Mar 182015

On the scale of 1 to What On Earth Has Gone Wrong, this ranks somewhere out near Pluto.

Check out this news article published by Science Magazine. Yes, *that* Science Magazine.

Seriously. SERIOUSLY.

Beetles almost never have sucking mouthparts either. And are almost never in the order Hemiptera. Almost.

To illustrate an article about beetles, Science Magazine used a stock image of a shield bug (Hemiptera: Scutelleridae). The publication that can literally make or break careers in academia by judging our science worthy to grace its pages apparently can’t be bothered to check the differences between beetles and bugs.

Obviously they aren’t the first to publish an embarrassing taxonomy fail (every entomologist has their personal favourite example), but it blows my mind each and every time one turns up.

I accept that not everyone knows the difference between a shield bug and a beetle. It’s not a piece of information that is routinely taught outside of specialized university courses. But did the author of the news article fact check the scientific paper that was the focus of the story, or check his sources to make sure they weren’t blowing smoke? I assume he did. I hope he did.

So why wasn’t the random stock photograph, or the photographer who captioned the photo, held to the same standard and fact checked to ensure it was actually, you know, a beetle? What about a photograph pulled from a stock agency lends itself to unconditional trust? Do people assume that because it was available in this “gated” database that someone along the way must have known what they were talking about? iStockPhoto, the agency the photo was licensed from, markets themselves as a cheap source of stunning imagery, and we all know what happens when we value low prices over high quality:

Almost never what we want.

UPDATE: Science Magazine finally corrected the photo, and the story is now illustrated with a fossil weevil, which makes much more sense. But, here’s the correction they added:

*Correction, 18 March, 10:27 a.m.: The image that originally accompanied this article (a mislabeled stock photo of a bug, not a beetle) has been replaced.

Or alternatively, “It’s not our fault we originally included a photo of a bug instead of a beetle, that’s how it was labelled on the internet!”, which is positively laughable. I wouldn’t accept that excuse from my undergraduate students, never mind from a scientific publisher that lauds itself as one of the most prestigious journals in all of science.

The bigger problem for Science however, is that the image wasn’t even mislabelled by the stock agency or photographer! Nancy Miorelli and Timothy Ng found the original image on iStockPhoto, which is clearly labelled “Jewel bug – Stock Image”, and in the description as “A jewel bug on a leaf”. One of the keywords applied to the image is in fact “Beetle”, which is obviously not correct, but clearly Science has no one to blame but themselves here, and their weak attempt at shifting that blame is repulsive.

Jul 022014

Even though all specimens in a natural history collection (should) have a label explaining where, when & how they were captured, sometimes that doesn’t include the full story behind how a specimen came to rest in the collection. Consider the following.

While enjoying a few cold beverages on a hot summer’s evening on the porch of a friend’s cottage, our conversation was interrupted by the *thud* of a beetle bouncing off the siding. Attracted to the lights of the cottage, a Lucanus stag beetle found itself suddenly the highlight of the evening, and I quickly scooped it up and placed it into an inflated Ziploc bag, intending to photograph it once I got home the next day.

Things got busy though, and I ended up stashing the baggy & live beetle in my backpack to take into the lab and photograph instead. The next morning I walked to work, told my lab mate about my great beetle find, and pulled the Ziploc bag out to proudly display my specimen. Rather than a glorious reveal however, and all I had in hand was an empty Ziploc; apparently the beetle had had enough of waiting around and had chewed its way to freedom!

I proceeded to empty my backpack, searching every crack & crevice in search of the missing stag, only to conclude it had not only escaped its plastic cell, but also my zippered backpack as well! As I sat and wondered where it may have made its dramatic escape (perhaps the greeting card store in the mall I had stopped at on my way in to work, a scenario that I couldn’t help but giggle over) and cursed my beer-induced logic that a Ziploc bag was sufficient to imprison a two-inch beetle with formidable jaws, I resigned myself to the fact that I had been outsmarted by the Houdini of the beetle world.

A few nights later, while sitting on the couch at home watching late-night TV, I heard what sounded like plastic shooting across the laminate floor, emanating from where where our cat, Callie, was playing across the room. When I got up to see what trouble she was getting into, low and behold there was my missing stag, skittering across the floor after a playful thwack from the cat! While certainly dead, considerably dried up, and covered in an embarrassingly thick coating of dust from spending time under the furniture, it was also miraculously complete, not even missing its lamellate antennae or fragile tarsi.


