Monday, December 19, 2016

Mantis Update

On one of the collection trips we took to Rosemont Forest Preserve, the class spotted several mantodeas. The one I caught was pregnant so Andy suggested I keep her for a few weeks until she lay her egg sack. Pictured aboveis a photo of the egg in a jar (this will hatch in spring, so I will place this outside in a field). The video Mantis Clips is a series of clips that I documented during my care. My roommate and I would catch insect, mostly grasshoppers and large flies, from the garden about every two days. Sometimes the Mantis would hunt them, chew the, and drop the prey once they stopped squirming.

(fall 2016 Katia Perez-Fuentes)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Where do the insects go during winter?

We have touched on a few of the topics discussed in this broadcast about where insects may go during the winter. Listen to Montana's Public Radio segment to learn more about the ways insects may survive the cold. From becoming "living popsicles" to producing a chemical similar to a car's antifreeze to warm them this broadcast gives a great overview of why we don't see many insects during the freezing months.

-Sarah Rose

Insect Game

Now that the semester is coming to a close, test your insect knowledge with this game! This could also be used as a study tool for today's exam.

-Sarah Rose
You know what they say.. an insect a day keeps the doctor away.

The End Of Fish Oil Capsules

-Tara Parambi (2016)

Mantid Partyyyy

- Tara Parambi (2016)
My mother found this insect on our window back home in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. It looks like a curry leaf coincidentally. It's a little hard to identify without more detailed photos. What do you guys think it is?

- Tara Parambi (2016)

Monday, December 12, 2016


The decline of the Bee population poses a huge problem for the future of human agriculture, not to mention the unbalanced ecosystems that will be harmed with the bee's absence (as they are main pollinators). It seems that Harvard engineers have been working on robot bees (link) as a solution to the insect loss. 

It's interesting to think about this technological development as another industrialization of labor, and we must consider the effects this might have in the micro-ecosystems such as the  insect world. What affects might this introduction have on other insect species that co-exist with the bees in symbiotic relationships? 

- Katia Perez (fall 2016)

The Peppered Moth

Even back in high school, the case of the British peppered moth appeared in my biology textbook. The British peppered moth changed colour in the period of the industrial revolution (so called "industrial melanism"), from spotted white to black, to camouflage on the soot stained surfaces. From this article published in June, scientists have discovered the genetic reason for the transformation as well as pin pointed the year in which this mutation might have occurred -- 1819.

The scientists looked at the moth genome, identifying any difference between the two coloured samples. This could be done with the current day technologies, but could not have been investigated with this precision back in the day. Machines used would be similar to ones we saw on our field museum visit.

The specific gene found to have caused the mutation is called cortex.

They used the fact that the genome, over time, gets scrambled around as
pieces switch between chromosomes in a process called
"recombination". A close look at the stretches right next to the cortex
mutation showed very little scrambling; this was a recent event.

And with why this mutation was favoured -- natural selection. Where the mutation turned these moths from white to black, helping them with camouflage from predators in sooted surfaces, benefiting their survival rates. Eventually, the darker coloured population increased so drastically that the lighter coloured ones were outnumbered.

This article shows the importance of technological advances in solving biological mysteries from past events, like this highly recognised peppered moth. Perhaps with these new possibilities comes the need to ask whether is is necessary to spend immense amounts of funding and time to solve unknowns from the past, even if they do not necessarily aid discoveries that help solve current problems.


Entomophagy in Edinburgh Bakery

Bringing it back to the beginning of the semester when we read about entomophagy from extracts in Insect Lives, I stumbled across this article which reported on a new bakery in Edinburgh that serves insect based baked goods. In the video, the owner talked about various culinary advantages eating insects would bring.

Whereas in another BBC article, the act of eating insects is looked at upon from an environmental aspect, where the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organisation have proposed that eating insects instead of other animal proteins have the capability to help climate change. This goes back to our study on energy conservation through food chains earlier in the semester, where using the same amount of energy to produce e.g. 200 grams of beef, it could produce 2 kilograms of edible insects. Furthermore, the amount of greenhouse gases created by producing the same amount of beef would not be generated unless 20 kilograms of edible insects is produced. Due to the efficiency of producing insects in comparison to other protein sources, and the problems with supplying enough land and water for agriculture and food production (from overpopulation), it is proposed that incorporating insects in a general diet would contribute heavily to solving current environmental issues.

