Monday, September 12, 2016

Recognizing Insects in Science and as Pests - Japan style

As you know, in this class we collect insects and sacrifice them in the name of first-hand discovery, study, and deeper understanding.  Countless animals have (and will) die for the purpose of scientific biological study, and in my view the very least you can do is honor and acknowledge that taking of a life. We had a small shrine in the insect lab where I did my PhD study, a place where innumerable moths, butterflies, ants, and others where reared and researched A small gesture, but I think necessary to remind us of the essential contradictions wrapped up in close study of life and all of its wondrous complexity.

Recall I mentioned the variability in cultural attitudes towards insects, including the Japanese tendency to to acknowledge, and sometimes revere, the form, function, and role of insects.

Kaneiji Temple in Tokyo is a Zen Buddhist temple part of which is devoted to the souls of insects that died for scientific research (that second pictogram on the rock refers to "insects")

A whole other step further is perhaps the monument to souls of termites at the Koya-san Buddhist cemetery sponsored and paid for by who.....?  A pest control company!  A very different attitude towards insects life indeed. The epitaph reads "Termites - Rest peacefully!"

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

David Gracer, insect eater

The David Gracer insect-eater interview from the Colbert Report that we missed in class this week - here it is!  I love his energy, he is unflappable in the face of Colbert's sarcastic doubt par excellence.

Meanwhile, I stumbled on this webpage with a ridiculous wealth of entomophagy resources -

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Ant Egg Fried Chicken!

The Chicago Reader runs series called "Key Ingredient" where they challenge local chefs at Honey Butter Fried Chicken with ingredients out of their usual comfort zone.

In this episode from last month they have some fried chicken chefs include ant eggs into their menu roster. In this case by "eggs" I think they likely in fact mean "larva" as the eggs would be too small to see very well, much less use in a dish!  Seems like it was a success?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Bee-Boy Waggle Dance.....

Moths! Take! Flight!

Jump around, jump around.... small insights into small creatures...the biomechanics of insect flight :

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

In 2007, a paper was published that identified the Panamanian golden tortoise beetle with having the ability to change colors, like a squid. When threatened, the beetle fills certain channels in its exoskeleton with liquid, which causes the exoskeleton to reflect its surroundings, and thus, change color. This phenomenon immediately made me think of the Blue Morpho butterfly, whose scale aren't actually blue, they are iridescent and simply reflect certain waves of color. A second article (Switchable Reflector) even pointed out that this beetles special ability could be used to improve modern technology! 
       - Olivia C.-

Praying Mantis -vs- Hummingbird

As if the praying mantis wasn't cool ENOUGH, here is a video of what happens when it goes up against a baby hummingbird in the wild. Before seeing this video, I had never heard of a mantis seeking out such large prey. It prompted a lot of questions so I decided to search the internet for other views/speculation on this behavior. Eventually, I found this article: Praying Mantis-vs-Hummingbird, which states that a mantis will only pursue a hummingbird if other food sources are scarce. It also highlights some cool facts about mantises, like how it can rotate its head 180 degrees! Check it out!
     - Olivia C. -

Monday, December 15, 2014

This is a link to a worksheet where you can make a mask and explore the various insect mouthparts.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Final video project: Sex in Insects


My final video project.

Livia Margon

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Kyle Bean 'Stick Insects'

These sculptures, made out of matchsticks, are by an English graphic designer called Kyle Bean. I came across these a few years ago and have admired his work ever since. Although these are the only Insect inspired pieces he has done, it is always fascinating to see the outcomes of his projects/briefs. 


Thursday, December 4, 2014

New invasive pest in the U.S! Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula)

I remember when I was in Korea last summer, everyone was talking about this insect called 'Spotted Lanternfly - Lycorma delicatula'. (A planthopper, which belongs to the order Hemiptera. In Korea we call it 'flower cicada') This insect was literally everywhere damaging the crops and annoying people. It's been reported to be an invasive species in Korea, since they are originally from China. But I just found this article saying that this insect is now detected in the U.S as well. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture recently reported that the Lanternfly have been damaging the crops and attacked 25 plant species that grows in PA.


Link 1:
Link 2:

Here's some pictures of the Spotted Lanternfly

The nymph of Spotted Lanternfly 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Springtails As Parasite on Human Skin??

Apparently springtails infest human hair and skin!  There was some debate about this in the scientific community, but other research proves it to be a thing that happens.

-Tessa Elbettar

Friday, November 21, 2014

Steampunk Insect Brooches and Sculpture!

