In Animal Sentience this year, Brian Key's "Why fish do not feel pain" provoked over 40 replies, including intriguing comments on tigerfish, rays and cichlids, mormyrids, invertebrates, plants, and robot fish but also comments written or co-authored by people who've been on the blue before: Lynne Sneddon (previously), Antonio Damasio (previously), and Culum Brown (previously). Less controversial threads of related interest include those on animal mourning and insect subjectivity.
The Futuristic Utensils Designed to Help You Eat Bugs (Atlas Obscura). From the designer's project page:"The product is meaningful to be joyful for eating insects and stretch food culture." [more inside]
Workers trapped for years in "a hostile environment in total darkness." - Bizarre ant colony discovered in an abandoned Polish nuclear weapons bunker.
Scientists think cockroach milk could be the superfood of the future. Although most cockroaches don’t actually produce milk, Diploptera punctate, which is the only known cockroach to give birth to live young, has been shown to pump out a type of ‘milk’ containing protein crystals to feed its babies…Who needs kale and quinoa when you have cockroach milk supplements? [more inside]
Yesterday, "A crazed woman trying to sell crickets and worms on a D train suddenly threw them all over the crowded car, sending it into chaos during the evening commute." "The air conditioning shut off and the screaming passengers were all stuck inside the sweltering car with the woman, who then treated them to antics for half an hour as the crickets jumped on passengers. The worms just wriggled on the floor." Today, actress Zaida Pugh admits she staged the incident, calling it a "a performance art piece meant to highlight the way people with mental and emotional health issues are treated."
"Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair dryer has been dropped into your bubble bath. A bolt out of the heavens. Lie down and scream." [SL Atlas Obscura] So what's it actually like to get bitten or stung by the world's nastiest bugs? Welcome to the Schmidt Sting Pain Index. [more inside]
Return of the Cicadas is a short film by Samuel Orr about the insects' (surprisingly beautiful) 17-year lifespans. [more inside]
Video for Run The Jewels' “Love Again” featuring Gangsta Boo on Vimeo and YouTube. (NSFW: super-explicit lyrics but SFW visuals unless "....You Work With Entomologists.")
Photographer Levon Biss has perfected an approach to macro photography which involves compositing roughly eight to ten thousand images into a final image of unsurpassed clarity and detail. He has collaborated with an entomologist at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History to photograph unique insect specimens. Prints of his photographs in large format (up to three meters across) will be exhibited at the museum from 27 May through 30 October, but if you can't make it in person you can view the zoomable images on his site or watch a video which explains the history of the project and provides details of his process. (previously)
Wasps are a dangerous introduced pest in New Zealand. Here, a researcher excavates an active German wasp nest by hand. Thrill to the angry buzz of outraged wasps! Recoil as they hurl themselves at the camera! Goggle at the venom splatters! 10 minutes of terrifying yet compelling man on wasp action. [more inside]
Kept in the dark for 60 years, fruit flies begin to reveal their genetic adaptations. In 1954, seven years after their cousins returned from space, a colony of fruit flies was plunged into a darkness which would continue through 1500 generations right up till the present day. The results of this study shed considerable light on the role of genetic variation in physical adaptation. Spoiler: [more inside]
By spreading malaria, dengue fever, West Nile, yellow fever and now the Zika virus, they are the most dangerous animal in the world. What would happen if we got rid of them? It sounds like a promising idea, but what would take their place and would the rainforests survive?
Time Lapse Cicadas. Time Lapse Cicadas. Time Lapse Cicadas. And, finally, Time Lapse Cicadas (last is Globe & Mail video with popup cicada factoids).
Census Finds Lots of Bugs in 50 US Homes Aside from pets, family members, or roommates, many of us often go weeks without seeing another living thing in our homes. But appearances can be deceiving. We are, in fact, surrounded by arthropods—insects, spiders, centipedes, and other animals with hard external skeletons and jointed legs. They are the most successful animals on the planet, and the walls that shield our homes to the elements are no barriers to them. In the first systematic census of its kind, a team of entomologists combed through 50 American houses for every arthropod they could find, and discovered a startling amount of diversity. [more inside]
Argentine ants altering California's ecosystems as homeowners give them shelter The Kentucky woman found herself waging war on a freezer full of Argentine ants. Thousands of them had set up shop inside the appliance's insulation, and a steady stream of tiny bodies poured out of the cracks to forage in the kitchen. "There was a fortress within the freezer walls," said Cliggett, who set out baits but still spent nearly an hour a day wiping up the fallen soldiers' carcasses.