I think what interests me most about the phenomenon of entomophagy is the factors that people have to confront before this step could be taken. The obvious answer, the fear from the thought that insects are squirmy, 'gross' creatures that only a select few people eat, but also, whether the human body is still capable of processing and digesting all the valuable nutrients insects have to provide.

- Justin

Metal in Anthills

I meant to share this a lot earlier, but I came across this again. This is more on the artsy side, but there is this video of an artist pouring aluminum in anthills. Not encouraging to pour hot metal and massacre all the ants, but it is quite interesting to see in the sense of casting the negative space. It reveals a lot of the architecture and interior the ants naturally build which can be difficult to see from the outside. By sculpture, it's really beautiful, but I'm not too sure the moral behind all this.
(But please, don't pour hot metal on ants.)

- Sabrina

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Mike Libby

While scrolling through pinterest the other day I found this interesting artist Mike Libby. He takes insects and makes sculptural, Robotic creatures out of them. He puts old watches and other mechanics inside of the insects exoskeleton. It looks beautiful but why is he doing this if it does not work as a machine ... is it just for show? He explains in his statment that insects are being used as examples for new technology. But what is he doing for these insects?
I love his work, because it's so alluring, and the sculptural aspects are so beautifully and delicately
designed.  I just wonder what all you guys think about him?
-Nicole Nienow

Friday, December 9, 2016

A 'hat' of Discarded Heads- Nicole Nienow

This article about the Uraba lugens caterpillar is like something out of a movie.  Most caterpillars use fuzz or vibrant colors to protect them from predators, but in the case of this Caterpillar it sheds its exoskeleton and leaves its exoskeleton head still attached to is body. Every time it sheds it leaves its head and a pile of heads accumulate on top of one another. It looks like something out of a science fiction movie that I really want to see.

Cyborg Beetles

Cyborg Beetles (link)
Advanced developments have been made to stimulate the beetle bodies with technology in order to control them like a robots. The goal is to use these beetles for tracking/locating warm bodies (people) as an act to "save the world peacefully." It's interesting to hear these engineers wanting to use this hybrid technology for the greater good, but really how ethical is this when this greater good using the beetles solely for the human benefit? Would this not be considered a parasitic relationship between insect and human? Since the beetles are being used as tool does this mean their lives are of lesser value? It's hard to advocate for the beetles when watching this video of men flying their little bodies into the wall like toy helicopters.

(post by Katia Perez for fall 2016)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Ants vs. Legos

The New York Times Science section recently posted a video of Longhorn Crazy Ants (Paratrechina Longicornis) tackling obstacle courses. Today in class we talked about why ants cooperate, so here is an experiment on how they cooperate to solve specific problems.

Who knew ants would like tuna?

-Sarah Rose

Monday, November 7, 2016

Any of you looking for a quick buck!?This entomologist is researching the venom in insects to help treat chronic pain. I certainly think this is worth looking into, since chronic pain is a side affect to many illnesses.

This article goes over the largest insects that have ever lived after studying fossils from 30-40 million years old. It also goes over the largest insect that lives presently. The largest insect is the white witch mother, and the heaviest insect happens to be a kind of cricket that is found in New Zealand. However the article goes over some other insects as well. It's pretty short, not too much information. Just enough to feed your curiosity!


Monday, October 17, 2016

Thursday, October 13, 2016


This Is the Worst Insect Sting in the World

It is a very interesting article about making a pain scale table by being stung by bees. The scientist noted that a bullet ant would probably top the chart for intensity if they stung your nostril. They also bring out the idea that where you are being stung is as important as the different in species in deciding the pain levels. ---- Kian Wong

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Super gross and big insects. The assassin bug is my favorite, but there's a few specimens they show that aren't insect, for example they show a giant spider from Australia. Also there's some african killer bees, I wonder if you can find them in Chicago? I hope not!- Daphne