Join 3,517 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Entomologist Squashes the Myths in Seven Insect Horror Flicks
March 24, 2014 10:55 AM   Subscribe

May Berenbaum, head of the University of Illinois' entomology department: "There are about 500 species of gerrids in the world and, as far as I know, not a single one of those 500 species is eusocial (i.e., has a complex social structure with reproductive division of labor and cooperative brood care)," she said. "I don't even know of an example of maternal care in the whole group."
posted by helpthebear (35 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Note: Phase IV was not covered. Am Disappoint.
posted by k5.user at 11:05 AM on March 24 [2 favorites]


No Deadly Mantis? No Them?
posted by Thorzdad at 11:07 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]


"I don't know of any example of a blood meal containing a nutrient that would cause an exponential increase in size,"

That's because the blood meal is alien, professor. ALIEN. You don't know if it because you never saw a mosquito eat alien blood.
posted by Hoopo at 11:07 AM on March 24 [5 favorites]


Next thing you'll be telling me a shark can't breed with an octopus.....
posted by lumpenprole at 11:09 AM on March 24 [4 favorites]


I was hoping for more information. The author gives Berenbaum a sentence or two for each film and it is generally shallow, i.e. "bugs don't really grow big". I was expecting more about the behaviors and actions of the insects. Did they move right? Even though they are big, are they making decisions that their smaller cousins would make?
posted by Hicksu at 11:10 AM on March 24 [6 favorites]


Fun fact: Tom Hanks' brother Larry is on the faculty of the entomology department at the University of Illinois.
posted by gyc at 11:12 AM on March 24


Also this

"You don't know if it because you never saw a mosquito eat alien blood."

Some of the stuff that is pointed out as impossible are the things that the audience is already expected to not really expect to be possible. 'Radiation, Aliens, and Space are magic and that is why the bugs are big' does not really require disproof.
posted by Hicksu at 11:15 AM on March 24 [2 favorites]


What happens when scientists expose wasps to outer space radiation?

They lose their funding, since no IRB in the world would OK this. Apparently, things were more unregulated in the 50s, when scientists exposed everything to cosmic rays, just for fun.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:29 AM on March 24 [3 favorites]


I was hoping for more information. The author gives Berenbaum a sentence or two for each film and it is generally shallow, i.e. "bugs don't really grow big"

Next up, a cosmologist and astrophysicist reviews science fiction movies: "Independence Day was totally fake. Aliens never really did attack Earth."
posted by painquale at 11:29 AM on March 24 [2 favorites]


When asked to write a screenplay for a "giant ant" picture, Harlan Ellison responded with an impromptu lecture on the Square Cube Law.
posted by Smart Dalek at 11:44 AM on March 24


Will she review Them! if we make her a sergeant and give her the booze?
posted by The Confessor at 11:53 AM on March 24


No Five Million Miles to Earth?
posted by lagomorphius at 11:59 AM on March 24


Professor Berenbaum concluded, "No, it's ludicrous, as a Respected Scientist, it is in my opinion that giant, lethal, deliberately mutated insects are impossible to create in the lab with the kind of grant money I've been pulling lately. Ha ha. Silly movies. My pretties would need far more blood than the sleepy backwater town in which I've set up my facility could provide! I mean, really, it stretches credulity."
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:06 PM on March 24 [5 favorites]


Also missing, the more recent classic "Bug"..

spoiler: not about bugs
posted by k5.user at 12:08 PM on March 24


If wasps, holders of the uncoveted position of Assholes of the Insect World, were somehow morphed to human size they would undoubtedly drive Porsches and park diagonally taking up two spaces. That in itself would qualify as horror.
posted by tommasz at 12:19 PM on March 24 [2 favorites]


I refuse to read this if Them! isn't listed. Or at least Empire of the Ants or The Naked Jungle. Seriously with ants you have a lot of chances, how hard can it be?
posted by quincunx at 12:26 PM on March 24


When asked to write a screenplay for a "giant ant" picture, Harlan Ellison responded with an impromptu lecture on the Square Cube Law.

The is also the reason that you should fight the horse-sized duck.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:28 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


The is also the reason that you should fight the horse-sized duck.


