insects

Think of the happiest things, it’s the same as having wings

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{ This butterfly is a bilateral gynandromorph: literally half male, half female | A gynandromorph is an organism that contains both male and female characteristics. The term gynandromorph, from Greek “gyne” female and “andro” male, is mainly used in the field of entomology. | Thanks Cassandra }

‘I try all things, I achieve what I can.’ –Melville

“Hasse” which was known in Ystad tavern circles, had a total of 146 wasp stings on the body including 54 on the genitals. He was so bloated that a neighbor thought it was a whale carcass lying on the lawn. […]

The autopsy and scene investigation revealed that “Hasse” tried to have sex with the wasp nest. They found semen on some of the dead wasps and a couple of “Hasse” pubic hair in the entrance of the nest. […]

Angry animal rights activists have reacted strongly to the event.

{ News Sweden | Continue reading | Thanks GG! }

A spy. Don’t attract attention.

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{ Since the early 1980s, artist Hubert Duprat has been utilizing insects to construct some of his “sculptures.” By removing caddis fly larvae from their natural habitat and providing them with precious materials, he prompts them to manufacture cases that resemble jewelers’ creations. | Leonardo | full story }

A Hobson’s choice is a choice in which only one option is offered

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You walk into your shower and find a spider. You are not an arachnologist. You do, however, know that any one of the four following options is possible:

a. The spider is real and harmless.

b. The spider is real and venomous.

c. Your next-door neighbor, who dislikes your noisy dog, has turned her personal surveillance spider (purchased from “Drones ‘R Us” for $49.95) loose and is monitoring it on her iPhone from her seat at a sports bar downtown. The pictures of you, undressed, are now being relayed on several screens during the break of an NFL game, to the mirth of the entire neighborhood.

d. Your business competitor has sent his drone assassin spider, which he purchased from a bankrupt military contractor, to take you out. Upon spotting you with its sensors, and before you have any time to weigh your options, the spider shoots an infinitesimal needle into a vein in your left leg and takes a blood sample. As you beat a retreat out of the shower, your blood sample is being run on your competitor’s smartphone for a DNA match. The match is made against a DNA sample of you that is already on file at EVER.com (Everything about Everybody), an international DNA database (with access available for $179.99). Once the match is confirmed (a matter of seconds), the assassin spider outruns you with incredible speed into your bedroom, pausing only long enough to dart another needle, this time containing a lethal dose of a synthetically produced, undetectable poison, into your bloodstream. Your assassin, who is on a summer vacation in Provence, then withdraws his spider under the crack of your bedroom door and out of the house and presses its self-destruct button. No trace of the spider or the poison it carried will ever be found by law enforcement authorities.

This is the future. According to some uncertain estimates, insect-sized drones will become operational by 2030.

{ Gabriella Blum/Hoover Institution/Stanford University | PDF }

photo { Alexander Hammid, Maya Deren, 1945 }

‘Nous partîmes cinq cents; mais par un prompt renfort, nous nous vîmes trois mille en arrivant au port.’ –Corneille

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Cockroaches are actually highly social creatures; they recognize members of their own families, with different generations of the same families living together.

Cockroaches do not like to be left alone, and suffer ill health when they are.

And they form closely bonded, egalitarian societies, based on social structures and rules. Communities of cockroaches are even capable of making collective decisions for the greater good.

By studying certain species of cockroach, we may even be able to learn some insights into how more advanced animal societies evolved, including our own.

{ BBC | Continue reading }

There come the jets

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Multiple viral diseases are spread through vectors, like ticks and mosquitoes, that result in massive health care issues and epidemics worldwide – my question has always been, if the vectors are infected with the virus, are they getting a disease? And, what is in it for the organism? Or, what is driving the vector to spread the viral infection?

George Dimopoulous’ group at Johns Hopkins University shed light on these questions in their latest publication on Dengue virus and the effect on its main vector, mosquito species Aedes aegypti.