I was just surfing around "Etsy" and found this cute steampunk insect brooches and sculpture. The creator uses antique clock and watch parts, lamps, and other machinery parts to make these brooches and sculpture. Most of them costs about $20. Anyone interested can find these in the following link! 

 - Fly, Diptera

 - Fly, Diptera

- Fly, Diptera

  - Fly, Diptera (?)

 - Wasp, Hymenoptera

- Dragonfly, Odonata

- Dragonfly, Odonata

- Grasshopper, Orthoptera

(Bonus) Spider!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Why Eating Bugs Is The Future

I stumbled upon this video while watching some Buzzfeed videos, i thought it was very interesting how the people taste testing all of the bugs actually liked the taste and were able to get past the idea of it being a bug. Is Entomophogy the future?
Victoria Nelson

Why Eating Bugs Is The Future

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Wooly Aphid "Fairy Fly"

This beautiful insect has a skirt-like appearance on its abdomen, made up of waxy filaments, that serve different functions.
 Click here

- Liz Chipman

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lady the Mantis

This was lady! When I captured her, she was pregnant. I wanted her to let her have her babies, so I got a container for her, some plants and crickets. This was her in her container, with her eggs, and then just walking around on the floor.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Researchers Find Gene that Makes Mosquitoes Prefer Humans over Animals

I thought this was a very ground breaking discovery in mosquitoes. It's a genetic adaptation that benefits the mosquito but negatively impacts humans. Will this new form of mosquito cause yellow fever to escalate excessively? Will the other form of mosquito that only bites forest animals also begin to exclusively chose human blood? Are insects becoming smarter faster than human technology is advancing? -Victoria Nelson

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"The Astonishing Weaponry of Dung Beetles"-New York Times Article ( Highlights and key points) By Claire Wetterer

Last week I was able to read an article on the New York Times Website called "The Astonishing Weaponry of Dung Beetles", written by Douglas Emlen.  In the opening paragraph of the story it describes travelers in Tanzania having a close encounter with upwards of 50,000 Dung beetles.  The source of the attraction for the beetles was a large pile of elephant excrement.  The scientists were swarmed by these beetles, this is the part of the piece that caught my attention, such a large volume of insects swarming.  As the article goes on we can clarify that the sheer amount of beetles converging on the excrement is not what the title is lending itself to, but how these beetles defend themselves :
" It is their weaponry. Scores of dung-beetle species on the Serengeti have no horns at all. But as many as five different horns jut from the bodies of other species, and many of these protrusions are proportionally huge; in Onthophagus raffrayi, for example, the male has a horn that arcs all the way over its head, extending more than twice the length of its body."(Emlen)
The article continues to explain that the fundamental reason for this weaponry all comes down to this 
" extreme weaponry has the same root cause: violent dueling, in which the lesser-armed combatant loses out. But investment in weapons suited only to a single task — matched contests with similarly armed rivals — leaves the bearer vulnerable to attack from new enemies" (Emlen)
  This weaponry is necessary because for a male dung beetles battle is a simple way of life, it encounters many unavoidable fights trying to complete it's necessary acts, mating, feeding and surviving.  The male beetle has many fights which control how he must go about his existence and according to Emlen, these horns make up "thirty percent" of the insects weight. The life of a dung beetle in Tanzania and other places is constantly under siege. ironically the males with the largest horns do not always win in the gene pool. It is the ones with the weapons that do not make it to the next generation
Over time, this end run around the logic of the arms race can completely upend it, pushing the armed animals out of the gene pool. Overburdened and outmatched, animals with weapons eventually die off."(Emlen)".

 At the conclusion of the article, Emlen makes a connection between this lifestyle and  human arms races.
"The Astonishing Weaponry of Dung Beetles" written by Douglas Emlen
Above: an interesting illustration featured in the article by Paul Sahre - Claire Wetterer

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

jizai okimono

Jizai Okimono seems to me like the perfect art form for expressing the movement and delicate intricacy that is the jointed legs and external skeleton of hexapods. 
Traditionally these sculptures are crated from metal and feature sculpture perfectly mimicking the appearance and movement of animals, such as the attached photos. However, one of the most impressive examples I have found is of this isopod (a lobster) carved from wood:

 Image Link: 

More Examples of Jizai Okimono: 


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Unusual Reversal of Sex Organs in Insects is Discovered in Brazil

(posted by Livia Margon)

Female Insect with Penis Found in Brazilian Cave

I know the Last link I posted was of the same topic but... Despite the unusual language of this article which I think is somewhat used for shock value, it helped me clarify the issue of how sex is determined in insects. I think the case of this insect is a good example of the confusion regarding this issue, but the article addresses it very directly and helps clarify how it is resolved in the scientific comunity.