Callie, Stag Hunter

Callie, Stag Hunter

A week soaking in ethanol on my desk (out of reach of the cat, who was unimpressed with me confiscating her new toy) to rehydrate, and voila, a perfectly good specimen ready to become a part of the scientific record! It’s impossible to predict how this specimen may contribute to our understanding of biodiversity and stag beetle biology in the future, and while its official label data will provide future researchers the necessary context to use this specimen as a data point, the full story of how this beetle wound up in our collection is yours.

It just goes to show that there’s more to a specimen than meets the eye, or the label.

The escaped Lucanus stag beetle (Lucanidae), pinned, labelled, and ready for science.

The escaped Lucanus stag beetle (Lucanidae), pinned, labelled, and ready for science.

Jan 112013

Notice anything wrong with this picture?

Photo copyright Omid Golzar

Photo copyright Omid Golzar, reproduced here for editorial comment only.

If your first thought was “Why are there jumping spider eyes photoshopped on to the butt of a beetle?”, then you’re correct!

I don’t normally have a problem with digital art like this; it encourages creativity, makes the viewer think about what their seeing, and introduces a bit of whimsy (and who doesn’t like whimsy?). What I do have a problem with, is when digital art is portrayed as biologically accurate, and marketed as such to the public in a major news outlet.

Last month, The Sun (UK) ran a feature on Omid Golzar’s work, and captioned the above piece “Whiskers…beetle” before going on:

OK, he does look a bit grumpy — but so would you if you’d been left in a fridge before having your mugshot taken.

This amazing close-up of a beetle — with its “almost human” whiskers and bulging eyes — is one of a series of photos of bugs taken by Omid Golzar.

Read more:

It’s not just The Sun though, as the Daily Mail (UK) also featured this piece of digital art by Mr. Golzar almost a year ago, and also failed to note that it was manipulated. But how does something this ridiculous get published in the first place? Mr. Golzar was obviously aware that this piece was a fabrication of his imagination, and yet allowed it to be representative of his work not once, but twice, despite having an impressive portfolio of hyper-magnified insect portraits that are biologically accurate.

But, the blame shouldn’t rest entirely on Mr. Golzar, and I think the editors who run these stories are the ones who should be embarrassed. Taxonomy Fails are one type of error (and one which I have a little more sympathy for), but this equates to a complete failure to recognize basic biology (i.e. insects having compound eyes made up of multiple facets), something that most 8th or 9th grade students could surely point out! It should have been clear that the photo had been drastically manipulated, and thus it should have no place in the newsroom.

To illustrate, how do you think a mainstream media news editor would react if I suggested they run these images?

Sure they’re both photos of Justin Bieber, but they’ve been heavily modified using Photoshop, rendering them unusable in a newsroom (despite being pretty hilarious otherwise). And yes, that’s a Lamprey in the image on the right, which is about the same evolutionary difference as putting spider eyes on a beetle.

Obviously no self-respecting news outlet would run these, so why is it OK to run a non-human photo without ensuring it was a legitimate representation of the subject? Combined with the nearly daily Taxonomy Fails, I would argue that biological illiteracy in the media has been steadily increasing over the past several years, and I fear the impacts it may have on public perceptions of nature, the environment and science in general. I don’t have a simple solution to curb this trend other than continuing to draw attention to these mistakes, and hope the media starts to notice and remembering it is still their responsibility to present honest & accurate information, no matter what the subject matter.

h/t to Derek Hennen for sharing the original Sun article.

Dec 162012

The response to the jewel beetle field guide has been incredible thus far, with nearly 900 people requesting more than 1300 copies in less than 2 weeks! With all this attention to beetles around here lately, I figured I’d post a little reminder about which insect order still rules these parts.

Sarcophagidae flesh flies emerging from the abdomen of a Buprestis consularis beetle

Proof that 2 parasitic heads are more gruesome than 1. Parasitic flesh/satellite flies (Sarcophagidae) forever entombed as they attempt a late emergence from the abdomen of a captured Buprestis consularis jewel beetle. Photo by Adam Jewiss-Gaines.

We came across this little tragedy while examining and photographing specimens for the field guide, and Adam Jewiss-Gaines did a great job of bringing their sorry plight to life (so to speak) in this image-stacked photo.

