Jul 092013

Hey blog, what’s new? Oh, that’s right, nothing lately… My bad. To say the past few months have been hectic would be a bit of an understatement, but that’s a tale for another time. To kickstart my bloggy brain cells, I figured I’d ease back into it with a Tuesday Tune, then maybe a new photo, and quite possibly a rage-driven rant observation on society later this week. Fun!

Normally with Tuesday Tunes we get a song that may have insects in the title, the lyrics, or maybe a cameo in a video. This week’s song not only features a great title & lyrics, plus a psychedelic & morphologically awesome video, but also some killer album art!

No, I don’t know why a mosquito is changing a baby, but damn if that’s not a great album cover!

Meet Mosquito by indie rockers Yeah Yeah Yeahs (be sure to watch to the end) –

If you thought natural selection would punish a hyper-obvious mosquito like the one in the video, you’d normally be correct. However, the psychedelic Psorophora ferox would beg to differ!

Psorophora ferox demonstrating that art isn’t always crazier than nature! Photo by Kathleen Chute

Thanks to Dr. Cameron Webb (@Mozziebites) for alerting me to this song when it came out earlier this spring!


This song is available on iTunes: Mosquito – Mosquito (Deluxe Version) by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Jul 242012

Ryan FleacrestIt’s been quite awhile since the last Tuesday Tunes, but I think it’s time I resurrect it for a bit, and I have the perfect song for (Inter)National Moth Week — Moth by Audioslave.

And as a special bonus, here’s a little taxonomic refresher that A Moth Is Not A Butterfly from Hawksley Workman.

In fact, if we’re following a strictly cladistic view, then butterflies and skippers are actually moths. I suspect this song wouldn’t be quite as poetic, so I’ll just stick to taxonomy and leave the songsmithing to the professionals.


These songs are available on iTunes:

Moth – Revelations – Audio Slave
A Moth Is Not a Butterfly – Treeful of Starling (Limited Edition) – Hawksley Workman

May 092012
Ryan Fleacrest

Ryan Fleacrest Approves of these Insect Songs

I’ve mentioned before how useful Twitter can be, and how the #hashtag can be a real life saver for researchers and entomologists. Today however, the #hashtag reached an all new level of awesome, and provided the Twitterverse with an afternoon’s worth of free comedy.

#InsectSongs is where cheesy Saturday afternoon music anthology commercials meet entomology, with countless creative song titles scrolling down the screen. I’ve Storified some of my favourites here (grouped by taxonomic order of course), but be sure to check out the full list of Bugboard 100 hit titles!

Insect nerds are a creative lot and they put their hivemind to work coming up with some amazingly Punny #InsectSongs!


Ironically there were a large number of Beatles songs included in this list…

Of course if you want to hear some actual music about insects, check out my Tuesday Tunes playlist.

Jan 032012

Ryan FleacrestWell here we are, a full year after I started this little musical column. Turns out there are a lot more artists who have brought in the funk with insect content than I could have imagined, making quite a diverse playlist (which I’m going to curate in one place and post soon, don’t worry). My goal was to feature a new song every week, and I almost made it, having only forgotten last week! So close! Oh well, I’ve covered more than 52 songs throughout the year, so I suppose I’m still ahead of the game.

I enjoyed writing these pieces each week, and often surprised myself with where the final product ended up. Some were silly, some I tried to deliver a message, and some were intimately personal. It goes to show just how a song can impact a person and inspire a full range of emotions.

With that being said, this may be the last Tuesday Tunes for a bit. No fear, I still have plenty of insect music to share and write about, but there are some other weekly projects I want to try and do, and I’m ready to turn this into an occasional feature, coming around maybe once a month or so.

Today is as good a time as any for another multi-song version of Tuesday Tunes, with another band I listened to through high school; Alien Ant Farm.

When you hear about Alien Ant Farm, you probably think of their biggest hit (and Michael Jackson cover), Smooth Criminal. Other than the band’s ant-head logo on the canvas of the boxing ring, there’s not much entomological about this song, but it’s still a fun song, so enjoy!

Their logo isn’t their only entomological expression however, as they also penned and performed the songs Crickets and Beehive on their 2006 album Up in the Attic:

And to top it all off, Alien Ant Farm wrote a special song for the 2002 movie Spider-Man, Bug Bytes:

So that’s it for Tuesday Tunes for awhile! Thanks to those of you who joined me on this journey through music history, and keep an eye out for more songs in the future!