{ Smaller Questions | Continue reading }

Gun pop, heart stop, homie this is heavy

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In the Cayman Islands, genetically modified mosquitoes are on the prowl. The insects are all male, and they’ve been engineered so that all their offspring die before reaching adulthood. By having sex with local females, they could father a new generation that perishes prematurely, before it gets the chance to spread diseases like dengue fever.

These GM insects, engineered by Luke Alphey at the University of Oxford, are part of a growing number of initiatives designed to fight disease by pitting mosquitoes against mosquitoes. Alphey’s tactic of breeding mosquitoes that beget unfit larvae is just one approach. Some groups are trying to make the insects more resistant to the disease-causing parasites they carry. Others have loaded them with life-shortening bacteria that outcompete those parasites. (…)

But all of these recent attempts to turn mosquitoes into malaria- and dengue-killing machines have something in common: The modified mosquitoes need to have lots of sex to spread their altered genes through the wild population. They must live long enough to become sexually active, and they have to compete successfully for mates with their wild peers. And that is a problem, because we still know surprisingly little about the behavior and ecology of mosquitoes, especially the males. How far do they travel? What separates the Casanovas from the sexual failures. What affects their odds of survival in the wild? How should you breed the growing mosquitoes to make them sexier?

{ Slate | Continue reading }

‘So you gotta look at OJ’s situation. He’s paying $25,000 a month in alimony, got another man driving around in his car and fucking his wife in a house he’s still paying the mortgage on. Now I’m not saying he should have killed her… but I understand.’ –Chris Rock

The exchange of gifts at a wedding is customary in cultures all around the world. To my knowledge, however, there are no cultures in which bride and groom traditionally trade poisonous presents. (…)

If we were worried the bride might be brutally devoured on her way to the reception (by her new in-laws, perhaps), a gift of this kind might be precisely what she needs to stay alive.

An unlikely dilemma? For humans, perhaps so — but not for insects. And there are indeed certain species of insects whose mating rituals feature precisely this kind of gift, generally one given by the groom to the bride. His intentions in so doing are strictly honorable, of course, for females who receive such presents are better-equipped to deter predators.

{ Puff the Mutant Dragon | Continue reading }

I can’t wait to get off work and see my baby

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Male seed beetles (Callosobruchus maculatus) have long spikes covering their penises [photo]. These spikes are thought to have evolved in response to female promiscuity, as a way of increasing the male’s chances of fertilizing a female’s eggs. Females, in response to the spikes, have evolved every man’s worst nightmare: spikes inside her vagina.

This is what evolutionary biologists call sexual conflict.

Males and females of a species have a common goal: to pass on their genes to the next generation. Sometimes, however, males and females have conflicting best strategies for getting that done. (…)

The penis of the male seed beetle punctures the female’s reproductive tract and, eventually, all those injuries will kill her. Females even have to kick the male constantly during mating to lessen the severity of the injuries–but she still won’t be deterred from hooking up again.

Why would male beetles want to harm females like this? (…)

While we’re on the topic of sharp penises that harm females, I thought I would throw in a little bed-bug action as well. Bed-bugs mate using what is known as “traumatic insemination.” Males bypass the female genitals entirely and pierce them in a specialized location on their bellies. They then ejaculate into the female sperm storage organ directly.

{ Molecular Love | Continue reading }

He may be able to fly all through the night, but can he rock a party til the early light

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{ Darpa’s Cyborg Insect Spies, Now Nuclear-Powered | Cyborg Bugs to Engage in Warentless Eavesdropping | Darpa’s Butterfly-Inspired Sensors Light Up at Chem Threats | Thanks to Tim ‘Mo Bass’ Geoghegan }

Light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.

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{ There are about 2,000 species of fireflies, a type of beetle that lights up its abdomen with a chemical reaction to attract a mate. That glow can be yellow, green or pale-red. In some places the firefly dance is synchronized, with the insects flashing in unison or in waves. The lightshow has also been beneficial to science—researchers have found that the chemical responsible for it, luciferase, is a useful marker in a variety of applications, including genetic engineering and forensics. | Smithsonian magazine | full article }