Monday, March 31, 2014

Takin' a Field trip~


So much pun intended.

Ahhh The Field Museum is seriously my favorite museum in Chicago.
Here's an awesome tumblr that you should check out! One of the collection assistants in the Biodiversity Library on the 3rd floor of the Field runs it, she scans in glass negative plates from over the years that document current/past displays, specimens, and photographs documenting various events at the Field!

Also, you should take Peggy Macnamara's Scientific Illustration class. They meet Tuesdays at the museum from 9-4 (advanced meets then as well) and if you love illustration and being in a museum environment then this is the class for you! It's in the Viscom department if you're looking for the class in People Soft.

Time for some BUG NEWS!!!

First up . . . . . . .  (I've been finding so many things relating to bees I must apologize if it's too much at once!)

Macro Bee Portraits by Sam Droege and the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab macro insects bees   Macro Bee Portraits by Sam Droege and the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab macro insects bees

The institute talked about in the article works to identify bees in North America, there are so many! These are great pictures especially the ones with the pollen stuck on to them! The iridescent colors are also amazing.
This is most likely the same process that Graclyn/Allie was telling us about (the stitching together with the computer program) to get such detailed and clearly focused images.

Check out the Flickr! So many awesome pictures.


I found these illustrations about how to help save the bees!


P.S. I figured out who Stanley Field was. He was the nephew of Marshall Field who funded the museum during the World's Colombian Exposition. He also served as the museum's president for 56 years. That deserves a grand hall named after him!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Beetles North-South - Art as Insect Index!

Recently we talked about how studying the evolution of lice was used to date key events in human evolution....

Along that vein of interesting cross-connections, this article talks about how an insect biologist who is also an avid historic print collector tracked down not only the species-level cause of holes in wood printing blocks (those pesky beetle larvae!), but also how different species have changed their geographic ranges over the past few centuries. Fascinating!


flying flies fly

An excellent video report about research into the flight of flies from the New York Times. It touches on much of what we talked about a few weeks about concerning what flight is like for small creatures and the role of halteres in flies in particular for guiding their acrobatics in the air.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Insect Pet Carriers

Here is a website that sells a few exotic insects. They even give advice on how to care for them, and which combinations of insects are viable. For example, velvet ants "make wonderful communal tankmates with blue death-feigning beetles, darkling beetles and other tenebrionidae family beetles (see related links below). Both these and the referenced beetles will eat the beetle and roach jelly products" (

I found this interesting in comparison to the current issue of the Rhino Beetle fad in Japan. While this website appears to take a pretty scientific approach and also includes disclaimers on its products, the Rhino Beetles seemed like they were being sold in a range of situations that may have included shady under-the-table operations. However, the internet isn't known as being the most moralistically sound place, either. So, is it dangerous what this site is doing? And if so, what kind of regulation should they have to deal with?

"Rumor has it that stings from these insects are significantly more painful than stings from honeybees,"

During some late-night internet perusing, I came across this interesting poem by Jared Singer, titled An Entomologists Last Love Letter. I'm sure the scientific accuracy of the poems details regarding insect behavior are slightly skewed, but I figured some of you may get a little kick out of it. I found it pretty charming, albeit a bit sad.

dear samantha
i’m sorry
we have to get a divorce
i know that seems like an odd way to start a love letter but let me explain:
it’s not you
it sure as hell isn’t me
it’s just human beings don’t love as well as insects do
i love you.. far too much to let what we have be ruined by the failings of our species
i saw the way you looked at the waiter last night
i know you would never DO anything, you never do but..
i saw the way you looked at the waiter last night
did you know that when a female fly accepts the pheromones put off by a male fly, it re-writes her brain, destroys the receptors that receive pheromones, sensing the change, the male fly does the same. when two flies love each other they do it so hard, they will never love anything else ever again. if either one of them dies before procreation can happen both sets of genetic code are lost forever. now that… is dedication.
after Elizabeth and i broke up we spent three days dividing everything we had bought together
like if i knew what pots were mine like if i knew which drapes were mine somehow the pain would go away
this is not true
after two praying mantises mate, the nervous system of the male begins to shut down
while he still has control over his motor functions
he flops onto his back, exposing his soft underbelly up to his lover like a gift
she then proceeds to lovingly dice him into tiny cubes
spooning every morsel into her mouth
she wastes nothing
even the exoskeleton goes
she does this so that once their children are born she has something to regurgitate to feed them
now that.. is selflessness
i could never do that for you
so i have a new plan
i’m gonna leave you now
i’m gonna spend the rest of my life committing petty injustices
i hope you do the same
i will jay walk at every opportunity
i will steal things i could easily afford
i will be rude to strangers
i hope you do the same
i hope reincarnation is real
i hope our petty crimes are enough to cause us to be reborn as lesser creatures
i hope we are reborn as flies
so that we can love each other as hard as we were meant to.

P.S. Here's a funny somewhat related comic about Mantises

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

30,000 year-old giant virus!


This story is not about an insect specifically, but I think that it could add an interesting twist to the complexly evolved ecological systems that we've been talking about in class due to climate change. Apparently researchers have discovered an ancient virus (about 30,000 years old) that has been trapped in permafrost and could be revived through the melting of the permafrost samples. Moreover, the virus, which is actually giant, is capable of infecting amoebas that were introduced to it.  Hard to believe!


Sunday, March 16, 2014

zombie ant!