These songs are available on iTunes (except for Beehive, which was a bonus song):
Smooth Criminal – ANThology
Crickets – Up In the Attic
Bug Bytes – Spider-Man (Music from and Inspired By)

Dec 202011

As a scientist, I’ve come to expect the unexpected. When I started working with fruit flies, my advisor and I thought it’d take 6-8 months to complete (it ended up taking almost 18 months of work spread out over 4 years). When I began my Master’s, I expected to finish in 2 years,  yet 11 semesters later I proudly defended. Throughout my academic career, it’s been proven time and again that nothing comes easily, and speed bumps lurk beneath the surface waiting to slow your research down. So although I was crushed and extremely disappointed yesterday, a part of me wasn’t surprised to learn my Ph.D. NSERC proposal was not selected by the university for further consideration.

There’s nothing that compares to reading that rejection letter, informing you again that you were oh so close, but please try again next year. This isn’t my first experience with the email-of-academic-death, but its repeated blows don’t soften the pain. It can be easy to blame yourself (“If I’d only gotten one more manuscript submitted…”), others (“They don’t appreciate the work we do as taxonomists…”) or even the system (“Interdepartmental politics sidelined my chances from the start…”), but it’s important to not  give in to feelings of inadequacy or contempt imposed on you by awards committees.

No, I choose to funnel my frustration into proving those awards committees wrong, that they missed their opportunity to contribute to my rising academic star. I know I’m a damn good scientist and a damn good taxonomist, with ideas that will force others to take notice, a work ethic to out-compete my peers, and, most importantly, the drive to become a leader in my field. While the perks which come with NSERC scholarship make life & research easier, I have excelled without them by substituting harder work for financial freedom, and am now better prepared to face all trials I am confronted with. If the awards committee of today fails to see that, it’s their loss, not mine; I’ll find a way, and give my acknowledgement to someone else.

And when I return with Ph.D. in hand and apply to join their ranks as faculty, I know they’ll see a stronger researcher; one who has dealt with adversity; one who has done what was necessary to surpass his goals; and one who has the ability to lead where others follow. I have friends and colleagues who challenge, inspire and drive me, a wife who supports and comforts me, and an ego that won’t lay down and die.

So look out dammit, because I don’t just want to be an entomologist. I will be an entomologist.

Dec 132011

Ryan FleacrestSeeing as it’s Science & Social Media week, and Klout (a metric service which aims to calculate the influence you have through social media websites) thinks I’m influential about beer, I thought I’d share with you a little about Untappd, a social network for beer enthusiasts!

Almost all the entomologists I know enjoy a nice cool beer after a day in the field or following the publication of a manuscript, and with quality microbreweries increasing their distribution distance, it’s a good time to be  a beer drinker!

Untapped LogoUntappd is really quite a simple network; you share what type of beer you’re drinking, perhaps include where you’re enjoying it or a photo, and you can provide a rating out of 5 stars and a comment, all of which can be seen by your digital drinking buddies! It’s a pretty good way to discover new beers, and of course there’s a badge system included as an incentive to try new things. This is the perfect network for all those who enjoy a little #drunksci from time to time!

I’m finding that I can find an entomologically-themed song for any topic I want to discuss, and luckily enough today is no exception! So sit back, crack a brew, and enjoy this week’s song; Hey Bartender, There’s a Bug in My Beer by Eddie Pennington & Warner Williams!

If you end up joining Untappd, be sure to save a seat for me!

This song is available on iTunes – Hey Bartender, There’s a Big Bug In My Beer – Down Home! Saturday Night

Dec 062011

Ryan FleacrestLet me start by saying that when I went looking for a song for this week’s Tuesday Tunes, I didn’t expect to find such a gem as this. All I wanted was something simple that would allow me to segue into some very cool insect news, but what I got instead was one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard, but which actually has some relevant biology included in the lyrics. That being said, consider yourself warned: there’s cool science ahead, but also some really, really, bad music!

The University of California Davis insect collection announced yesterday (with future taxonomic publication to come I assume) that they collected specimens of Bombus cockerelli Franklin 1913 for the first time since 1956. Collected again from it’s extremely restricted known range (a 300 square mile plot of land in New Mexico), this species is understandably rare in insect collections. There has apparently been considerable debate amongst Bombus experts over whether B. cockerelli represented a unique species or whether it was a variant of the much more common Bombus vagans, and with museum specimens 50+ years old, there has been no ability to compare DNA between species. Lead researcher Doug Yanega implies that molecular evidence obtained from these new specimens supports B. cockerelli as its own species, and it will be interesting to see in future publications how this species fits into the larger Bombus picture! Doug has some succinct comments on why it shouldn’t come as a surprise to rediscover an insect species thought to be “lost”, so I’d highly recommend giving the press release a read!

