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.
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.
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)
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
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.
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.
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. Mosquito antennae are lined with fine hairs called antennal flagellum, and the density of the flagellum differs from one sex to another. Males have many, many more antennal flagellum, turning their antennae into a pair of bushy bottle brushes. Megan Fritz, a post-doctoral student in the North Carolina State University department of entomology described them to me as the mosquitoes' mustache. Even though mosquitoes are tiny, the males' flagellum are prominently noticeable to the naked eye. Fritz can tell which mosquitoes are boys and which are girls, on sight.
Female Aedes aegypti do the biting. But they don't have nearly as many flagellum and, thus, their hearing is not nearly as finely tuned as that of male mosquitoes. That's because the men and the women are looking for different things.
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.
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.
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.
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.