Super-slow-mo video reveals how ladybug wings unfold

Because ladybug hindwings are covered by an opaque outer shell called an elytra, scientists were not sure how the wings' folding mechanism worked until Kazuya Saito created a clear replacement shell that allowed them to film the process in super slow-motion. Read the rest

Baptizing praying mantises forces the devil out

In this video, a man partially immerses a praying mantis in water, thereby forcing the hairworms possessing it to leave. That the mantis also dies, according to one commenter, is not because the videomaker left it in the water to drown alongside the infestors. [via]

The worm digested the insides of the Praying Mantis. While inside, it keeps the nervous system from collapsing, but upon existing the Mantis immediately dies. So the Mantis isn't dead yet at the start of this video, its close to being a zombie, so not really alive either.
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Fist-sized Hercules Beetle pupa

HirokA1007's youtube channel is a menagerie of enormous insects such as this Hercules beetle pupa. Below, a larva, also the size of his fist. [via JWZ]

Previously: Read the rest

WAKE UP! A picture book exploring new life

Life is a continuing cycle of newness, then growth, and then gone: then birth and growth again. I started thinking about that theme of new life and new beginnings several years ago, and WAKE UP!, published by Candlewick Press, is the result. Working with my collaborator, poet Helen Frost, our book is about opening eyes—our own, first—and pointing to the world that’s right here, containing us all. Helen and I are both based in the US Midwest, so we started there, with a world that we didn’t need to travel far to explore, only wake up enough to actually see.

Public entomologists struggle with an epidemic of delusional parasitosis

Dr Gale Ridge is a public entomologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, where an average of 23 people a day call, write or visit; an increasing proportion of them aren't inquiring about actual insects, they're suffering from delusional parasitosis, and they're desperate and even suicidal. Read the rest

Flexible, printable circuits inspired by goldbug beetle

Poking a golden tortoise beetle ("goldbug") triggers the insect's color to change from gold to a red-orange. Inspired by the natural system underlying that insectoid superpower, MIT researchers have developed flexible sensors circuits that can be 3-D printed. Eventually, the technology could lead to sensor-laden skin for robots. From MIT News:

“In nature, networks of sensors and interconnects are called sensorimotor pathways,” says Subramanian Sundaram, an MIT graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science (EECS), who led the project. “We were trying to see whether we could replicate sensorimotor pathways inside a 3-D-printed object. So we considered the simplest organism we could find...."

The MIT researchers’ new device is approximately T-shaped, but with a wide, squat base and an elongated crossbar. The crossbar is made from an elastic plastic, with a strip of silver running its length; in the researchers’ experiments, electrodes were connected to the crossbar’s ends. The base of the T is made from a more rigid plastic. It includes two printed transistors and what the researchers call a “pixel,” a circle of semiconducting polymer whose color changes when the crossbars stretch, modifying the electrical resistance of the silver strip.

In fact, the transistors and the pixel are made from the same material; the transistors also change color slightly when the crossbars stretch. The effect is more dramatic in the pixel, however, because the transistors amplify the electrical signal from the crossbar. Demonstrating working transistors was essential, Sundaram says, because large, dense sensor arrays require some capacity for onboard signal processing.

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The history of eating bugs in Japan (with recipes)

Over at the Japanese culture website Tofugu (where my wife Carla is on staff), there's a great article by Kanae Nakamine on Japanese bug eating traditions, complete with tasty recipes like bee larva omelets, baby ant minestrone, and rice grasshopper granola bars. There are also vending machines in Japan that sell edible bugs.

If you’re too lazy to hunt for bugs and cook them, don’t worry! There are other options. Japan is a land of convenience, and this extends to their tasty, tasty insects.

You can buy edible bugs anytime 24/7. In Tokyo’s Inokashira park, there’s a vending machine with two kinds of bugs that come in cans: Rice Grasshopper Kanroni and Hanakuyouniis Brand Bee Larvae. Both of these products are kinds of tsukudani, which is the traditional way of cooking with soy sauce, sugar, and sake. Kanroni is similar to tsukudani, but has more sugar and tastes sweeter. Hanakuyouni is a certain brand of tsukudani food in Japan. It uses its original recipe to stew the bee larvae for this product. So next time you’re going for a jog in this Tokyo park, swing your sweaty self over to this vending machine and start guzzling bee larvae. Nothing prepares you for long distance running better than a belly full of insect babies!