I tried to track down what species (or even subfamily) these flies may be, but I couldn’t find any record (in my admittedly quick search) of sarcophagids using Buprestidae as hosts. According to the Manual of Nearctic Diptera Vol. 2, these little guys likely belong to the subfamily Miltogramminae (based on their seemingly bare arista), which are commonly known as satellite flies for their habit of orbiting ground nesting bees and wasps and kleptoparasitizing their collected prey, but I’m unsure whether they will parasitize free-living beetles. If they are in fact members of the Sarcophaginae (some of whom do have bare arista), perhaps these individuals are members of the genus Sarcophaga, species of which have been reared from beetles and various other insects.

Without being able to examine the rest of their bodies, I may never know what these flies are, but I find it fascinating that they matured and began their escape only to be killed and preserved within our collection!

While we’re talking about flesh flies, I want to call your attention to some absolutely amazing Scanning Electron Micrographs of male sarcophagid genitalia taken by my friend Dave Cheung. Not only are the genitalia bizarre and the micrographs beautiful, but Dave has worked his magic and made them both zoomable and rotatable, creating pseudo-3D models! Check them out — I guarantee they’ll blow your mind!

UPDATE Dec. 17, 2012: Never mind about this being a free-living beetle! I double checked the specimen label, and this beetle was actually collected from a Cerceris fumipennis colony in Highland Hammock State Park, Florida, which almost certainly makes these Miltogramminae satellite flies.

Information regarding Sarcophagidae biology was taken from SarcoWeb, a website created and maintained by Dr. Thomas Pape which is dedicated to the study of flesh fly taxonomy.

Dec 062012

Following the accidental introduction of Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis) in the mid 1990’s, and its subsequent detection in the Detroit, MI/Windsor, ON area in 2002, jewel beetles (Buprestidae) have become front page news in many communities in eastern North America. As federal, provincial, state and municipal governments initiate jewel beetle monitoring projects to track the expanding range of Emerald Ash Borer, many other species are captured as by-catch, which has subsequently lead to an increased interest in these bold and beautiful beetles.

Luckily, North American buprestid taxonomists have been working diligently with these charismatic & economically important beetles for decades, and have described and classified nearly all the eastern North American fauna. With a solid taxonomic base to build upon and an increasing demand for accessible identification resources, a partnership was formed between the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the University of Guelph Insect Collection and the Invasive Species Centre to create a user-friendly resource for jewel beetle identification. Today, I’m happy to announce the imminent publication of a Field Guide to the Jewel Beetles of Northeastern North America!

Cover of Field Guide to the Jewel Beetles of Northeastern North America

Cover photo of Buprestis rufipes by Ted MacRae

Map of use for the Field Guide to Jewel Beetles

Green – Guide considered comprehensive; Yellow – Majority of fauna included in guide, may require additional resources; Red – Guide not representative of local fauna, be sure to consult additional resources.

This 411 page field guide (6×9″) covers the 164 jewel beetle species known from northeastern North America, and also includes 2 identification keys to the 23 genera in the region: one a technical key adapted from previously published works, and the other a “field key”, designed for use with a hand lens or digital camera and which uses characters that are more easily observed. In addition, we’ve included a short section on collecting, preparing and storing jewel beetles, as well as an illustrated tutorial on how to dissect male genitalia. Fully labelled morphological maps and a glossary of terms that may be found in the primary literature are provided to help non-specialists use both this field guide, and also any other buprestid literature they may need to consult.

Each species in the guide is fully illustrated with high magnification colour photos of the dorsal & ventral habitus, head and male genitalia (plus additional colour morphs or variations where possible), and a review of taxonomic synonyms, ESC & ESA approved common names, and all known larval host plants is provided in addition to thorough morphological diagnoses, characters useful for differentiating similar species, and notes on species abundance, habitat preference and economic importance. On top of all this, we’ve also included a number of other tools and resources to help with species-level identification in the absence of keys. Take a look at the Emerald Ash Borer page to see what to expect throughout:

So how can you get your copy? The Field Guide to the Jewel Beetles of Northeastern North America is now available by calling 1-800-442-2342 UPDATE: Sorry, hard copies are all sold out. PDFs are available here. The CFIA is making this field guide completely FREE. Yes — totally, 100% FREE, including international shipping. This book won’t be available through traditional or online bookstores, so we need your help in spreading the word about it. If you know researchers/naturalists/citizen scientists who may find this field guide useful, please let them know how they can get copies of their own, because we’d love to see the book in the hands of anyone with an interest in natural history and entomology!