This is a video about a deadly fungus hijacks the bodies of ants for food, reproduction and surviving.
I thought it was interesting because this might be another way of mimicry.

Jae Heon Lee

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Female Praying Mantis & Cannibalism

As we have learned in the recent weeks there are many ways in which insects mate. Whether if by traumatic insemination, nuptial gifts or simply following the steps of reproduction. One of the most shocking mating rituals is actually- cannibalism! I was surprised, intrigued and possibly slightly sickened to learn that some female insects, such as the Praying Mantis, actually consume their male mates after mating. In some cases they even continue to mate after cannibalism has begun. I decided to investigate further. I found this short video (below) of a male and female Praying Mantis, watch closely what happens! 

Emily Elizabeth Thomas

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Field Museum Upcoming Exhibition

The Field Museum has a new special exhibition coming soon The Machine Inside: Biomechanics
Starting from March 12, 2014 to January 4, 2015.

I stumbled in their private opening by accident and got to see the show before the official opening. 
Some of the mechanisms we discussed in class are in the show, such as the trap jaw ants. Not to spoil anything, I think the exhibition is amazing. There are a lot of interactive elements and fascinating facts on the mechanism of animal.

(The poster does not look very hexapod but there are hexapods in the show)

"Imagine if your jaws could crush over 8,000 pounds in one bite, your ears could act as air conditioners, and your legs could leap the length of a football field in a single bound. From the inside out, every living thing—including humans—is a machine built to survive, move, and discover.  Beginning March 12, 2014, investigate the marvels of natural engineering in The Machine Inside: Biomechanics. Explore how plants and animals stay in one piece despite the crushing forces of gravity, the pressure of water and wind, and the attacks of predators. Using surprising tactics, creatures endure the planet’s extreme temperatures, find food against fierce competition, and – without metal, motors or electricity – circulate their own life-sustaining fluids.  Feel for yourself how hard a giraffe’s heart works to pump blood up to its head.  Try to “fly” and study the many different ways creatures jump, gallop, slither, and swim. And see technological breakthroughs – like Velcro, wind turbines, and chainsaws – that were inspired by nature’s ingenuity. Discover how evolution is Earth’s greatest innovator, only at The Field Museum. " 


Monday, March 10, 2014

Just mothin' about!

First post, yeah!

I'm an avid moth fan, and I just like any other insect they are trying to live their lives until they naturally (or unfortunately) die. No need to scream in fear!

I found this super cool article that talks about The War Between Bats and Moths and how moths can literally make a bat blind! Kinda like the katydids mimicry of the female cicada's cry. Here's one of the videos in the article and there's a slowed down scene of the sonar in action!

There's also news about scientists trying to control the population by trapping them with a plant produced sex-pheromone!

And finally, I found this short slideshow showing different kind of moths patterns and how they evolve to evade predators! Enjoy!


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Here is a poem that I found about a year ago. I thought it was a really powerful and interesting commentary on man through the use of a man-insect hybrid.

It is called Man-Moth by Elizabeth Bishop:

Here, above,

cracks in the buildings are filled with battered moonlight.
The whole shadow of Man is only as big as his hat.
It lies at his feet like a circle for a doll to stand on,
and he makes an inverted pin, the point magnetized to the moon.
He does not see the moon; he observes only her vast properties,
feeling the queer light on his hands, neither warm nor cold,
of a temperature impossible to record in thermometers.

                     But when the Man-Moth
pays his rare, although occasional, visits to the surface,
the moon looks rather different to him. He emerges
from an opening under the edge of one of the sidewalks
and nervously begins to scale the faces of the buildings.
He thinks the moon is a small hole at the top of the sky,
proving the sky quite useless for protection.
He trembles, but must investigate as high as he can climb.

                     Up the fa├žades,
his shadow dragging like a photographer’s cloth behind him
he climbs fearfully, thinking that this time he will manage
to push his small head through that round clean opening
and be forced through, as from a tube, in black scrolls on the light.
(Man, standing below him, has no such illusions.)
But what the Man-Moth fears most he must do, although
he fails, of course, and falls back scared but quite unhurt.

                     Then he returns
to the pale subways of cement he calls his home. He flits,
he flutters, and cannot get aboard the silent trains
fast enough to suit him. The doors close swiftly.
The Man-Moth always seats himself facing the wrong way
and the train starts at once at its full, terrible speed,
without a shift in gears or a gradation of any sort.
He cannot tell the rate at which he travels backwards.

                     Each night he must
be carried through artificial tunnels and dream recurrent dreams.
Just as the ties recur beneath his train, these underlie
his rushing brain. He does not dare look out the window,
for the third rail, the unbroken draught of poison,
runs there beside him. He regards it as a disease
he has inherited the susceptibility to. He has to keep
his hands in his pockets, as others must wear mufflers.

                     If you catch him,
hold up a flashlight to his eye. It’s all dark pupil,
an entire night itself, whose haired horizon tightens
as he stares back, and closes up the eye. Then from the lids
one tear, his only possession, like the bee’s sting, slips.
Slyly he palms it, and if you’re not paying attention
he’ll swallow it. However, if you watch, he’ll hand it over,
cool as from underground springs and pure enough to drink.

Allana Williams

Crickets Sing

 This is the recording made by Jim Wilson. As you noticed, they sound like human chorus. When the audio first appeared on Internet it went viral but it was later discovered that the recording may have been rearranged to sound more harmonic.

This is a more cricket-like recording by another artist