Watch this antkeeper deal with a major fire ant breach in his home

Mikey from Ants Canada woke up one day to his worst nightmare: his fire ants had escaped from their enclosure. Watch how he corrals all the escapees and manages to return most of them alive. Read the rest

David Lynch tells the story of a small bug

David Lynch took a break from giving his daily weather report to describe the activity of a caterpillar he observed outside his house.  Eraserhead-like sound effects were added to the short film, which heightened the dread of what followed.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

Murder hornet facts

After a week of hysteria and memes, it's good to read some actual facts about Murder Hor—sorry, Asian Giant Hornets. An important one would seem to be that they've never been spotted outside of Washington state and haven't been reported in 2020 at all. Whatever you're freaking out about in your back yard, it's probably not a Mur—an Asian Giant Hornet.

According to entomologists involved, however, there have been no verified reports of the species in 2020 and although monitoring efforts continue, there currently is no cause to believe that any of these hornets are still present in Canada or the U.S.

No verified sightings have been recorded of the species in the U.S. outside of Washington state. If you are in that region and think you have seen an Asian giant hornet, report it to the Washington State of Department of Agriculture here. If you are not in that region and think you’ve seen one, it is most likely a different species.

Photo: LiCheng Shi (CC BT 2.0) Read the rest

"Murder hornets" invade America

The New York Times reports on a new pest from abroad, Vespa mandarinia, AKA the murder hornet or the yak-killer.

With queens that can grow to two inches long, Asian giant hornets can use mandibles shaped like spiked shark fins to wipe out a honeybee hive in a matter of hours, decapitating the bees and flying away with the thoraxes to feed their young. For larger targets, the hornet’s potent venom and stinger — long enough to puncture a beekeeping suit — make for an excruciating combination that victims have likened to hot metal driving into their skin.

In Japan, the hornets kill up to 50 people a year. Now, for the first time, they have arrived in the United States.

Tracking the ‘Murder Hornet’: A Deadly Pest Has Reached North America [New York Times] Read the rest

Watch a tsetse fly birth a shockingly big larva. Gross! Amazing!

And you thought you felt full. Check out this female tsetse fly push out a larva fat with its momma's milk. From Deep Look:

Mammalian moms aren’t the only ones to deliver babies and feed them milk. Tsetse flies, the insects best known for transmitting sleeping sickness, do it too.

(UC Davis medical entomologist Geoff Attardo) is trying to understand in detail the unusual way in which these flies reproduce in order to find new ways to combat the disease, which has a crippling effect on a huge swath of Africa.

When it’s time to give birth, a female tsetse fly takes less than a minute to push out a squiggly yellowish larva almost as big as itself...

“There’s too much coming out of it to be able to fit inside,” (Attardo) recalled thinking. “The fact that they can do it eight times in their lifetime is kind of amazing to me.”

Read the rest

North Carolina's new botanical "First in Fly-Eat" license plates

UNC's Paul Jones writes, "Ohio and North Carolina have for years been fighting about which state own the right to say they were the Home of Aviation or the First in Flight. But now NC has something no other state can claim -- First in Fly-Eat! The license plate features not only the famously hungry plant, but also it's fabled food, the fruit fly -- in the process of being trapped. Proceeds go to preserve Venus Fly Trap habitat. Joint projects of the NC Botanical Gardens and the Friends of Plant Preservation." Read the rest

1000fps video reveals the underlying action of a stinging ant's venom injection for the very first time

Ant Lab's Adrian Smith (previously) writes, "No one had ever filmed how ants inject venom when they sting something. I study ants and I make videos, so I went to work on getting that footage. It involved filming something smaller than a human hair moving faster than the blink of an eye. But, I got the footage. In the video I explain what is happening and why I think its cool and an important scientific observation. Plus there's a little ant rodeo scene that people seem to like." Read the rest

Finally, a useful application for augmented reality: rendering virtual kitchen roaches

Laanlabs's showreel for 6d.ai meshing technology is an augmented reality demo in which virtual cockroaches crawl all over a very real kitchen. It's the best use of augmented reality I've ever seen. (via Beyond the Beyond) Read the rest

Courthouse shut after sheriff notices bedbugs "falling out of" lawyer's clothes

The courthouse in Rogers County, Oklahoma was shut down last week when a sheriff noticed that a lawyer had bedbugs "bed bugs are crawling all over them certainly in abundance" -- the lawyer was also accused of shaking out his jacket over the prosecution's files, and gave the impression that he didn't care about his infestation. (via Lowering the Bar) Read the rest

Nature's greatest con-artists: the parasitic beetles that trick ants into barfing into their mouths

Myrmecophiles are parasitic beetles that use chemical cues to fool ants into bringing them into their nests and regurgitating food into their mouths, diverting the colony's bounty of semi-digested ant-chow from the queen and her babies to their own hungry guts. Ant Lab shows us how a Xenodusa beetle can con Camponotus ants into a lifetime of free meals and cuddles. For further reading, check out Behavior and exocrine glands in the myrmecophilous beetle Lomechusoides strumosus (Fabricius, 1775) (formerly called Lomechusa strumosa) (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae) in PLOS One. (Thanks, Adrian!) Read the rest

Philadelphia science museum employees accused of stealing $50,000 worth of bugs

The Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion is missing $50,000 worth of bugs; the loss wasn't immediately discovered because bugs are small and the Insectarium often moves its specimens around for exhibitions, lendouts, etc. -- but when 80-90% of your collection goes missing, you notice. Read the rest

Watch 3,000 insect specimen photos turned into a stunning animation

In 2004, Paul Bush released When Darwin Sleeps, 3,000 digital stills of insects in the Walter Linsenmaier in the Lucerne Nature Museum. They flash by so quickly they feel animated, or as if evolution itself is happening on screen. Now he's released a better quality copy than has been previously available online. Read the rest

Some fireflies have a dark side

From Deep Look:

Females of one firefly group, the genus Photuris, have learned to copy other fireflies’ flashes to attract the males of those species. When one arrives, she pounces, first sucking his blood, then devouring his insides...

Firefly light is biochemical. But fireflies like the Big Dippers do much more with chemistry than just make light. They can mix together an array of other compounds, including invisible pheromones for mating, and others called lucibufagins (“loosa-BOOF-ajins”) that ward off predators like spiders and birds.

At some point, the Photuris “femme fatale” fireflies lost the ability to make their own lucibufagins. So instead of chemistry, these bigger, stronger fireflies became adept at imitation, and evolved to turn into insect vampires to take these valuable compounds from other fireflies to boost their own defenses.

Read the rest

Family on overnight BA flight refused seat switch as they were gnawed by bedbugs

A family of three (including a 7 year old girl) on a British Airways overnight from Vancouver to London spotted bedbugs crawling on their seats and alerted the crew, but the crew said the flight was sold out and wouldn't move them, so they spent 9 hours getting gnawed by bedbugs, arriving with their skin "absolutely covered" in bites. Read the rest

About 40% of "worker" ants just hang around, doing nothing

Ants are cultural signifiers of busy industriousness, but a new paper in Plos One reveals that, across species, about 40% of "worker" ants spend most of their days doing nothing. Read the rest

Being poor in America means you get more mosquito bites

A team of public health researchers studies mosquito populations in neighborhoods in Baltimore, looking for correlation between socioeconomic status and mosquitoes. Read the rest

Videos show marvelous caterpillar diversity

Why does The Caterpillar Lab only have 44 subscribers? Caterpillars set to smooth jazz, like these gorgeous stinging rose caterpillars checking each other out, make this New Hampshire nonprofit a hidden gem. Read the rest

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