If you have any questions about the field guide, please don’t hesitate to ask, either in the comments below or via email, and my co-authors and I hope you enjoy using it as much as we enjoyed creating it!

Example page from Generic Identification Key for Jewel Beetles

Sample key to genera page. All characters used in the key are illustrated with either high magnification photographs or simple illustrations.

Trachys generic spread from Field Guide to Jewel Beetles

Trachys generic page from Field Guide to Jewel Beetles featuring original artwork by scientific illustrator/artist Glendon Mellow.

Buprestis striata species field guide page

Buprestis striata field guide page showing colour variations.

Sep 012012

September 1, 2012. Can anyone explain to me where the summer has gone? It feels like just yesterday that the snow was melting and I had grand plans of exploration, doable to-do lists to do, and plenty of time to enjoy the summer, but now BugShot is finished, a new crop of undergrads are moving into the University of Guelph residences, and the fall entomology conference circuit is quickly upon us!

Good thing I can bank on the Bug-o-sphere to keep the summer flowing throughout the year.

Continue reading »

Aug 092012

Fact: flies are the coolest insects.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at this newly described weevil, Timorus sarcophagoides Vanin & Guerra, from Brazil, which is doing everything it can to fool you into thinking it’s a flesh fly (family Sarcophagidae).

Timorus sarcophagoides habitus Weevil Vanin & Guerra Continue reading »

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. Continue reading »

Jul 212012

Exciting news since the last Weekly Flypaper: Piotr Naskrecki, orthopteroid taxonomist, photographer, and author (Relics and The Smaller Majority) has started a new blog — The Smaller Majority. So far Piotr has been killing this whole blogging business, with fascinating posts on tropical entomology and macrophotography tips. I’m pretty sure I bookmarked every post he made for future reference, but here are a few of my favourites:

Now onto the rest of the best from the last 2 weeks!

General Entomology

If you ever need a gift idea for the Dragonfly Woman, she’s got a nice wishlist of field guides that any nature nut would appreciate.

Speaking of gifts, we’re right in the midst of wedding season, and if you need nuptial gift ideas, why not take a page out of the insect world.

Erica McAlister, the Diptera curator at the Natural History Museum, London, takes you on a backstage tour of the NHM insect collection and shows off some spectacular specimens, including a grasshopper hugging a mouse. Seriously.

What’s the biggest bug? The North Carolina State University Insect Collection has a couple of options to answer that.

Entomology is a hobby all unto its own for some people, but it also happens to be a sub-hobby for some fly fisherman!

My wife and I had a date night this week and went to see The Amazing Spider-Man. I really enjoyed it, but was a little disappointed that Peter Parker didn’t snack on a fly or two at some point in the movie. Even if you’re not an arachnid-infused superhero, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t consider eating bugs as Doug Yanega explains to the University of California Food Blog. The Weird Bug Lady even has a tasty sounding recipe for entomological power bars to get you started!

Flies – Diptera

Apparently I missed the memo about Photo Bombing blogs, as Matt Bergeron, Dave Stone and Alex Wild all showed off gorgeous photos of bombyliid bee flies.

Brian Brown is having a pretty good month for publications, with his latest discussing phorid flies which are parasites of endangered ants.

Researchers have bred “super” smart fruit flies which can count. I for one, welcome our new Dipteran overlords.

Black flies take the majority of bad press for Northern pests, but don’t forget to watch out for moose flies while in Alaska.

Robber flies are popular with a lot of people, including devoted beetler Ted MacRae. And with their own special facial hair, the mystax, it’s no wonder.

The Geek demonstrates that sometimes when you’re photographing flies, you’re only able to snipe one photo before they take off.

Beetles – Coleoptera

Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis) has continued it’s inevitable march across eastern North America, this week being detected in Connecticut for the first time. What’s important about this is that Cerceris fumipennis, a solitary wasp which specializes on buprestid jewel beetles, was the first to detect it’s presence in the state. This is the sort of Bio-surveillance that Phil Careless and the rest of Team Cerceris had hoped for, and now hopefully more government agencies will invest in expanding this simple monitoring tool.

Cerceris fumipennis is also a useful tool for collecting other jewel beetles besides EAB as Ted MacRae recently found out.

Of course you don’t need to always rely on other species to find your jewel beetles for you, as the Geek reminds us to always look.

Some people can be picky eaters,  but the same holds true for dung beetles, with species preferring different types of brown sauce, and Bug Girl is on it.

