Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Velvet Worm Named for Totoro

With a defensive technique that is both alarming and beautiful, learn more about this sister to insects here. Though cute, they are not very nice. 

- Liz Chipman

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Clinton's must read - insects and humans, the advantage of social life

Last Month the Journalist Fareed Zakaria from CNN interviewed the former President Bill Clinton on a variety of topics, from his Global Initiative project to his grandchildren. At the end of the interview Zakaria asked Clinton, as is his ritual, one book recommendation that was a must read for the former president. The president mentioned two books. The second, The Social Conquest of the Earth is an elaboration on why social insects and humans have been so successful in conquering the Earth. Below is the transcript of his explanation.

"Edward O. Wilson is a Nobel Prize winning microbiologist, but he writes as best he can from all the known evidence about the history of life on Earth from single-cells organisms to the present day. The reason I would like them to read that is that he said if you look at all the species that have ever lived on Planet Earth, the most successful were ants, termites, bees and people. Why? Because they're the greatest cooperators. And even - and I saw the other day a story about how there are 25,000 species of spiders on Earth and for reasons nobody understands, a couple of dozen of them have started cooperating and they build stronger, better webs. Cooperation will save the future. And America should lead it. Every time humanity has been in danger of extinguishing itself, our consciousness and our conscience have led us to come together. That's the big issue of the 21st century. That's the great fight of the next 25 years."

BLOG EDITOR"S NOTE: EO Wilson is not a microbiologist and he has not won a Nobel Prize! He is an ant and biodiversity  biologist who has won two Pulitzer Prizes though. Bill, please get your people to check the facts :)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

Moth Pit!!

I saw a gif titled "Moth Pit" from this vine on someone's blog and just cracked up. I actually don't know why moths and some other insects like to fly towards lights even though it would kill them but I found this very short NPR segment that explains it.

Also reminded me of this scene just for kicks.


Saturday, October 11, 2014


relevant to this week and last week, thought i'd share


"Since 1997, the federal government has spent over $236 million to combat the beetle in New York alone. New York State has spent millions as well."


Close ups of beetle weaponry:


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Bug's Life

I saw this gif  from "A Bug's Life" and couldn't help but laugh, so I thought I would share!
Silly movie... they use their wings not their legs!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Plastic-eating Fungi! Rad!

Very rad! "Fungus Discovered in Rainforest Capable Of Eating Plastic Pollution"

Was thinking about how this relates to natural selection + random mutations; nature's random evolutions save our butts yet again.

- luis m

Monday, October 6, 2014

Funny and Weird

A website called Worth1000 held a photo effects contest called Mamsects and Insmals where people used photoshop to combine insects and mammals.  Maybe not relevant but there are some funny and weird combinations. My favorites…


"Elephant Bee"

"Monkey Fly"

"Camel Bug"


"Lion Tiger Bee"

-Emma L

Biodiversity Resource

I have been hunting for scientific prints for a project I'm doing and came across the account "BioDiversity Heritage Library" on Flickr.  It has almost 92,000 images, many of which are beautiful scientific illustrations ranging in subject.  Some are copied from catalogues from the Smithsonian, others from varied collections around the world.  An awesome resource for anyone looking for cool and informative images to draw inspiration from or admire.

-Emma L


Saturday, October 4, 2014

of Milkweeds & Monarchs

As the collecting season draws to a close, I just wanted to mention an important host plant - the milkweed - which provides not only milkweed bugs (pictured here in very nymphal stages of their red and black glory), but also the beloved migratory Monarch butterfly, a species whose numbers have hit record lows in the last few years...

This article from Yale University's environmental news discusses some of the causes, including the disappearance of milkweeds due to use of for herbicides tailored for GMOs:

"A new census found this winter’s population of North American monarch butterflies in Mexico was at the lowest level ever measured. Insect ecologist Orley Taylor talks to Yale Environment 360 about how the planting of genetically modified crops and the resulting use of herbicides has contributed to the monarchs’ decline."

 Some of this censusing is done through the Monarch Watch tag and release project, which our class took a part in, catching only and tagging fewer than usual again this year:

Chicago artist Jenny Kendler - this year an artist-in-residence at the National Resource Defense Council - has a wonderful project "Milkweed Dispersal Balloons" that is trying to take matters of reviving the Midwest habitat back into our own hands, and indeed onto the wind itself -  here is a picture from her website:

At the end of collecting this past week I grabbed some nice dry pods just splitting open and gave them a good shake - POOF!

Take it easy easy down there in Mexico till next year, flutterbys!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Bugs In Books

See how insects were illustrated in different selections of medieval manuscripts! Here

- Lizzy

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fairies by Cedric Laquieze

 Artist Cedric Laquieze  creates tiny intricate fairies out of the bodies of many  different insects including  scorpions,butterflies,beetles, and even bones and seeds.  You can find his website here

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Fly

In response to the recent post about "the Lobster" I wanted to share a lovely poem by Galway Kinnell called "The Fly."