On 20 February 1947, the first animal made it into space aboard a captured Nazi V-2 rocket. That animal was a fruit fly, accompanied by several compatriots from the same species. Their rocket reached an altitude of 108 kilometers and then parachuted safely back to Earth after completing their 3 minute and 10 second mission. All hail Earth's pioneering space travellers!
A 17th-Century Woman Artist’s Butterfly Journey Despite her long career, her influence on contemporary natural knowledge, her vivid descriptions of distant Suriname, and her intrepid spirit, when she died in 1717 the city of Amsterdam’s register of deaths described her simply as a woman “without means.”
The Queen of Trees is a documentary (52 minutes) on the sycomore fig tree, focusing on the intricate mutualism between a fig tree and its fig wasp. Filmmakers Victoria Stone and Mark Deeble spent two years camped out in the Kenyan bush to capture fascinating scenes of life around the sycomore, including inside the figs.
Walking Dead: How Wasp Overlords Control Spider Zombies No, this isn't science fiction; it's the somewhat terrifying (but very real) tale of the orb-weaving spider Cyclosa argenteoalba and the parasitic wasp Reclinervellus nielseni, two species that carry out a strange relationship in Hyogo prefecture, Japan. [more inside]
Crickets have recently been touted as the next big thing in sustainable eating (previously). Indeed, demand for crickets has skyrocketed in the past five years. But where do human-grade crickets come from? Turns out there's a severe lack of supply to meet growing demand. Enter Big Cricket Farms, which is working to innovate new large-scale methods of cricket farming. How can you optimize a food source with minimal infrastructure to build off of? The farm's FAQ attempts to provide some answers. [more inside]
How scientists are using Lego to manipulate insects. An unusual scientific paper has just appeared online detailing how entomologists can use Legos to build apparatuses to handle museum specimens. This is important: museum specimens are what we use to study biological history, and preserving them is increasingly less well funded. Fortunately, innovations like this fall into a larger biological tradition of building your own equipment. [more inside]
Insect photographer Alex Wild explains the effect of copyright infringement on his business; he has decided to give up commercial photography, partly due to the time he spends going after infringers. Alex Wild previously on MetaFilter.
Justin Gershenson-Gates makes insects and spiders from mechanical watch parts. The Verge shows more pictures including one of a piece under construction, more photos are on Inhabitat, there are yet more photos at Twisted Sifter, and the artist has a personal website.
A book about human reaction to insects I have trouble in the summer because I am usually suppressing the urge to scream and freak out due to the imaginary bugs that are crawling on me.
The worst places to get stung by a bee "It started when a honeybee flew up Michael Smith’s shorts and stung him in the testicles." Smith's painstaking study adds another dimension to the well-researched Schmidt Sting Pain Index.
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."
Macro Photos Of Cute And Cuddly Jumping Spiders by Thomas Shahan. Plus tips on how to shoot macro pictures of insects!
Dennis Hlynsky is a professor of film and animation at RISD whose most recent work, titled Small Brains on Mass, looks at bird behavior, particularly how they interact when flying in groups. To better understand how flying as a flock is achieved, Hlynsky filmed the birds and then stacked the images on the same frame for a set number of frames, the results show each bird’s flight as a trail, but synchronized with the flock. The results are often pure poetry. [more inside]
"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."Naturalis Historia was written by Pliny the Elder between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger.
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification.[more inside]
After a TED Talk demonstration and a successful Kickstarter, Backyard Brains plans to release a kit instructing kids to strap a miniature backpack to cockroaches and insert electrodes into its brain, allowing the cockroach to be controlled by a smartphone app. Some scientists are less than pleased with the ethics of the project.
Deadly Asian giant hornets - aka Vespa mandarinia - kill at least 41 people in China. Hundreds more have been hospitalized by these 2+ inch beasts with a sting that packs a human-tissue dissolving neurotoxin. Survivor stories are terrifying. Think you are safe in the U.S. or Britain? Nope and nope. (via @BitterOldPunk)
The USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Program designs and develops large and small-scale surveys and identification tools for native bees. A vital aspect of the program is to create accurate and detailed pictures of native bees as well as the plants and insects they interact with. To that end, Sam Droege has curated a collection of more than 1,200 macro photos of insects and posted them to the USGS NBIaMP Flickr collection. You can also browse via sets, if the unfiltered collection is too much to take in at once. This group has also provided a guide to taking macro photographs of insects in a lab setting (PDF).