Why might it matter what type of dung a beetle prefers? Because places like Australia and New Zealand don’t have any native dung beetles, making agricultural waste a significant problem. Becky Crew has a nice feature on the work being done to bring dung beetles to New Zealand.

Not all scarab beetles like to feed on dung though, like these Green June Beetles that Derek Hennen found in his yard.

With summer comes the opportunity to watch fireflies flashing in the night. Check out this nice flash guide to see if you can recognize any of the species in your backyard, and contribute to a citizen science program.

Ants, Bees & Wasps – Hymenoptera

This photo of a flying bumblebee by Adrian Thysse might be the best of it’s kind that I’ve ever seen.

The Gratton Lab at the University of Wisconsin – Madison is working on an automated bee identification project.

Urban beekeepers in Edmonton are pushing for changes to bylaws that keep their hives in hiding.

Meanwhile in Edmonton, Matthias Buck has discovered 2 new species of paper wasps right under our noses.

The School of Ants is holding a student essay contest with a nice cash prize.

Eric Eaton shows that solitary wasps can be used for monitoring other insects, like stink bugs (potentially including the mega-pest Brown Marmorated Stink Bug) or membracids.

Moths & Butterflies – Lepidoptera

National Moth Week is coming up this week, so expect most of the bug-blogosphere to get a little scaley!

The Dragonfly Woman started a little earlier by announcing an event she’s helping with at her new job.

Other Insect Orders

Troy Bartlett thinks ants mite do a better job of taking care of their herds of membracids.

Ever wondered why your car attracts some insects like dragonflies and horse flies? The Dragonfly Woman has a great explanation.

It looks like the Cleveland Museum of Natural History is becoming ground zero for mantid research in North America.

The Neuroptera are an amazing group of insects with incredible diversity. Jonathan Wojcik provides a nice overview of that diversity, and introduced me to an amazing group called the Spoonwings (family Nemopteridae). Brian Cutting showed off a member of another one of my favourite groups, the Mantis flies, while Derek Hennen found a spectacular antlion adult.

Spiders – Arachnida

“Oh look at that lovely lady beetle! It looks so cute and cuddly and OH MY GOD!!!”

Next time I go to Chicago, I’m definitely rewarding the Chicago Hilton with my business for being so awesome with their natural history and outreach!

I hate when I get a spider web across my face while out walking in the woods, but I think I might have to learn more about spiders and their webbing from a book Bug Girl recently reviewed, Spider Silk by Leslie Brunetta and Catherine L. Craig.

Now if all spiders lived among the canopy of trees like this Hentzia mitrata that Chris Buddle and colleagues are studying, then I wouldn’t have to worry about silk wrapping my face…

Speaking of Chris, he went, he saw, he videoed; Beringian pseudoscorpions in the Yukon that is!

Taxonomy & Systematics

A parasitic isopod was recently described and named after Bob Marley. Too bad the authors messed up and published the name a few months earlier in an ecological paper before formally describing it. Everybody repeat after me — in taxonomy, the order in which you publish or publicize MATTERS.

Of course, because this species was named after somebody famous, the media took off with it and the BBC published a top 10 list of what I’m now going to start calling “Celebronyms”. Have I mentioned how much I hate these top 10 species lists lately? Because I do. With a passion. Ugh.

Where should money be invested to solve the taxonomic impediment? Quentin Wheeler of Arizona State University thinks technology leads the way (i.e. the University of Arizona’s new funding to revitalize and digitize their collection), while Bob Mesibov of the Queen Victoria Museum (Tasmania) argues that more taxonomists need to be hired first. Me? I think technology will be useless if there’s no one around to develop, maintain and actually use it. I’ll also need a job in 3-5 years, so I might be a bit biased here.

The Willi Hennig Society Meeting was held at the end of June, and Itsy Bitsy attended. So did Salva at Computer Cladistics, who has a fantastic detailed review of the conference.

Kevin Peterson is literally uprooting the mammal phylogeny with a new technique he’s developed. My question is what makes this new technique more accurate to the true evolutionary history of the mammals? Micro-RNA is also being used to study Diptera evolution, but I can’t understand why it’s considered more “accurate”. It’s a wonder I get any sleep at all with these types of questions rolling around in my head…

Does the way that we traditionally draw and think of phylogenies (i.e. a “tree” of life) block us from considering new ideas on relationships?


