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.

May 132014

A public service announcement:

Not all "Bugs" are created equal.

Not all “Bugs” are created equal. (Both images in the public domain, via Wikipedia)

The colloquial use of “bugs” to refer to bacterial microbes by a bioremediation specialist in Bozeman, Montana lead to a spectacular Taxonomy Fail on the local nightly news.

Watch the video from KBZK News here.

In case they remove the video (which I actually hope they do), here’s a screen cap demonstrating the problem.

So. Much. Fail.

So. Much. Fail.

I think it’s safe to assume that Bed Bugs (Eukaryota: Animalia: Arthropoda: Hemiptera: Cimicidae) are not being pumped into the groundwater of Bozeman to clean up dry cleaning chemical contamination, but rather Bacteria (which belong to an entirely different Domain of life). While certainly an extreme example, this is why it’s important to use the correct names for organisms, and what happens when we off-handedly use common names or terminology that we think is colloquial: vitally important details can be lost in translation.

In case you’re wondering, mistaking Bed Bugs for Bacteria represents a Taxonomy Fail Index of 403, a new world record! Yowza.


This story was brought to my attention by Dr. Michael Ivie of Montana State University on the Entomological Collections Network email listserv.

Mar 202014

Taxonomist Appreciation Day has just come to a close where I am, and it was a lot of fun to see so many people express their thanks for the work that taxonomists do. I highly recommend browsing through the hashtag #LoveYourTaxonomist on Twitter, and seeing what people had to say.

I thought it might be interesting to take a look at what taxonomists were up to on this holiest of days. Personally, I reviewed a really great manuscript about an exciting new species of fly that I can’t wait to talk about more when it’s published, but here’s a quick run down of the new animal species* that were officially unveiled to the world on March 19, 2014.



We’ll start small with a new species of yeast, Scheffersomyces henanensis, described from China today.

Ren Y, Chen L, Niu Q, Hui F (2014) Description of Scheffersomyces henanensis sp. nov., a New D-Xylose-Fermenting Yeast Species Isolated from Rotten Wood. PLoS ONE 9(3): e92315. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092315


This charming creature is Pentacletopsyllus montagni, a benthic copepod that was found deep in the Gulf of Mexico.

Bang HW, Baguley JG, Moon H (2014) A new genus of Cletopsyllidae (Copepoda, Harpacticoida) from Gulf
of Mexico. ZooKeys 391: 37–53. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.391.6903



Allow me to introduce you to Anacroneuria meloi, a Brazilian stonefly named for the person who collected it (Dr. Adriano Sanches Melo). This was one of two new species described in this paper.

Bispo, Costa & Novaes. 2014. Two new species and a new record of Anacroneuria (Plecoptera: Perlidae) from Central Brazil. Zootaxa 3779(5): 591-596. doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.3779.5.9



This odd looking creature, Hydrometra cherukolensis, is actually a true bug! The eyes are the bulges in the left third, and like all hemipterans, they have sucking mouthparts tucked under the head (not visible in this photo). The authors of this study described another species of these strange looking bugs as well.

Jehamalar & Chandra. 2014. On the genus Hydrometra Latreille (Hemiptera: Heteroptera: Hydrometridae) from India with description of two new species. Zootaxa 3977(5): 501-517. doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.3779.5.1



This little leafhopper, Nirvanguina pectena, is only 1/2 centimetre long!

Lu, Zhang & Webb. 2014. Nirvanguina Zhang & Webb (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae: Deltocephalinae), a new record for China, with description of a new species. Zootaxa 3977(5): 597-600. doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.3779.5.10



Not only was Luchoelmis kapenkemkensis described, but so was it’s (probable) larva, an unusual occurrence for insects.

Archangelsky & Brand. 2014. A new species of Luchoelmis Spangler & Staines (Coleoptera: Elmidae) from Argentina and its probable larva. Zootaxa 3977(5): 563-572. doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.3779.5.6



While not a new species, Susuacanga blancaneaui was transferred into the genus Susuacanga from the genus Eburia today. Taxonomists don’t just find new species, they also reorganize genera and species as they gain a better understanding of variations within and relationships between taxa.

