Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Eagleman Stag


Eagleman Stag

A beautifully put together stop motion video regarding an entomologist,


The Tiniest 3D Glasses!

A new research programme aims to understand 3D vision in the praying mantis, the only invertebrate known to have this ability, and compare it with vision in humans.
Analysing how mantises see in three dimensions could give us clues about how 3D vision evolved and lead to novel approaches in implementing 3D recognition and depth perception in computer vision and robotics.
The team, led by Dr Jenny Read from the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University, has been funded by a £1M Research Leadership Award by the Leverhulme Trust to characterise the mechanisms of 3D vision in mantises and how these mechanisms can be applied in science and industry. See a video of the research.
Dr Read said: “Despite their minute brains, mantises are sophisticated visual hunters which can capture prey with terrifying efficiency. We can learn a lot by studying how they perceive the world.”
Dr Vivek Nityananda, Newcastle University Institute of Neuroscience is one of the investigators involved in the study. He said: “This is a really exciting project to be working on. So much is still waiting to be discovered in this system. If we find that the way mantises process 3D vision is very different to the way humans do it, then that could open up all kinds of possibilities to create much simpler algorithms for programming 3D vision into robots.”
3D vision
It is also possible that 3D vision in mantises is closer to that of vertebrates, where disparities between the positions of an object’s image in the two eyes can be detected and used to reveal the object’s position, even when the object is camouflaged and thus invisible in either eye individually. This would mean that mantises have independently evolved similar 3D processing to vertebrates – a fascinating insight into the evolution of 3D vision.
A key component of the research entails presenting virtual 3D stimuli, such as moving targets within the visual field of the mantis. As a first approach, the researchers are attaching a pair of 3D glasses – the world’s tiniest – with beeswax to the mantis, and placing it in front of computer-generated images, presented on computer monitors. After the experiments, the scientists remove the beeswax and the glasses, and place the mantises back in the insect room where they are fed and maintained.
Dr Nityananda added: “We can do this by fooling them into misjudging depth, in the same way that our brains are fooled when we watch a 3D movie.”
The experiment will determine if mantids can see the moving object standing out in depth in a similar way to humans and monkeys.
The research project will use data from behavioural observations as well as electrophysiological recordings to help model potential neural algorithms that can be used in technology while simultaneously shedding light on the evolution of 3D vision in the natural world.
This is the first major research project investigating these mechanisms following the discovery made by Samuel Rossel in 1983 that praying mantises have 3D vision. Rossel conducted successful experiments by placing prisms over their eyes and creating an optical illusion that an object was within their range, thus triggering a strike from the mantises.
Canadajournal/Press Releases

From Allana Williams
I found this article very interesting. As a film student, it is interesting to see that scientists are applying a technology mainly used by the public in movie theaters on an insect, the praying mantis, to try to potentially model neural algorithms. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Man Dons Bee Suit Made of 460,000 Live Insects

       "A Chinese beekeeper She Ping covered his half naked body with nearly half a million bees in order to sell more honey, and managed to walk away with only slightly more than 20 stings, he said."
        I saw news about this man wearing bee suit when I was little, maybe when I was in elementary, and he is still doing this!!
        "I first did this at 22, just for fun and out of curiosity. Later on, I would put on the bees just for the sake of making people believe I sell actual real honey," Ping said. And Ping is 34 years old now.

"The bees are usually attracted onto the body by trapping and attaching the queen bee somewhere to the body."

-Kelly Feng

Monday, April 28, 2014

Dead bugs used in stop motion animation

Film made by Wladislaw Starewicz in 1912 Titled: The Cameraman's Revenge

Pet Stag Beetle

Male Stag Beetles found in Wilmette IL on a play ground amongst the wood chips.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

some insect pictures

So I was arranging some of the 35mm film picture I took in the past couple years when i was in China, and found there are different orders of hexapod and a pic of a house centipede . The house centipede (Scutigera Coleoptrata) is not an insect, but an arthropoda (which i didn't know until i took this class!). I think they are quite beautiful and want to share them with you :)

house centipede (Scutigera coleoptrata)

butterflies/moths (Lepidoptera):


wasp (Hymenoptera)

mayfly (Ephemeroptera)

a pair of stick-insect (Phasmatodea)

lady bug (Coleoptera)

posted by -Kelly Feng

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Monarch Migration

Hi everybody,

As I am doing additional research for my Zine project on Monarch Migration I have stumbled across this beautiful video of a Monarch overwintering site in Mexico! This video is from 2008, when Monarch migration was still very much in abundance and flourishing.


Unfortunately, the Monarch Migration has suffered a great deal in recent years as Monarch numbers continue to dwindle due to increasing presence of GMO pesticides in corn fields all over the country, and all of this dramatically changing weather we've experienced in the US recently. Sadly, more and more Monarchs die on the first leg of their migration, these factors become too much for them to conquer! Poor Monarchs.

-Emily Elizabeth Thomas

Marriage Italian Style

Great movie with Sophia Loren that highlights the complicated nature of kin selection.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ah-Muzen-Cab - video game?? && Locusts

In some ways I apologize for posting this. But I'm very fascinated by how science blends into media and culture.