The fly
I've just brushed
off my face keeps buzzing
about me, flesh-
starved for the soul.

One day I may learn to suffer
his mizzling, sporadic stroll over eyelid or cheek,
even hear my own singing
in his burnt song.

The bee is the fleur-de-lys in the flesh.
She has a tuft of the sun on her back.
She brings sexual love to the narcissus flower.
She sings of fulfillment only
and stings and dies, and
everything she ever touches
is opening, opening.

And yet we say our last goodbye
to the fly last,
the flesh-fly last,
the absolute last,
the naked dirty reality of him last. 


Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace


This article is about the ethics of eating lobsters. I figured it could be interesting to read this exploration of eating a kind of arthropod, especially with all the talk of entomophagy in class. It questions what we actually mean when we talk about pain and "putting something out of its suffering". Plus, I take every opportunity to make people read David Foster Wallace.

--Hannah Wright

My favorite line:

"There is, after all, a difference between (1) pain as a purely neurological event, and (2) actual suffering, which seems crucially to involve an emotional component, an awareness of pain as unpleasant, as something to fear/dislike/want to avoid."

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Nuclear Accidents and Insect Form

We've been talking about the process of the pupa in completely metamorphic (holometaboluos insects), the final act being the molt out of the pupal case when the adult emerges in its final form - this last molt is called "eclosion"

Now a study claims a large number of pale blue butterflies in Japan that fail to properly eclose and show a range of other deformities is likely due to mutational changes caused by the radiation which leaked from the Fukushima Dainichi plant in 2011.

This finding are reminiscent of artist Cornelia Hesse-Hoenegger's claims that many mutant insects can also be found in Europe due to radiation exposure from the Chernoyll nuclear power plant accident in the 1980's.

Her beautiful and haunting illustrations of these mutant insects provide a complement to this more recent research - take a look at some HERE. 


Monday, September 22, 2014

My Introduction To The Praying Mantis

I went on my first insect collecting trip, finally!!! We went to Montrose beach and caught a lot of grasshoppers. I am hoping to go to the trip off of Rosemont to collect some mantes. I've often encountered huge beetles and mantes in my backyard back at home, so I'm anticipating this last insect collecting trip. While thinking about it I remembered this funny guy on Youtube who makes short factual videos about animals, and he did have one about the Praying Mantis.

It's definitely not his funniest one, but I found it comical and relevant to this class. He also has some on dung beetles, and other arthropods!



Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hopper Tacos

In today's bug hunting trip, I caught enough grasshoppers and crickets to make a meal.

Since hearing that large scale entomophagy has potential as a more environmentally efficient of protein then animal live stock, ive been fascinated with a future with beetle burgers, fly fritters, and peanut butterfly jelly sandwiches.

I decided to cook them chapuline style, a dish common in parts of Mexico. while cooking the crickets I found the process to be kind of diabolical, before reading anymore be warned it may seem kind of nasty.

First I made sure I had all my ingredients

Then I put the crickets in the fridge for an hour, the cold slows their metabolism and makes them sluggish. They are a lot easier to handle this way. The other advantage to this method is it does not kill them. After a cricket dies funk sets in quickly, making them too rotten to eat. Like lobster, it is best to cook them alive. This made sense to me because both species are arthropods.

so into the pot they go

They need to cook in boiling water for one or two minuets, until they turn red

like Lobster. After they are cooked, drain them...

 pull their legs and wings off...

and fry them in a sauce pan tablespoon of canola oil on medium heat

I added garlic and lime juice after three minutes and turned it down to a simmer 

When they were done, made them into taco

added the fixings....

and chowed down

 the one that got away

If you have read this far then maybe you are interested in eating insects too. They were tasty, especially in a taco. the bigger grasshoppers I tended to like more because they were meatier. I wish I used more oil to fry them in so they could have been cruncher. It was an overall good eating experience, this experience has taught me that I would love to live in a world of mass entomophagy. I'll probably eat more bugs when I get the chance. If I catch enough next week, I'm going try chocolate covered crickets.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sunny Midwestern Days Looking at Insects....

On recent collecting trips in Chicago our entomology class has been having a good time of observing insects at the end of their season:

The "field" of inquiry...

Two mating Chinese mantids, the female to lay her eggs in the next couple of weeks!


Meanwhile, two Carolina mantids, perhaps about to attack the tiny students in the background.


more than almos

 Milkweed bugs in all stages of development.

Tagging a Monarch as part of the Monarch Watch program

Hasta luego, va a viajar a Mexico - release! safe travels.

Cicada & grasshopper. An Aesop fable I never read?

everything comes from emanation

another field of inquiry - Montrose Harbor and the Magic Hedge