Botero R, JP. 2014. Review of the genus Susuacanga (Coleoptera, Cerambycidae, Cerambycinae). Zootaxa 3977(5): 518-528. doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.3779.5.2



The authors of this study not only described a new species of wasp, Ropalidia parartifex, but they also produced a wonderfully illustrated identification key to help others recognize these wasps, as well as recording 6 species previously unknown to occur in China.

Tan J-L, van Achterberg K, Chen X-X (2014) Pictorial key to species of the genus Ropalidia Guérin-Méneville,
1831 (Hymenoptera, Vespidae) from China, with description of one new species. ZooKeys 391: 1–35. doi: 10.3897/



Not only do taxonomists have to be able to recognize new species, they often also need to be able to illustrate how they’re different from one another. Here, the authors drew the final abdominal segments of a male Platypalpus abagoensis to demonstrate how it differs compared to the other 5 new species they were describing; the true intersection of art and science!

Kustov, S., Shamshev, I. & Grootaert, P. 2014. Six new species of the Platypalpus pallidiventris-cursitans group (Diptera: Hybotidae) from the Caucasus. Zootaxa 3977(5): 529-539. doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.3779.5.3



Perhaps the most striking new species described today, Callicera scintilla‘s species epithet literally means glimmering or shining in Latin. Another species was also described in this study, but alas, it isn’t a shiny copper.

Smit, J. 2014. Two new species of the genus Callicera Panzer (Diptera: Syrphidae) from the Palaearctic Region. Zootaxa 3977(5): 585-590. doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.3779.5.8



Of course, not all insects described today are still around to learn their names. This fossil walking stick, Cretophasmomima melanogramma, has been waiting to be discovered for roughly 126 million years!

Wang M, Be´thoux O, Bradler S, Jacques FMB, Cui Y, et al. (2014) Under Cover at Pre-Angiosperm Times: A Cloaked Phasmatodean Insect from the Early Cretaceous Jehol Biota. PLoS ONE 9(3): e91290. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0091290



Continuing with fossils, Rukwanyoka holmani represents not only a new species of snake, but also a new genus, and is only known from a handful of vertebra.

McCartney JA, Stevens NJ, O’Connor PM (2014) The Earliest Colubroid-Dominated Snake Fauna from Africa: Perspectives from the Late Oligocene Nsungwe Formation of Southwestern Tanzania. PLoS ONE 9(3): e90415. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0090415



What would a story about new species be without a dinosaur? Making headlines as the “Chicken from Hell“, Anzu wyliei was an omnivorous bird-like dinosaur believed to have had feathered arms, which inspired the generic name: Anzu, a Mesopotamian feathered demon. The species epithet, wyliei, however, is in honour of Wylie J. Tuttle, the grandson of Carnegie Museum patrons! There’s no data provided whether young Wylie has the temperament or feathers of a Chicken from Hell, however.

Lamanna MC, Sues H-D, Schachner ER, Lyson TR (2014) A New Large-Bodied Oviraptorosaurian Theropod Dinosaur from the Latest Cretaceous of Western North America. PLoS ONE 9(3): e92022. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0092022



Finally, meet Phyllodistomum hoggettae, one of two parasitic trematode worms described today. This species is also named in someone’s honour, specifically Dr. Anne Hoggett, co-director of the Lizard Island Research Station, a research station within the Great Barrier Reef in Australia where the researchers conducted their work. Whie it may not be a dinosaur, it’s still an honour to have a species named after you, even if that species is a parasitic worm that lives in the urinary bladder of a grouper…

Ho, H.W., Bray, R.A., Cutmore, S.C., Ward, S. & Cribb, T.H. 2014. Two new species of Phyllodistomum Braun, 1899 (Trematoda: Gorgoderidae Looss, 1899) from Great Barrier Reef fishes. Zootaxa 3779(5): 551-562. doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.3779.5.5


If you’re keeping track at home, that’s a total of 22 new animal species described in one day, which is actually below the daily average (~44 new species/day)! This isn’t including all the other things taxonomists work on, like identification keys, geographic records, phylogenetics, biogeography and the various other taxonomic housekeeping that needs to be constantly undertaken to ensure the classification of Earth’s biodiversity remains useful and up to date!