For instance, I thoroughly enjoyed attending May Berenbaum's Insects Film Fear Festival this year, despite driving for hours through a snow storm, it was well worth it. This year's feature film was Locusts: The 8th Plague, about a breeding experiment gone wrong as flesh-eating locusts were released into the cornfields of the US midwest. They were finally defeated by the main character, an entomologist and entrepreneur of "organic" pesticides, after he realized that the locusts found no interest in his flesh because he and his girlfriend ate strictly "organic" diets. He then killed them off by spraying clouds of organic pesticides over the towns, a distorted and hollow attempt to include something about environmentalism. Two parts of this film sparked some interest related to what we've been learning in class. First, the locusts in the film seemed to be greatly unaffected by the very toxic chemical pesticides, and, in fact, they seemed to become more invincible as they were exposed to the chemicals. Though it's an unrealistic portrayal, I think there's some (unintended) wisdom in the ineffective use of pesticides because, in real life, insects develop resistance over time and become harder to combat. Secondly, and not surprisingly, the producers of the film were absolutely incorrect about very basic biology about locusts. At one point the protagonists made their way to the breeding grounds of the insects in order to either destroy them or collect specimens. It appears that in altering the diet of the insects, the scientists that bred the special locusts were also able to completely change their lifecycle because the locusts were all going through holometabolous metamorphism. Come on, we learned in class that there's no such thing as locust larva or pupa.

Anyway, back to the item that I probably shouldn't post, but can't refrain from.. I've been interested in stingless bees, and it appears that in Mayan culture the bees are represented by a god named Ah-Muzen-Cab. As I was trying to look for more information, my searches were plagued with this very intriguing video game. I don't know what to think about it really, but I'm fascinated nonetheless. Especially by its the descriptions for his moves, kind of arbitrarily named, "stinger", "swarm", and "honey".


Recent Findings: Genital Reversal in the Cave-dwelling Neotrogla Family

 Recent studies on the Brazilian cave-dwelling insect Neotrogla family have revealed that the genitals of the insects are reversed - the females have penis-like structures and the males inversely have vagina-like ones.  Both are functioning reproductive organs, they just function in an unusual way - specifically, the female uses her penis-like structure to extract semen and nutrients from the male's vaginal-like orifice. This case is the first reported discovery of this phenomenon - such a discovery could be useful to entomologists and gender science as well in terms of how it raises questions about how a male and female are typically defined. For more information about the reproductive process of this extremely unusual species check out these two articles (Insect Changes Gender to Mate with Partner and Female Penis, Male Vagina: First Case of Genital Reversal in Nature Reported).

~Emma Sims  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Peeking Inside an Ant Nest

This is a BBC documentary made in 2013 on leaf cutter ant.  The researchers built an artificial ant nest at Glasgow Science Center in UK. They move the leaf cutter ant colony they captured from Trinidad into the new nest. The glass chambers allow the scientists to see inside the colony and observe the ant behavior and how the colony function as a whole.


Monday, April 14, 2014

How ants walk

Mildly interesting animation showing the walking pattern of an ant.
- Anne Drury

Monday, April 7, 2014

The ballad of the boll weevil

The Boll Weevil is Coleopteran famous for destroying cotton crops during the Great Depression. There are a ton of stories and songs dedicated to this pest, including this one by the Skillet Lickers. Usually these tales are about a Boll Weevil taking the home of a poor farmer or share cropper.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Insect Yum +

This past week everyone pinned out a Louisiana Lubber grasshopper...

We then also decided to try some entomophagy, a la fried Mole Crickets and Weaver Ants that Elyah brought, and some nice Chapul brand cricket flour bars I ordered - three different flavors, including dark chocaolate and cayenne as well as a very nice coconut and lime bar.  I can report they are the tastiest protein bars I think I've ever had!

Teena models one such bar(note her lovely labybird beetle  shirt as well - nice coincidence!)

Those mole crickets...

And some lovely butterflies from the Field Museum Collection we visited last week, just to put into the mix....

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Moths (like) cloth

As we've looked at insects over the last couple months, it's been mentioned how their bodies can seem "like paper" or "like cloth,"  but if we take that material analogy along further maybe we end up where the artist Mr. Finch has arrived?

A moth this close to my clothes would terrify me (if I were wearing wool) - Imagine the hole the larvae of this thing would eat out of your sweater!


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Extreme Freeloading Tiny Tricky Parasitic Wasps

It is one thing to inject your own eggs into another insect's eggs so your young and eat the young of another creature, it is yet another level to conniving (though certainly logical) to then also hitch a ride on the parent of the egg you are parasitizing!  This is exactly what the tiny, tiny wasp Hydrophylita emporos in parasitizing damselfly eggs.  When the damselfly lays the eggs underwater, the wasps crawl down the abdomen and egg their eggs within the egg the damselfly just put down....

Way to go Andrew Polaszek at London's Natural History Museum, nice find!

Here is a video of the critter at work

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Anthill Art?


This is a video of molten aluminum being poured into a fire at colony. The result provides really amazing insight into the complexity of the tunnels these insects form.

Supposedly this species is an imported invader, which might justify death by molten fluid...

The artist sells these sculptures here:

- Ian

Documentary: Queen of the Sun

This is a great documentary about the disappearance of bees around the world. Many bee keepers are interviewed, and causes and solutions are suggested. Also simply enjoyable to watch!

It is at the flaxman to check out (DVD 6048) I highly recommend it!

Anna MH

Western corn rootworm develops resistance to bt corn!

Adult corn rootworm beetle on a corn plant. Image: Sarah Zukoff/Flickr

Named for pesticide producing Bacillus thuringiensis gene it contains, this genetically modified corn accounts for nearly 3 quarters of the US corn crop.  Concern about the reliability of it to repel pests without forcing resistances has recently been raised with the growing problem of an insect called western corn rootworm.  Over the past few years this insect has rapidly evolved resistances to the bt corn, causing serious damage to crops.

Effect of refugia on pesticide efficacy
One of the main reasons that this resistance it believed to have occurred is that farmers are not implementing properly large crop refuge areas.  Crop refuge areas are areas of crop that are not planted with bt corn and are designed to limit the evolution of resistances.  It might seem counter intuitive to only protect some of the crop, but by maintaining an environment that is not so evolutionary demanding as to only let the bt resistant bugs live, it effectively limits evolution.

-Anne Drury