Intermeshing, rotating mechanical gears have been found in an insect. The gears act to ensure that the legs of the hopping insect move at the same rate when jumping, and are lost during molting to an adult stage. Via reddit, where the journalist is participating. Science magazine report (paywalled).
If anything can turn Westerners on to entomophagy for sustainable protein (or just the perfect beer snack), surely it's an attractive, well-designed kitchen appliance. Introducing LEPSIS, a modular terrarium for growing grasshoppers as a food source in an urban home. Nominated for the 2013 INDEX: Award.
There are certainly drawbacks to living in Florida this time of year. You have to deal with the heat. You have to deal with the tourists. And you have to deal with erratically flying pairs of insects joined by their genitalia. [more inside]
How to get ahead. Again and again. Moths and butterflies are just flying gonads that make new caterpillars. Caterpillars are feeding machines with one primary purpose: eating enough food to build the body of a future moth or butterfly. A caterpillar stuffs itself with food, but eventually is limited by its exoskeleton, which is rigid and can’t grow. ‘Pillars deal with this by splitting their external skin, shedding it, and making a new, bigger exoskeleton so they have room to grow. For some reason, this species of moth caterpillars keeps their heads and build themselves a strange “hat” that gets taller as they grow.
MIT Media Lab's Silk Pavilion, a geometric structure machine-woven with silk thread and then reinforced by the efforts of 6500 silkworms. Watch the beautifully-done making-of video.
Jumping spider watching you, jumping spider watching you (again), mantis eating a fly, mantis eating a fly (again), mantis watching you, mantis watching you (again), ladybird hatching, flies having sex, crane flies having sex, shepherd, WTF is that, WTF is that (again), and a really cute baby hamster. Photographs by David Jobi
Paul "Mozchops" Phippen has been working as a concept artist and designer for major companies in the video-game and media industries since 1996. Two years ago, he made an intensely vivid graphic novel set in an imaginary world of insects and flora, with a story in rhymes that are somewhere between Seuss and Carroll. You can see four galleries of illustrations from Salsa Invertebraxa on Behance (one, two, three, four), and read some of the poetry on io9. You can also see some more of his art on Deviant Art.
The Great Hog-Eating Confederacy
Early Southerners ate a rather limited and unvarying diet. At table the famished guest seldom found more than bacon, corn pone, and coffee sweetened with molasses. Pioneering sociologist Harriet Martineau complained that “little else than pork, under all manner of disguises” sustained her during her visit to the American SouthFor the most part, slaves observed the same diet as poor white farmers. Though many kept gardens, and thus supplemented their rations of pork and corn with a wide variety of vegetables, they had otherwise little opportunity to augment their diet.. Another traveler griped that that he had “never fallen in with any cooking so villainous.” A steady assault of “rusty salt pork, boiled or fried … and musty corn meal dodgers” brought his stomach to surrender. Rarely did “a vegetable of any description” make it on his plate, and “no milk, butter, eggs, or the semblance of a condiment” did he once see.Christine Baumgarthuber is a writer for The New Inquiry and runs the blog The Austerity Kitchen. [more inside]
Bug Art - Steven Kutcher creates paintings using bugs as living brushes. He's probably more noted as the working entomologist on a number of Hollywood films, including Arachnophobia. Bonus: Steven's E-Z Bug Collector Method (via FLUXO)
This is a sausage fly. As soon as he steps foot on the trail he is overtaken by the sisterhood. [more inside]
This week the FDA announced that they were approving a new kind of flu vaccine. Nestled in the articles was an odd fact: unlike traditional flu vaccines, the new kind, called Flublok, is produced by the cells of insects. This is the kind of detail that you might skim over without giving it a thought. If you did pause to ponder, you might be puzzled: how could insects possibly make a vaccine against viruses that infect humans? The answer may surprise you. To make vaccines, scientists are tapping into a battle between viruses and insects that’s raging in forests and fields and backyards all around us. It’s an important lesson in how to find new ideas in biotechnology: first, leave biologists free to explore the weirdest corners of nature they can find. [more inside]
The Anternet is always up. On the surface, ants and the Internet don't seem to have much in common. But two Stanford researchers have discovered that a species of harvester ants determine how many foragers to send out of the nest in much the same way that Internet protocols discover how much bandwidth is available for the transfer of data. [more inside]
Omid Golzar and Shikhei Goh are two photographers who share a passion for a similar subject; extreme close-up macro images of insects and arachnids. [more inside]