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Gorgeous metallic insects and skulls with engraved patterns

UK-based artist Billy Bogiatzoglou creates intricate images of engraved insects and skulls. The Engraved Entomology series has especially detailed beetles, dragonflies, and arachnids. Read the rest

After 60 years, man returns library book that clearly influenced his life

Larry Murdock just returned a library book that he checked out from the Linton, Indiana Public Library in 1956, when he was just 8 years old. The book is "Moths of the Limberlost." Murdock is now a Purdue University professor of entomology who specializes in the study of moths. He said the book turned up in a box.

"(Returning) it was the right thing to do," he said. "Maybe after all those years there are kids out there who might get some benefit" from the book.

Murdock paid a $436.44 fine.

(AP) Read the rest

Delicious Madagascar hissing cockroach cake

Artist and baker Katherine Dey made this creepy-as-hell but probably delicious cake that looks like a Madagascar hissing cockroach. Its innards oozes with Boston cream filling. Dey made a video how-to, below. Just make sure you clean up the crumbs or else the real roaches will come and then who knows what could happen if they realize what you just ate.

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Bees can sense a flower's electric field

New research shows that bees can recognize flowers by the plants' tiny electric field that differs between species. The electric field bends the tiny hairs on a bee's body, firing neurons located at the base of the hair. From the journal Science:

Such fields—which form from the imbalance of charge between the ground and the atmosphere—are unique to each species, based on the plant’s distance from the ground and shape. Flowers use them as an additional way to advertise themselves to pollinators...

Electric fields can only be sensed from a distance of 10 cm or so, so they’re not very useful for large animals like ourselves. But for small insects, this distance represents several body lengths, a relatively long distance.

"How bees sense a flower’s electric field" (Science)

"Mechanosensory hairs in bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) detect weak electric fields" (PNAS)

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Among a Thousand Fireflies: children's book shows the sweet, alien love stories unfolding in our own backyards

Rick Lieder -- painter, illustrator, photographer, husband of the brilliant novelist/playwright Kathe Koja -- waits ever-so-patiently in his suburban Detroit back-yard with his camera, capturing candid, lively photos of bees, birds, bugs, and now, in a new book of photos with a beautiful accompanying poem by Helen Frost, fireflies.

Pasta made from insects selling well in France!

Atelier a Pates, a small artisanal pasta shop in Thiefosse, France, has a booming business in radiatori, fusilli, spaghetti and penne made from seven percent pulverized crickets and grasshoppers. From CTV News:

Four years on with the addition of insect flour to the mix, "it's working so well that we will soon be able to hire a second person," (proprietor Stephanie) Richard says, proud of her weekly production now at some 400 kilos (880 pounds).

And she does not plan to stop there: she is working on a new recipe using Maroilles cheese from northern France, and plans to start making stuffed pastas.

At a little over six euros ($6.60) for a 250 gramme (about half a pound) package, insect flour pastas are more expensive than standard kinds, but Richard notes that they can replace meat for vegetarians -- or for people who prefer crickets.

"People with iron or magnesium deficiencies will also eat these products," she says.

"French pasta-maker struggling to keep up with demand for insect noodles" (CTV News) Read the rest

Toy demands that kids catch crickets and stuff them into an electronic car

The Bug Racer is Mattel's $50 electronic "science" car toy that requires that you fill a sensor cavity with up to six crickets; the toy measures the crickets' movement in the cavity and uses them to guide the car's movements (though the car will reverse when it hits an obstacle, regardless of the crickets' movement). Read the rest

How beetles breathe under water

From KQED Science:

Surface tension is the property of any liquid that describes how its particles stick together. In the case of water, surface tension is especially strong, enough to form a kind of film where it meets the air, whether at the surface or in a bubble...

If you’re a bug the size of a paperclip... surface tension makes a difference. Harnessing it, some aquatic beetles carry the oxygen they need underwater in the form of a temporary bubble, sort of like a natural scuba tank. Others encase themselves in a layer of air and draw oxygen from it their whole lives.

"Nature’s Scuba Divers: How Beetles Breathe Underwater" (Deep Look)

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Watch these busy beetles devour delicious flesh

UC Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology employ a colony of flesh-eating beetles to clean the meat off the bones of animals whose bones they want to preserve for posterity. (KQED's Deep Look)

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Watch ants weirdly circle an iPhone when it rings

These ants circle an iPhone like it's the Ka'aba in Mecca. Read the rest

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