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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. Maggie 21

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.

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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


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

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] Rob

Chipping ants to understand colonies


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


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? Maggie

Amazing LEGO insects and arthropods


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. Xeni