psychedelic wonderlands

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A small sample of the incredible macro photography of Yudy Sauw, who is based in Indonesia. You can buy prints, via Behance.

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Stunning Macro Photographs of Insects

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Stunning Macro Photographs of Insects 2048-8_905

Animation about ant colonies

Stanford biologist Deborah M. Gordon's animated explanation of an ant colony, "one of the most complex social organizations in the animal kingdom."

Funnel "cloud" of bugs

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This looks like a tornado but it's actually a swarm of insects, perhaps red locusts, that Ana Filipa Scarpa photographed in Vila Franca de Xira, Portugal (EPOD).

How to make insects appetizing to Americans

Cricket flour is made from slow roasted milled Gryllidae, reports Meryl Natow, and the result is a delicious, light brown flour that resembles brown sugar.

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Praying mantises wearing 3D glasses

Newcastle University researchers outfitted praying mantises with tiny 3D glasses to better understand the evolution of vision, and potentially improve computer image processing. I wonder if they gave the mantises a headache like they do me. (Thanks, Ari Pescovitz!)

Dainty, flower-trimmed bug spray dispenser (1953)

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"Spray gun is coated with gilt and trimmed with bee and flowers, can be used on household pests when company is around." Go here for more wonderful gifts from 1953 that LIFE magazine deemed were "far better to give than to receive."

A crazed battle against the crazy ants

At The New York Times Magazine, Jon Mooallem has a story about a fight against an invasive species that began with a man called Mike the Hog-a-Nator shop-vac'd five gallons worth of ants out of his air conditioning ducts.

Strange planthopper with tuft of white hair

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This little beastie is a baby planthopper, about 5 millimeters long, that researchers recently documented during an expedition to southeast Suriname. This particular creature isn't a fresh discovery, but the Conservation International team did find 60 species they believe are new to science.

"Many planthopper species exude waxy secretions from the abdomen, which sometimes form long strands like those seen in this photo," says Conservation International's Trond Larsen. "These strands may provide protection from predators — it could be that they fool a predator into attacking the wrong part of the insect, and the wax breaks off while the insect jumps to safety."

"Expedition to Southeast Suriname Uncovers 60 New Species — and Untold Natural Wealth"

Insect with gears on its legs

Meet Issus coleoptratus, an insect whose larva have interlocking meshed gears connecting their back legs. The gears help coordinate leg movements, helping the larva to jump fast and far.

Video Link

Cicada Mania: periodical summer insect invasion marks a 17-year benchmark in time

PBS NewsHour has a wonderful feature on cicadas, the mysterious insects overwhelming large swaths of the Eastern United States this summer. Their behavior and deafening song provides research material for scientists, inspiration for artists and mixed reactions from residents. Miles O'Brien reports. A transcript and links to some of the cool projects referenced in the piece are all here.

Below, an extended cut NewsHour out-take video I requested featuring David Rothenberg, a musician who makes music with the cicadas. How cool is this guy? He is my favorite thing about this piece. And of course Pesco has blogged about him before here on Boing Boing, back in 2010!

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Dragonflies outfitted with brain sensor backpacks

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Neuroscientist have attached an electronic "backpack" to dragonflies that jack into the insect's brain and wirelessly transmit the data back to a base station. Howard Hughes Medical Institute researcher Anthony Leonardo and his collaborators hope the telemetry will deepen our understanding of how dragonflies target and catch their pray. (via Wired)

Dawn of the Chirpy Bugs: A collection of cicada-related news

http://www.flickr.com/photos/frotzed/519806184/

Image: Cicada, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from tinali778's photostream

So here is another line to kill space

This summer, folks on the East Coast of the US will see (and hear) an invasion of billions of cicadas in what is probably the most obvious part of the insects' 17-year life cycle. The cicadas will crawl out of the dirt, make a lot of noise, and seek out other cicadas in order to breed and create a new generation of larvae that will, 17 years from now, emerge to do the same thing all over again.

It's big news for those of us who think things like insects, evolution, and cyclical processes of nature are really, really cool.

Today, I ran across a number of Cicadasplosion-related stories and wanted to share them with you:
• First up, Carl Zimmer has a piece in the New York Times about cicadas and the evolution of seemingly strange life cycles. It includes a neat, interactive graphic showing a century of cicada blooms around the United States.
The University of Maryland has a helpful cicada cookbook, including tips on the best times and ways to harvest the bugs. You want them young, and succulent, apparently.
• Cicadas will not hurt you, but they might land on you and there's a possibility that they may be sexually attracted to the sound of your weed-wacker.
• In 1894, The New York Times suggested pressing cicadas into a biscuit for dog food.
• If you're not a cicada fan and don't want to eat them yourself, rest assured, some of them will be eaten alive by a horrific-sounding fungus.
Radiolab's cicada tracker is still up and running, and you can participate.
• A couple of years ago, when a different group of cicadas (on a 13-year-cycle) was hatching in North Carolina, Charles Choi spoke with chronobiologist and blogger Bora Zivkovic about why we don't yet understand cyclical systems like this.

Image: Cicada on leaf, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from frotzed's photostream

Mall of America welcomes 72,000 ladybugs

"The Bloomington, Minn., mall, which is so huge it could hold seven Yankee Stadiums, also has more than 30,000 live plants, including about 400 trees, which act as natural air purifiers for the indoor mall. But aphids -- the pesky insects that feed on plants -- thrive inside the Mall of America's many landscaped areas." [Discovery]

Chipping ants to understand colonies

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University of Lausanne biologists chipped hundreds of ants and digitally tracked them to see how they form social groups and work collectively to get stuff done. Based on the data, they created heat maps and visualized the ants' trajectories. From Nature:

The biologists… have found that the workers fall into three social groups that perform different roles: nursing the queen and young; cleaning the colony; and foraging for food. The different groups move around different parts of the nest, and the insects tend to graduate from one group to another as they age, the researchers write in a paper published today in Science.