My post on Citations, Social Media & Science gathered some attention last week, including that of the researcher who’s improperly cited blog started the whole discussion. The author of the paper also stopped by and explained they tried to include the citation, but the publisher wouldn’t allow a blog to be cited like a journal. I’m not really sure why a publisher has so much control over the content of a journal rather than the editorial staff of said journal, but I find it troubling.

This is pretty handy for people just starting out in academia/grad school – Field Guide to Scientific Conferences: An Ecological Review.

Also handy, this complete walkthrough by Steve Hamblin on laying out and developing a poster for a conference. Many, many good tips here for balancing form and function. It’s also a pretty interesting view inside the head of a Post-Doc…

It’s good to remember that it matters how you write in academia, not just what you write.

Science Communication & Social Media

Bora Zivkovic (aka the Blogfather) drops a massive backgrounder on the history and rise of science blogging.

I’ve seen a bunch of people start blogs only to watch them peter out after a few weeks/months. As a blogger who has a relatively small (yet loyal) readership, I can sympathize with this post on Why Blogs Fail.

Here’s 10 Apps That Put Science In Your Pocket.

Dr. Olin Sander compares Twitter popularity during the recent Evolution meeting in Ottawa to a sage grouse lek. Awesome.


Ted MacRae demonstrates why the placement of your lighting sources and choice of background can have a dramatic effect on a photo’s feel.

Alex Wild has a nice flowchart of his digital darkroom workflow.

Adrian Thysse has a lovely interview with renowned nature photographer Heather Angel.

Other Fun Stuff

David Winter does a great job of explaining why red heads are here to stay. Looks like my wife won’t be getting rid of me that easily!

This fish grows ant-shaped appendages to get laid. I feel like there’s an inappropriate joke in here somewhere…

Who needs cable TV when you can get all kinds of drama & comedy from social media?

Aquaman makes a terrible marine mammal. He also makes a terrible superhero.

What would happen if a pitcher threw a baseball at 90% of the speed of light? I suspect he’d be investigated for Perfomance Enhancing Drug use and never make it into the Hall of Fame.

Video of the Week

Carl Zimmer was a plenary speaker at the annual meeting of the Society for the Presevation of Natural History Collections a few weeks ago, and they just posted his talk on YouTube. It’s long (more than an hour), but it’s an interesting talk and well delivered.

Further Reading

Bora Zivkovic – The Science Blogging Weekly, July 13th 2012 – (I made the Top 10 posts list! W00T!)

Ed Yong – Missing Links, July 14, 2012

Ed Yong – Missing Links, July 21, 2012

Jul 072012

Evolutionary biologists from around the world have converged on Ottawa this weekend to partake in the First Joint Congress on Evolutionary Biology. Luckily for those of us who couldn’t make it, there are a ton of people tweeting about talks, the conference and evolution in general. I’ve been watching the #evol2012 hashtag all morning while writing this, and although I’m even more jealous of those that are attending the conference in person, I’m glad I can enjoy a slice of the conference through the tweets of others!

General Entomology

There was plenty of talk about national insects this week. I brought up Canada’s distinct lack of a national insect over at ESC Blog, while Brian Cutting noted how lame many of the state insects are in the US. Meanwhile, across the pond, Africa Gomez found some insects who had come out to celebrate the UK’s National Insect Week.

Charley Eiseman has a fun party trick: watch a walking stick emerge from it’s egg and then get guests to try and figure out how the hell it fit in there to begin with!

While teaching this winter, my students were equal parts horrified and fascinated when we talked about entomopathogenic nematodes. I can’t wait for them to read Ed Yong’s story about the glowing green bacteria who lend a deadly hand.

Dragonfly Woman continues to find cool stuff at her new job, including a magnificent phantom midge larva!

Unlike Gatorade, which fails to contain any actual alligator, Chapul energy bars will contain plenty of ground up crickets to help keep you jumping!

The Amazing Spider-man was released this week and looks great, but I kind of wish Peter Parker had been bitten by any of these other superpower-inducing arthropods.


An amazing new fly was described this week by Brian Brown, and now ranks as the smaller species of fly we know of at only 0.4mm long! Brian has an excellent write up of his discovery over at flyobsession, and he also posted a bonus illustration of the fly which wasn’t in the paper.

The Geek in Question was asked what a strange looking aquatic arthropod was.

Dave Stone got up close and personal with a Diogmites robber fly.

In what was easily the most galling post of the week, Charley Eiseman explores the hickory homes of flies.

