Stanford biologist Deborah M. Gordon's animated explanation of an ant colony, "one of the most complex social organizations in the animal kingdom."
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).
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.Read the rest
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!)
"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."
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."
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! Read the rest
Read the rest
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)
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.
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."Tracking whole colonies shows ants make career moves" (Thanks, Nic Weidinger!)
“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.
Below is a video, accelerated five times.
Read the rest
Read the rest
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)