So the next time you look at an organism and are able to call it by name, take a moment to think about the taxonomist who worked out what that species is, gave it a name, and provided a means for you to correctly identify it, and perhaps check to see what new creatures are being identified each and every day!


*- That I could find. I imagine there are more that were published in smaller circulation or specialized journals that I’m not aware of as well.

May 072013

The east coast is about to get a little more crowded, and whole lot louder, as Brood II of the 17-year cicada (which is actually a synchronized cohort of three different species: Magicicada septendecim, Magicicada cassini, Magicicada septendecula) prepares to make its first appearance since 1996.

Conceived, laid and hatched while the Macarena was sweeping the globe, Brood II has since been biding it’s time underground in nymphal form, feeding off sap stolen from the roots of trees and counting down the years until it was time to make their grand appearance. But how DO they count down the years? 17 years is an incredibly long time, especially when you live more than a foot underground, insulated from traditional stimuli like photoperiod and temperature.

Richard Karban, who wrote that he’s dreamed of tricking periodical cicadas into emerging early for most of his adult life, had an idea, and designed an elegant experiment to see if he could confuse his cicadas by accelerating the life cycle of the trees they were dependent on.

Rather than making a poor graduate student sit and wait 17 years for a cicada to emerge, Karban dug up and transplanted 15-year old Brood V nymphs from Pennsylvania onto potted peach trees in his University of California, Davis lab, a difficult procedure that involves potatoes and a cross-country road trip with some unusual company, and which had failed the 3 previous times it was attempted. This time however, Karban successfully managed to transplant 13 nymphs, with 11 surviving on his accelerated-cycle trees which underwent 2 flowering cycles per year (bud-> leaf-> flower-> leaf drop-> dormancy-> bud-> leaf-> flower-> fruit-> leaf drop), and 2 surviving on his control trees which only underwent a single cycle per year (bud-> leaf-> flower-> fruit-> leaf drop-> dormancy).

Back in the wilds of Pennsylvania and on the control trees, Brood V adults were expected to emerge in the spring of 1999, which is exactly what they did. However, the ones who were feeding on the accelerated-cycle trees got the party started a full year early, with 8 of the 11 individuals emerging right when Karban hypothesized they would: spring 1998!


Karban realized his dream, having successfully fooled a few periodical cicadas into emerging early, and in the process showed that cicadas are able to count the seasonal cycles (or phenology) of their host trees to keep track of time rather than relying on other direct stimuli. The exact mechanism by which cicadas keep track of how many cycles have passed is still not well understood, although it’s probably safe to assume that the cyclic availability of tree sap & nutrients influences the development of the nymphs in some way. The fact that there are still such large pieces of the phenomenon still waiting to be understood is just as exciting as the prospect of millions of brightly coloured bugs emerging en masse to serenade you this summer.

So, if you happen to find yourself on the East Coast in the coming weeks, stop and take the opportunity to listen to a symphony 17 years in the making. And if you notice a subtle-but-catchy Latin beat to the buzz of periodical cicadas, just be glad it’ll only last a couple of weeks; those poor cicadas have been humming the Macarena to themselves for the past 17 years!

Photograph by C. Simon. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000892.g003. Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

Photograph by C. Simon. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000892.g003. Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

Karban R., Black C.A. & Weinbaum S.A. (2000). How 17-year cicadas keep track of time, Ecology Letters, 3 (4) 253-256. DOI:

Aug 292012
Ambush bug Phymatidae Phymatinae Florida Archbold Biological Station

Ambush bug – Phymata americana – Archbold Biological Station, Florida

While I’ve been using my camera in Manual mode and manually focusing my photos for years, I’ve stuck to using TTL flash, with fairly inconsistent results. One of the points Alex made during his BugShot lighting session was to try using manual flash to gain consistent control over the light output. I decided that would be one of the areas of my photography I’d concentrate on improving next, taming light to act how and where I wanted it to, and this was one of the shots that made me start thinking I was getting a hang of it.

Because there was such diversity of light and dark areas, from the shadowy region between leaves to the light regions on the ambush bug’s arms,  being in manual flash mode meant I didn’t have to worry which area my flash was going to expose for, and as a result, I got consistent lighting as I adjusted compositions and focus planes between shots. Luckily this ambush bug was patient and posed nicely while I got things figured out!