The Home Bug Gardener starts with a pretty picture of a flower fly, but soon begins an etymological exploration into the meaning behind Syritta pipiens.

Everytime Africa Gomez posts a photo of beautiful fly like this Scaeva pyrastri, it makes me more determined to get to the UK and see some of these things for myself!

And just to further established which order is truly the best:

Boo yah!


Fresh off the pixels, Siricidae of the Western Hemisphere was just published in Issue 21 of the Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification. Including a number of new nomenclatural changes, new species descriptions and beautifully illustrated keys to all of the horntail wasps found in the New World, I highly recommend you check this one out as a sterling example of where taxonomic monographs are heading in the digital age.

If an ant could sneeze, I imagine it would look a little like this.

Arachnophobic statistics professor Dan Gillis discovers he’s sharing his home with mud daubers (Sphecidae) and finds himself in conflict about whether to remove his new neighbours.

Adrian Thysse has a great photo of an aphid-killer that doesn’t get much recognition.

Pretending to be a part of the pack, Takashi Komatsu exposes other interesting imposters amoung army ant raids.

Proof that even honey bees suffer from petty sibling rivaly.


I’m excited to see so much entomological love at Scientific American Blogs now that Becky Crew has joined the team. Her piece on colour changing tortoise beetles is an absolute must read!

It’s that time of year again when fireflies start making yards and urban parks a veritable orgy of light displays!

A wonderful short story by Derek Niemann about a beetle attempting to climb a blade of grass.

Ted MacRae is running an ID Challenge this week with a twist!

Other Arthropod Orders

Bug Girl is in top form as she asks whether stick insects can really mate for 1400 hours.

Will the Sea Grape Flatid become a pest in the US one day? Ted MacRae worries it might, and he has some nice photos to help people keep an eye out for it.

What do dog-day cicadas and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have in common? Ask Brian Cutting.

Atlantic Canada had 3 endemic butterflies to call their own, until a keen butterfly collector in Maine went and found one of them just within state lines. Nice post by U of Guelph Diptera alum John Klymko in his new role as director of the Maritime Butterfly Atlas.

Chris Buddle is off to the Yukon in search of a neat Beringian pseudoscorpion.


Kai Burington shares his thoughts on the “Do species names need to change?” thread from last week.

On Thursday, University of Wisconsin PhD candidate (and science communication proponentJacquelyn Gill defended her thesis and streamed the entire process live over the internet! She did a great job, and I really enjoyed seeing how her live-stream worked, as it’s something that I am hoping to do at the conclusion of my PhD1.

Rosie Redfield (of #ArsenicLife renown) shares some very helpful tips for coming out of your shell and connecting with other people at scientific conferences. I’m pretty bad at this sort of thing, but I’m looking forward to trying some of her tips out this fall!

Science Communication

Christie Wilcox has launched a new wiki to help scientists interested in using social media for science communication find the tool that works best for them.

Although not a scientist, Moose Peterson is a highly published wildlife & conservation photographer who regularly blogs about his work. This letter from one of his reader’s is a perfect example of the power that a blog can have in affecting people’s lives.

If you’re a grad student, you’re probably well aware of PhD Comics and their eerily accurate portrayal of grad student life. A new contest from PhD comics wants to turn YOUR THESIS into an animated comic!

Other Fun Stuff

How useful are those middle-school career aptitude tests? Marine biologist David Shiffman found his old report and puts it’s utility and advice to the test.

Apparently biodiversity ads don’t make enough to warrant inclusion by Google Ads as Chris Clarke found out.

Cuttlefish are much too clever for their own good.

This portrait of a spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) by TGIQ is absolutely stunning.

Your thesis can be a comic, but why not submit your own identity to Jason Hogle for the chance to become a character in his upcoming novel series!

In one of the most creative and touching pieces of feature journalism I’ve ever read, the Toronto Star turns up at a woman’s funeral and writes a beautiful biography of her life by interviewing her friends & family.

I leave you today with an interview that John Klymko gave to The Weather Network about record butterfly numbers in the Canadian Maritimes.


Further Reading

Ed Yong – Missing Links – July 7, 2012

Bora Zivkovic – Scienceblogging Weekly – July 6, 2012


1- Not sure whether I’ve explicitly mentioned this here on the blog, but I’m starting my PhD at the University of Guelph in September! Lots of work to finish up before then, but I’m really excited to become a student again. :)