Tuesday, December 25, 2007

christmas in Belize

(this is just a pic i found on the internet, i'll post the ones i took when i can upload them)
As I am walking through the forest outside of Placencia, Belize (in the Toledo district), I notice very tall yet bare pine tree-looking trees scattered throughout the landscape. I ask my Belizian friend Francisco what kind of trees they are. They are in fact pine trees but they are not supposed to look like this, he says. He goes on to tell me that these trees are plagued by a beetle, Dendroctonus Frontalis, or the tree killer.
The attack starts out with the female beetle boring into the bark up to the phloem or living tissue under the bark of the tree. She then constructs a chamber and releases a pheromone which attracts the male. After he and the female mate, she then begins to construct tunnels under the bark where she lays up to 160 eggs. As she lays her eggs, she covers them with dust or frass. This is the main damage caused to the tree: she introduces a fungi called Blue Stain, which she has a mutual or symbiotic relationship with. The blue stain destroys the living tissue of the tree causing it to suffocate due to no nutrients being able to reach the upper part of the tree, and therefore causing this wonky looking Christmas tree. I haven’t yet checked Francisco’s facts, but i am choosing to accept this info untill i get time to double check them.
i looked for the beetles but couldnt find any for my collection.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cricket Fighting

While doing some research on crickets, I found a number of YouTube videos relating to the gambling sport of cricket fighting, which is ancient and is still practiced in China (and maybe other places?). Here are just a few of 'em!




Scientists Can Control The Sexuality of Fruit Flies


I found this bug news on an unexpected source, Perez Hilton. His source was Nature Neuroscience so it should be reliable. Essentially the scientists who conducted the study found that male fruit flies with a certain gene mutation would court other male fruit flies.

“Based on our previous work, we reasoned that GB mutants might show homosexual behavior because their glutamatergic synapses were altered in some way,” Featherstone said. “Homosexual courtship might be sort of an ‘overreaction’ to sexual stimuli.”

To test this, the researchers genetically altered synapse strength, independent of GB. They also gave flies drugs to alter synapse strength. As predicted, they were able to turn fly homosexuality on and off, within hours."


Monday, December 10, 2007

Radio Lab


At the above address, you can listen to or download an episode of the science radio show "Radio Lab." This episode, entitled "Emergence," focuses on society insects and synchronous behavior (focusing on fireflies, ants, and bees). Good show!

awesome close ups of insects

So my friend found this guy from Germany named Martin Amm on deviant art and he takes some really beautiful photos of insects so i'm posting them!



Sunday, December 9, 2007

Mike Libby's Insect Lab

So I picked up a magazine called "Hi Fructose" because i liked the cover and in it there was an article about this guy named Mike Libby:

"Mike Libby, the founder of Insect Lab, is known for combining nature and industry into very versatile specimens. Mixing science fact with science fiction--Libby has given physical form to ideas that others have only dreamed of.
Insect Lab is the name of the studio where Libby combines the mechanics of man with the mechanics of nature. Libby customizes real insects with antique watch parts and electronic components, offering specimens that come in many colors, sizes and shapes; each insect is individually adorned-- no two insects are ever alike. Through dedication and the lust for the fantastic, Libby has given physical life to creatures that have stalked the imaginations of authors, artists, comic book fans and moviegoers for decades.
In a sense, Libby creates cyborg insects that contain all the complexities of their natural form along with the complexity of human ingenuity. One could say that his creations also ask questions about mortality and bio ethics. Philosophy aside, Libby's creations are simply fun. His creations come in two presentation formats, custom black shadow boxes or glass bell jars with a dark wooden base. Both are archival and only acid free materials are used. Each display is signed and labeled, providing specimen name, parts and number. Mad science or art? You be the judge."
-Brian Sherwin

make sure to check out the website:


Saturday, December 8, 2007

Flies Evasive Move Traced to Sensory Neurons

ScienceDaily (Dec. 6, 2007) — When fruit fly larvae are poked or prodded, they fold themselves up and corkscrew their bodies around, a behavior that appears to be the young insects' equivalent of a "judo move," say researchers. They now trace that rolling behavior to neurons resembling those that sense pain.
The larvae display the same rolling behavior when attacked by tiny parasitoid wasps, the new report also shows, occasionally even managing to flip their assailants onto their backs. Those parasitoid wasps will lay eggs inside fly larvae. When the eggs hatch, the larval wasps devour the fly young from the inside out.
"We have identified a specific set of sensory neurons in the fly larva whose function is to protect the animal from injurious things in the environment," said W. Daniel Tracey of Duke University Medical Center. "These neurons look a lot like our own sensory neurons that trigger painful sensations when we encounter potentially tissue-damaging heat, mechanical or chemical stimuli."
Nonetheless, Tracey said, they "really don't think" that insects feel pain. Rather, it reveals that the larval nervous system has circuitry that encodes an innate escape behavior--probably more akin to a reflex, as occurs when a person touches a hot stove. In that case, the hand pulls away before any pain is actually felt.
The researchers earlier found that noxious heat or mechanical stimulation triggered the larvae to roll, a motion completely distinct from that the insects otherwise use to get around. In the new study, Tracey's group used a "genetic trick" to turn neurons on and off by using pulses of blue light. That allowed them to zero in on the specific sensory neurons that triggered the escape behavior--which have very fine, highly branched nerve endings just beneath the larvae's outer surfaces.
Surprisingly, the larvae initially roll toward the offending heat or prodding, they found. That led them to suspect the move might be a defense against prevalent parasitoid wasps. Consistent with that theory, they document that larvae can escape attack of one wasp species by rolling.
The findings are a useful reminder, Tracey said: "Biologists that spend their days in the lab often view their organisms as laboratory animals. We need to remember that they come from nature. They didn't originate in plastic vials on the shelf."

-" insect equivalent of a judo move"- i thought this was clever -lol alex

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

silkworm factory

just a video on a silkworm factory...making silk. :)


Insect Artists

He Lets Creepy-Crawlies Get Their Feet Wet as Painters
By Nick Thomas
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, August 19, 2007; Page N01

This article is about Steven Kutcher. He is a man who started out as a "bug wrangler" for movies and came up with the idea to let his insect paint for him. We all need a gimmick and it sounds like he's got it made in the shade.