“The paper is a game-changer, in the size and detail of the data set that was collected,” says Anna Dornhaus, an entomologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

"Tracking whole colonies shows ants make career moves" (Thanks, Nic Weidinger!)

Below is a video, accelerated five times.

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Vintage ad for cockroach racing set

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Early 20th century ad for a cockroach racing kit (complete with roaches) sold by the International Mutoscope Reel Company, makers of arcade machines and dime museums. "Holds the crowd… Gets the money." (via Weird Universe)

It's time to eat insects

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?

Amazing LEGO insects and arthropods

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NewImageSean 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!)

Ant wars: Battle of the invasive species

There's a war on in America, pitting invasive ant against invasive ant in a fight to the finish. It's sort of like Alien vs. Predator, in a way, because whoever wins ... we lose. Argentine ants (the reigning champions) have wiped out native ant species in many of the environments they've invaded over the years, affecting the survival of other animals that used to feed on those ants. Worse, they have a fondness for certain agricultural pests, like aphids. In places with lots of Argentine ants, aphids do very well — and plants do worse.

But now the Argentines are facing a serious challenge in the form of Asian needle ants, another invasive species that — for reasons nobody really understands — have suddenly gone from minor player to major threat in the last decade. The big downside to Asian needle ants: They sting. They sting us. And, right now, it looks like they're winning.

John Roach tells the story at NBC News. But you can get a good idea of what this matchup looks like by checking out the work of insect photographer Alex Wild. That's his picture above, showing an Argentine ant on the left and an Asian needle ant on the right.

Bees sense electric charge from flowers

Scientists are studying another element that attracts bees to flowers, in addition to color and scent: the distinct electric field a flower emits.

The bug killing tool preferred by mosquito researchers

Meet The Executioner.

Earlier today, I got a tour of the mosquito breeding facility at North Carolina State University. Basically, it's a small room — about the size of my bathroom at home — where scientists breed and grow the mosquitoes they use in scientific research. The downside: Mosquito enclosures are somewhat less than foolproof. Which means the mosquito breeding facility has a significant number of loose mosquitoes. That's where The Executioner comes in. There were multiple Executioners in that one small room. Then entire time I was talking with the scientists, they were simultaneously swinging around these electrified tennis racquets to zap any mosquito that blundered into their personal space.

Personally, I consider this a hell of an endorsement for any bug killing tool.

How to tell whether a mosquito is male or female (without getting bitten)

The mosquito on the left is a male Aedes aegypti mosquito. The mosquito on the right is his female counterpart. Viva la difference— and the difference is in the antennae.

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Junkbot bug assemblage sculptures: The Litter bug 


Mark Oliver's Litter Bug series is a collection of assemble-sculpture insects made from urban found objects and laser-cut metal and wood. They're extraordinarily beautiful -- right up my street. They don't appear to be for sale, and more's the pity.

Arthropod sub-species of the Insecta class. A creature whose instinctual and physical qualities have adapted so uniquely to the modern urban environment that it has rendered itself, by nature of camouflage, virtually invisible in it’s normal habitat. When seen in isolation ‘Litter Bugs’ appear to be composed of everyday ‘found’ objects.

The Litter bug (via Neatorama)

A classic work of entomology, available online in French and English

In 1879, Jean-Henri Fabre wrote a book about insects called Souvenirs entomologiques. Today it's considered a classic of entomology. An English translation, with some absolutely beautiful illustrations like the cicadas pictured above, was published in 1921.

You can read the full book online for free. Yes, both versions. The original French work is available at Gallica. Meanwhile, you can read the full English version at Google Books. Very neat!

Via Alex Wild

Bug-a-salt: Gadget gun takes aim at flies, with a pinch of salt

I first met Lorenzo Maggiore a couple years ago in yoga class, and run into him at the beach from time to time—he's an accomplished surfer, and pops a mean Adho Mukha Vrksasana. But until recently, I had no idea he was also the inventor of Bug-a-salt (Twitter), a novelty gadget that allows you to shoot houseflies dead (yet delightfully intact!) with a pinch of salt.

Our yoga teacher just told me today that Bug-a-salt has gone crazy viral, and he isn't kidding. Nearly a million YouTube views on the "how it works" video; news reports all over the place, and he's reached 10 times the original fundraising goal on indiegogo.

You can pre-order one of the guns here. The videos are weird but excellent. YouTube channel here. I find this one to be particularly satisfying.

Go, Lorenzo! I think you are about to become very rich.

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On knitting 50 life-sized bees


Hannah Haworth found herself in the enviable position of having to knit 50 life-sized bees, which she did, and celebrated their completion with detailed notes and lovely photos.

Remember when I mentioned that I had to knit 50 life size bees? Well I finally finished them!! woop woop! I may have gotten a little obsessive with the detail, but I kinda always do. It was weird for me doing such a small scale project after the huge pieces Im used to making, but I enjoyed it a lot, I think I learned quite a bit from it.

These bees are made form 100% baby merino wool from Malabrigo. I especially love the way they dye their colours, they are pretty much iridescent

Making the bees was certainly a process. I began by knitting the body from the back to the head, then I picked up stitches to make the wings which I used a simple lace stitch pattern for.

bzzzzz (via Making Light)

Delicious, ready-to-eat giant water bugs, frozen fresh to seal in the flavor


A redditor of Vietnamese descent discovered these giant water bugs in her/his mother's freezer, put there "to scare me."

My Vietnamese mom had these in the freezer to scare me. It worked. (i.imgur.com) (via Neatorama)