Aug 042012

Perhaps I should have named this The Biweekly Flypaper since it seems summer activities are conspiring against me, but hopefully I can get back on track soon.

(Inter)National Moth Week (NMW)

I don’t know if you noticed, but the Bug-osphere took (Inter)National Moth Week by storm and scaled new heights with their mothy contributions! Here’s but a sampling of the moth-related postings from my fellow bug bloggers.

A Bug Blog talked about a bat-sensing moth, as did the group behind the Audubon Field Guides.

OMAFRA’s Field Crop News explained how you can recognize butterfly and moth damage in your soybeans and corn crops.

The Bug Geek started off with some of her unidentified moths, and ended with a moth with a special surprise.

The Home Bug Gardeners posted some great moths all week, and eventually found themselves as new moth-er enthusiasts.

The National Moth Week team had a whole suite of great posts during the week, as well as showing off some cool moth sidewalk art spotted in Ottawa.

Itsy Bitsy Beetle found a little moth street art of her own on a wall in Berkeley California.

Brian Cutting showed off some of his tropical moth photos and ended Moth Week with a bang!

Bug Eric’s Wasp Wednesday turned into Not Actually a Wasp Wednesday in honour of NMW.

Matt “the Biology Geek” Bergeron got ambitious and took on the micro moths.

The Dragonfly Woman fought the elements to share moths with the public at an official event at her new job.

And of course CaterpillarBlog joined in on the fun attending a mothing event organized by her and her lab mates.

General Entomology

Chris Buddle wrote one of my favourite recent blog posts explaining why he (and by extension, we) study obscure, strange little animals. If you read one thing off this list this week, please make it this one.

The summer months are a time for many entomologists to venture out of the lab and into the field to recharge batteries and gather new data to get them through the dark winter months. As Crystal Ernst explains, sometimes that fieldwork can take you to new and exciting places and usually with a bunch of fun, like-minded individuals. Of course, being trapped in isolation, even with great people, for extended lengths of time can sometimes lead to some rough edges, which is why Chris Buddle likes to break the ice with nightly additions to his resentment list. It also helps when the advisor is the one to have a brain fart and can laugh about it with their students, like Terry Wheeler shared.

Sometimes field work can be undertaken right at home, or in other people’s homes like the Your Wild Life team is doing.

And sometimes, if you’re lucky like Dave Stone, you get to combine field work with conferences and get the best of both worlds.

Scicurious shares a weird paper which posits that men collect things to impress the opposite sex! As someone who collects insects for a living, I can attest that I am not followed by groupies on a regular basis, and that my wife agreed to marry me despite my penchant for collecting insects…

Flies (Diptera)

When flies talk dirty to each other, they get picked off by bats. Ed Yong on why they shouldn’t kiss and tell.

Bot flies are cool, and when photographed by Piotr Naskrecki, also quite beautiful.

Take a look at this fantastic louse fly David at BunyipCo found on a bird in northern Australia. He also found some sort of weird organism on the bird that is totally unidentified!

Richard Jones found a neat looking flower fly (or hover fly as their known in the UK) in his garden.

The crew behind the Zombee Parasite have started up a citizen science program to find out how far the fly can be found.

Not good: malaria evolves to become more severe within vaccinated mice, putting unvaccinated individuals at a bigger disadvantage. Good thing researchers are currently experimenting with a wide variety of tactics for dealing with malaria and its mosquito vectors.

Want to trick out your ride Diptera-style? Why not cover it with fly paper and catch 100,000 flies with it?

This is easily the most ridiculous fly-killing device I’ve ever seen: a salt shooting shotgun.

Beetles (Coleoptera)

Beetles are apparently the most honest animals on the planet. Excellent coverage of a big evolutionary find by Carl Zimmer, Ed Yong and Tom Houslay.

Itsy Bitsy Beetle shares a great story of a beetle who depends on a special meal supplied by its mother.

After adjusting to life in a shorter season, this beetle may become a successful example of introduced biocontrol.

Hopefully New Zealand will experience similar luck as they start to bring in dung beetles to deal with an excess of excrement.

You don’t need no fancy degree to make natural history discoveries as Ted MacRae’s 12 year old nephew showed.

Ants, Bees & Wasps (Hymenoptera)

It seems wasps harbour the yeast we use for beer, bread and wine in their guts over winter. I wonder how long until someone tries to extract all-natural brew from thousands of wasp bellies…

Ted manages to find a wasp that doesn’t want to eat what everyone else is eating.

Courtesy of Alex Wild, an ant that shoots foam out its butt. Thanks for that Alex.

If ever there was a ever a need for bioinspiration, it is clearly velcro wallpaper and velcro baby outfits just like these ants use!

Other Insect Orders

I’ve seen a house fly and a dragon fly, but I’d never seen a gooseberry fly until now. Be sure to listen to Piotr’s recordings of these fantastic grasshoppers!

It was apparently international weird Orthoptera week in addition to NMW, as David at BunyipCo also found a bizarre katydid, the Balsam Beast.

Aging termites are ticking time bombs just waiting for a chance to give their lives for their colony.

Can stoneflies teach us about the evolution of wings in insects? Christopher Taylor explains why there’s not an easy answer to that question.

Spiders (Arachnida)

It turns out that the Amazing Spider-Man isn’t so much amazing as just perverted. Bug Girl is on top form explaining why you really don’t want to meet Peter Parker in a dark alley.

If you want an anatomically correct superhero with spider powers, check out the web comic Spinnerette, which looks like a lot of fun.

Continuing the trend of women working with spiders, this amazing Australian teenager described a few new spider species for her high school science fair project.

Taxonomy & Systematics

I told Kai Burington I was going to nominate him to sit on the International Commission of Zoological Nomenclature after he walked back the cat on the recent Bob Marley isopod snafu. I think he thought I was kidding…

That common name competition in the UK that I linked to a few months ago announced the winners last week. I can’t say I’m a big fan of the Wannabee Fly or the Semaphore Fly, but I appreciate them calling more attention to biodiversity.

Polar bears are older than we think, and Jerry Coyne has an excellent discussion about the dangers of using only mitochondrial DNA for constructing phylogenies.

Speciation usually takes a really, really long time, but 2 Australian starfish species were just found to be on fast-forward.

Perhaps now’s a good time to ask what a species really is. It’s a tricky question made even more difficult now that someone has purportedly bred a “new species” of fruit fly in the lab. You can consider me extremely skeptical about this one…


Now is not a great time to be looking for a Tenure Track position, with many more people on the market than there are open positions. If you’re thinking about following this career trajectory, I highly recommend you read the thoughts of 5 biology post-docs on their chances of landing their dream jobs. Great work from Ria Ghai at the McGill Grad Life blog. (Here’s the cynical/acynical opinion piece that one of the post-docs recommends)

As someone who is doing all of their grad work at the same university with the same advisor, this post by Scicurious makes me feel a little more at ease about my decisions.


Piotr Naskrecki has shared some fabulous photos on his blog so far, and he’s been really good about explaining how he made those captures. Take a look inside both his mobile rainforest studio and his home studio to see how he does it.

Alex Wild is wracking up the air miles this year having just returned from a short trip to Colombia with a great portfolio of new images. I can’t wait to see what he brings back from Uganda next!

Here’s a new technique I’d love to try soon, making double exposures of people and nature.

In nature photography, patience isn’t just a virtue, it’s a requirement. Great story by Kari Post on why sticking it out is the best recipe for success.

Speaking of patience, I suspect these incredible bird photos weren’t simple clicks!

Video(s) of the Week

I’ve got 3 videos for you this week, one featuring Dr. Gard Otis’ work with Vietnamese beekeeping, and 2 that are literally out of this world.

(I can’t seem to embed the 3rd, but you can see how the Curiosity Mars Lander will be delivered to the planet’s surface here)

Further Reading

Ed Yong – Missing Links – July 28th, 2012

Ed Yong – Missing Links – August 4th, 2012

Bora Zivkovic – Scienceblogging Weekly – July 21, 2012

Bora Zivkovic – Scienceblogging Weekly – July 27th, 2012

  5 Responses to “The Weekly Flypaper”

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  1. I had to look up “walked back the cat” and found it has an interesting history.

    • I spent a lot of time reading spy novels as a kid, but the phrase seems equally applicable to the world of biological nomenclature and taxonomy! Thanks for sharing that explanation.

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