Also, apparently ambush bugs aren’t their own family anymore, but rather a subfamily (Phymatinae) of the assassin bugs (Reduviidae)! Who knew? Damn phylogeneticists not thinking to send me a memo when they shake things up like that…

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

Jun 262012

You may have noticed the Weekly Flypaper has been missing the past two weekends. I have a good reason for missing one, and a not so good reason for missing the other…

First, the good reason. I took part in the Rouge Park BioBlitz in Toronto, and along with 230+ other naturalists, taxonomists and volunteers, we scoured Rouge Park (soon to be Canada’s first urban National Park) for all signs of life, trying to identify as much as possible in 24 hours. Although the numbers are still coming in, the official species count is already nearing 1,300 species, all sighted or caught in 24 hours (and more than 800 of those were identified within the first 24 hours too)! That is an absolutely amazing number, and sets the bar very high for future BioBlitzes! The Guelph crew had a great time, and I think we contributed almost 100 insect species identifications, including 60+ flies. Lots more came home with us, and we’ll be getting names on them in the near future to be added to the list. The arthropod coordinator, Antonia Guidotti of the Royal Ontario Museum has posted an awesome synopsis of the BioBlitz over at the ROM Blog.

The other reason? I was lazy last weekend and didn’t get around to doing it. Oops.

So with 3 weeks worth of links, and major holidays upcoming in Canada & the USA, I suggest you grab a cold drink, find a comfy spot, and clear your schedule, because the Bugosphere has been busy!  Continue reading »

May 122012

I come across a large number of interesting blog posts, news articles, scientific papers and various other types of media every week, which I try and share through Twitter on a regular basis. Since I know not everyone has been bitten by the Twitter bug yet1, I figured I’d start a weekly round up of links to some of the stories I find interesting, important or just plain entertaining.

True to form, most of these links will be insect related, but I have broad interests, so some other topics are sure to turn up from time to time2. The internet is full of talented people, and I hope you enjoy their work as much as I have.


The Flies (Diptera)

The 8th International Congress of Dipterology is coming up in a few years, so be sure to start saving your pennies for the trip to Potsdam, Germany!

I prefer studying flies (dead or alive), but if that’s not your thing, check out these creative photos of dead house flies and blow flies having the times of their (already finished) lives. Here’s the full collection by photographer Nicholas Hendrickx.

The BugBlog has a nice series of photos of Helophilus pendulus, commonly called the Footballer Hoverfly in the UK. Why call it that, you might ask? Apparently the striped patterns on the thorax reminded someone of a soccer jersey.

The Dragonfly Lady shows off a nice hilltopping site in Arizona. Plenty of fly talk in the comments.

The Beetles (Coleoptera)

The Edmonton Journal has a great biography of Dr. George Ball, a beetle taxonomist at the University of Alberta who has impacted the careers of dozens of top entomologists across North America.

This short film is both beautiful and bizarre all at once. A stop-motion portrayal of the life of a beetle taxonomist who makes the discovery of a lifetime.

Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis) has now been found in most major urban centres across Ontario, and has recently turned up in Quebec. Chris Buddle discusses the affect that EAB will have on Montreal.

While not EAB, Chrysobothris vivida looks quite similar on first glance. The Field Museum shows off the holotype and label data, helping to explain the role that natural history collections play in day to day science.

Speaking of natural history collections, a volunteer at the Natural History Museum in London, England shares why she loves helping out with the beetle collection in her spare time.

Check out this awesome longhorn beetle (Cerambycidae) Ted McRae of Beetles in the Bush came across while working in Argentina recently. While you’re there, share your ideas on the purpose of the strange tufts of hair!

The Ants, Bees, and Wasps (Hymenoptera)

The School of Ants is gearing up for another summer of discovery by sampling the ants around our houses and picnic areas.

Ants are to ________ as clown fish are to anemones. Think you know the answer? Better check Not Exactly Rocket Science (NERS) by Ed Yong for an excellent tale of commensalism.

It may not be 1984, but Big Brother is watching what Orchid Bees are up to (but don’t worry, it’s for a good reason).

Scientific American ran an interesting story about native bee populations in eastern North America, and included an excellent slideshow of some beautiful bees with it.

Some of photos in that slideshow came out of the Packer Bee Lab at York University, as did a newly published review and key to the Dufourea bees (Halictidae) of Canada in the Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification.

Other Arthropods

Marine water striders (Gerridae) are making the news this week with the release of a new study finding that a massive raft of plastic pollution in the Pacific is harboring a growing population of these bugs. Ed Yong is excellent again on his NERS blog, and the paper is Open Access if you’d like to take a look yourself.

These plastic-loving water striders aren’t the only insects that have taken to the open ocean, and the North Carolina State University Insect Collection has a few more examples to share.

Caterpillars come in a wide variety of colours, shapes and forms, but these translucent, jelly Jewel Caterpillars are some of the most beautiful!

I saw Avengers this week, and it was really, really good. Prior to the movie, there was a trailer for the upcoming Spiderman reboot, promising plenty of web-slinging action. Before the movie comes out this summer, meet the backyard spider that may have served as inspiration for Peter Parker’s gadgets.

Taxonomy, Biodiversity, Academia, Science Communication/Photography

Although written by a marine ecologist and discussing a paper about plant taxonomists, this post on the Sea Monster Blog is one of the most best stories about the role of taxonomy and the decrease in taxonomists being hired and funded. A must read for anyone who depends on biology in their day-to-day lives (that means you).

The NCSU group shares an entertaining story and asks you to decide whether it’s fact or fiction. What do you think?

The Tepuis of Brazil are way up on the list of places I want to explore and collect one day. This excellent New York Times article by Carl Zimmer makes me want to go even more.

A new project was launched this week which hopes to provide interactive range maps for all the worlds flora & fauna! Nature has a nice feature explaining some of the goals and obstacles the project faces in the early phases. Right now they only have terrestrial vertebrates and North American freshwater fish mapped, but the interface is excellent and has a lot of potential! Now to get some insects into the project…

Most research papers only discuss results and experiments that worked. The Canadian Field Naturalists Blog discusses the importance of publishing projects which didn’t work as expected.

Just because it’s summer vacation for undergraduate university students, doesn’t mean their professors get a break too. Chris Buddle outlines some of his labs plans for the summer.

To get a job in academia, your peers (and more importantly, your hiring committees) need to know you and your work. But is all self-promotion viewed equally? Excellent discussion on the evolving role of social media and blogging to the world of academia by Scicurious.

Photography & Other Fun Stuff

Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to be a press photographer tasked with covering President Obama? This account by a Reuters photographer shows just how stressful the assignment can be.

I don’t know who started it, but the #InsectSongs suggested by Twitter users this week was an afternoon of hilarity. Check out some of my favourites, and then see which ones Bug Girl selected.

Finally, enjoy this fun stop-motion video detailing the everyday lives of insects.


1- If you need more convincing why you should sign up for Twitter, here’s another excellent piece on the benefits of Twitter for academics

2- Ed Yong, and Bora Zivkovic do extensive weekly link round-ups covering a very broad spectrum of science writing if you need something else to read this weekend!

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)

Jul 012011

T.G.I.Formicidae is a new occasional feature here on the blog, and this inaugural edition features some collusion between Alex Wild, Ted MacRae and myself. Alex normally features beetles on Fridays, and Ted and I thought it might be fun to continue the trend, with Ted blogging flies today while I cover ants to complete the triad of major insect groups! Make sure to check out their blogs to see what fantastic Friday finds they have to share!

In a last minute rush to produce some ant photos to compliment the fine photographs of Ted’s and Alex’s, I ran back to the Dairy Bush on the University of Guelph campus with hopes of finding some interesting ants to shoot. Luckily for me, I happened across what I believe are Camponotus Formica ants tending to masses of aphids. Ant mutualism with aphids was one of the first insect interactions I can remember learning about in my intro entomology courses, and I can’t resist watching and photographing these tiny ranchers whenever I come across them!

Camponotus ant tending aphids on a plant


Two Camponotus ants tending an aphid herd


Camponotus ant seemingly dancing with the aphids it is tending