Bombus cockerelli from EOL.org

Bombus cockerelli courtesy of EOL.org (CC-BY-NC-SA)


Moving on to this week’s “killer” song, if you grew up in the late 90’s (or had offspring doing so), you’re probably familiar with the musical torture stylings torture that was Aqua, the Danish pop band responsible for the hit song Barbie Girl. This week I bring you another musical instrument of torture, Bumble Bees:

Well, did you catch the surprisingly accurate lyrics as pertaining to pollination biology? From the “Wham bam, thank you mam” insinuating the correct sex for flower visiting bees, to the fact that bumblebees regularly leave “donations” of pollen while “invading” deep flowers, the song is actually pretty good for biology. Even though it sounds horrible, Aqua get props for taking the time to pen some pollination biology into their “music”!


If you haven’t had enough, this song is available on iTunes – Bumble Bees – Aquarius

Nov 292011

Ryan FleacrestIt’s been awhile since Tuesday Tunes featured a song about those beautiful bi-winged bugs the flies, so I think we’ll rectify that!

This isn’t the first time that Wire has been featured here on Biodiversity in Focus, with their song Outdoor Miner previously making the list. That song featured a relatively accurate depiction of a leaf miner fly, probably in the family Agromyzidae. Today’s song features flies a little closer to home, repeatedly talking about a fly in the ointment and flies causing more disease than fleas.Well, that and a divergent wasp dealing with plate-glass (side note: Flickr is fun).

So what might the flies be? Well I’m going to go with the common house fly (Musca domestica) for the fly in the ointment, just based on ubiquity and the odds of one ending up in someone’s moisturizer/tonic/soup. How about the flies causing more disease than fleas? Well, fleas are vectors for a number of diseases, with the big one being the Bubonic Plague. With an estimated 75 million people killed during the Black Death pandemic and another 12-15 million more killed in epi- and pandemics up until the mid 20th century, I think we can confidently put a back-of-the-napkin (BOTN) estimate of 100 million deaths attributable to fleas in recorded history. Tsetse flies (Glossinidae, 23 species total, 2 of which are of medical importance to humans) are vectors for the trypanosome that causes African Sleeping Sickness, which was listed as killing 48,000 people in 2008. A BOTN gives me an estimate of 100 million deaths in the last 2000 (50k x 2000 years, assuming smaller populations but higher mortality rates), so Tsetse flies are a possibility. Our next suspect might be the common house fly from earlier. Known to spread diseases such as typhoid (BOTN = 20 million deaths out of 450 million in past 2000 yrs), cholera (BOTN = 30 million deaths out of ~600 million in past 2000 yrs), and dysentery (BOTN = 50 million deaths out of 1.5 billion in past 200 yrs) among others, the house fly may be a dark horse in this race.

Of course, the best bet are the mosquitoes. With the genus Anopheles (the vector for Malaria) responsible for easily 100 million deaths in the past 200 years, not to mention the deaths attributable to Yellow Fever & Dengue Fever (Aedes aegypti) and “minor” diseases like West Nile Virus and Japanese Encephalitis (Culex). I think it’s pretty safe to say that mosquitoes are the most deadly insect known to man!

Anyways, that was a pretty morbid tangent from the song, so let’s just listen to some music shall we?



(All estimates based on conservative values found in Wikipedia. Some estimates may be horribly off, so best to do a more thorough literature check if you need more reliable numbers!)

This song is available on iTunes – I Am the Fly – Chairs Missing (Remastered)

Nov 212011

Ryan FleacrestFrom last week’s ESA meeting, you’d think that ants were all powerful and super diverse or something by the number of people talking about them and the level of excitement surrounding those talks! You might say people were going ape over the empire of ants…


Ya, that was a pretty horrible reference. But the thing about ant enthusiasm and the large number of talks about a single family wasn’t hyperbole!


This song is available on iTunes – Empire Ants (feat. Little Dragon) – Plastic Beach

Nov 082011

Ryan FleacrestWell, it’s been awhile since the last sugar pop edition of Tuesday Tunes, so I guess now’s as good a time as any.

Proudly Canadian, the Stereos share that feeling of gastric unease in Butterflies.



Speaking of gastrointestinal Lepidoptera, I’ll be traveling to Reno, NV this weekend to take part in the Entomological Society of America Annual Meeting. It’s going to be a busy week for me, and I’ll be sharing my schedule with times for my talks, what I’ll be talking about and some of the other events I’ll be looking forward to tomorrow! So watch next week when I hope to be active sharing the experience with all of you, here on the blog and on Twitter (where you can follow me @BioInFocus).