How about no? Is no good for you?
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:37 PM on March 24


Hicksu: "I was hoping for more information. "

Biology of B Movie monsters
posted by dhruva at 12:42 PM on March 24 [2 favorites]


You leave Mimic alone!
posted by brundlefly at 1:09 PM on March 24


You leave Mimic alone!
posted by brundlefly


epony-fucking-sterical..
posted by k5.user at 1:35 PM on March 24 [3 favorites]


I think concentrating on the lack of scientific depth in the quotes is missing the point -- Berenbaum isn't just saying "STUPID MOVIE BUGS", it's this:
Berenbaum was not always a lover of the six-legged. She was afraid of insects until an entomology course in college helped conquer her fear. Now, she uses her festival to convert others.

"I can totally relate to people who don't like insects," she says. "It's probably because they don't know very much about them. This [festival] is an enjoyable, pleasant way to overcome any aversion to insects that arises from, at least, a lack of familiarity people have."
Thus, the tongue-in-cheek quotes match the overall fun tone - see some fun monster flicks, talk about real-life insects with the public, thusly familiarizing them with how cool real insects are.
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:05 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


It's probably because they don't know very much about them

NOPE, that's not it
posted by Hoopo at 2:21 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


All this insect talk (so to speak) has brought Ursula K. Le Guin's short story "The Author of the Acacia Seeds" to mind.
MS. Found in an Anthill

The messages were found written in touch-gland exudation on degerminated acacia seeds laid in rows at the end of a narrow, erratic tunnel leading off from one of the deeper levels of the colony. It was the orderly arrangement of the seeds that first drew the investigator's attention.
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:33 PM on March 24


If wasps, holders of the uncoveted position of Assholes of the Insect World, were somehow morphed to human size they would undoubtedly drive Porsches and park diagonally taking up two spaces. That in itself would qualify as horror.

Plus, they would indulge in wanton stinging and encourage runaway speculation leading to banking crises. And they would live in the walls of your houses, and charge you rent.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:50 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


No Five Million Miles to Earth?

I believe you mean Five Million Years To Earth

And they're ancient aliens that just happen to look buglike. So, no entomologist needed.

posted by lumpenprole at 4:04 PM on March 24


She calls em like she sees them. She's a bug biologist.
posted by bleep at 4:15 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


> They lose their funding, since no IRB in the world would OK this. Apparently, things were more unregulated in the 50s,
> when scientists exposed everything to cosmic rays, just for fun.

So now nobody at all gets to work in the field but mad scientists, who don't have to get their projects greenlighted by any review boards and never need funding.

But we never really find out what mad scientists are doing until they've done it, so just be patient.
posted by jfuller at 4:42 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


Even mad scientists have to get their projects approved by their Insane Revenge Board. These IRBs are stricter in some ways, but more lenient in most living-subject testing.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:57 PM on March 24


GenjiandProust: "What happens when scientists expose wasps to outer space radiation?

They lose their funding, since no IRB in the world would OK this. Apparently, things were more unregulated in the 50s, when scientists exposed everything to cosmic rays, just for fun.
"

Not WASPs, though, of course. Just colored folk.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:18 PM on March 24


No Phase IV because that was completely accurate.


Leaving Them! off is completely unforgivable, however.
posted by RobotHero at 6:19 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


I used to work at the UIUC library that served Dr. Berenbaum's department. She is very cool and the Insect Fear Film Fest is lots of fun; dunno if they still do, but at least they used to bring out live bugs for it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:22 PM on March 24 [3 favorites]


How about no? Is no good for you?

Bullockornis is not a horse-sized duck. It is a bullockornis. Only a member of any of the duly ordained species of duck, somehow made to be the size of a horse for its brief, painful life, is a horse-sized duck.

And I could kick its ass.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:30 PM on March 24


The first comment on the story asked the question that immediately leaped to mind for me: Is this entomologist the inspiration for Dr. Bambi Berenbaum, USDA?
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:50 AM on March 25


Heh. And the X-Files wiki I linked to just answered it. I needed to scroll down further before posting.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:51 AM on March 25


« Older The Vikings invented soap operas and pioneered glo...  |  Time travel, Dunder Mifflin-st... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments