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.

Feb 132014

Skeleton just might be the most insane sport in the Winter Olympics: athletes run as fast as they can, lay down head-first on what is essentially a lunch tray with blades affixed to the bottom, and then go barreling down an icy tube at speeds of up to 140 km/h, experiencing up to 5x the force of gravity on tight turns, all with their faces mere inches from the the surface of the track. I can only assume there was alcohol involved the first time somebody thought to try this, but it has since become one of the most exhilarating sports to watch in the Winter Olympics.


Shelley Rudman of Great Britain prepares for the Skeleton competition in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Nick Potts/PA.

Our insect competitors may not be going at the break-neck pace of human Skeletoners, but I think we can agree the end result is just as exhilarating. Hailing from the Amazon and proudly representing Team Arthropoda, meet Euglossa orchid bees and their very own death-defying Skeleton courses, Coryanthes bucket orchids.

Incredible, is it not? It’s fitting that the Insect Skeleton event starts today considering yesterday was Darwin Day, the 205th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. Darwin was particularly enamoured by orchids and their convoluted reproduction strategies, and wrote an entire book on the subject in 1895, specifically marveling at the intricacy of Coryanthes pollination biology.

Darwin C. (1895). The various contrivances by which orchids are fertilized by insects, D. Appleton and Co. New York, New York., DOI:

Special thanks to @Bex_Cartwright for helping me figure out the Coryanthes/Euglossa combination.

Feb 112014

While many in North America may recognize the Ski Jump from the brief clip fully encapsulating the agony of defeat in ABC’s Wide World of Sports intro, this event is quite popular in northern Europe. Supposedly originating in Norway when an army officer was showing off for his troops in the late 1800s, the men’s ski jump has been included in every Winter Olympics to date, while 2014 marks the first time women have been allowed to fling themselves off a mountain and sore for Olympic gold!

Kamil Stoch of Poland sores above the Olympic rings in Sochi, Russia on his way to a gold medal. Photo copyright Lars Baron/Getty Images.

Little known fact: the bar that ski jumpers sit on at the top of the hill before launching themselves down the slope used to be a raw log imported from the jungles of Central America to help encourage international inclusion*, and with it would often come gliding ants (conveniently for this story Cephalotes atratus), who would show off their own ability to fly!

Cephalotes atratus gracefully floats back to earth while attempting a world record in the Formicid Tree Jump! Photo copyright Alex Wild.

So how do ants measure up to our advanced aerodynamics, years of practice and training, and our pursuit for the thrill of victory? Surprisingly well, all things considered. With absolutely perfect form achieved with models in a wind tunnel, humans can attain a maximum horizontal glide of between 1.13m and 1.34m for every metre they drop, depending on the in-flight technique employed by the athlete. That means that when the women ski jumpers take off later today, they’ll be aiming for flights of nearly 100 metres, finishing with safe and graceful landings down the mountain, while only** falling about 80 metres!

By comparison, Cephalotes gliding ants have been found to majestically sore about 0.18m for every metre dropped. While they certainly won’t be challenging our athletes, it is more than sufficient to allow the ants to glide a few feet towards their tree trunk should they fall from their arboreal nests, avoiding a very long hike from the ground!

I guess it all comes back to form vs. function, and in this contest, I think we can clearly consider Team Arthropoda the winner.

Yanoviak S.P., Munk Y., Kaspari M. & Dudley R. (2010). Aerial manoeuvrability in wingless gliding ants (Cephalotes atratus), Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 277 (1691) 2199-2204. DOI:

Ito S., Seo K. & Asai T. (2008). An Experimental Study on Ski Jumping Styles (P140), The Engineering of Sport, 7 9-17. DOI:


*Not really.

**I’m not sure I should be able to say “only” and “falling 80 metres” in the same sentence.

Dec 172012

Sheldon & Leonard from Big Bang Theory

Sheldon: Which bees are the best kissers? 

Leonard: What? I don’t know…

Sheldon: Euglossa1. Bazinga.

Not only is that a pretty bad joke (even by sitcom standards), but it’s also the scientific name of a newly described orchid bee. Let me introduce you to Euglossa bazinga Nemésio & Ferrari:

Euglossa bazinga Nemésio & Ferrari 2012 Orchid bee

Euglossa bazinga Nemésio & Ferrari 2012

Found in the Brazilian Cerrado and other dry, open savannahs, this species was differentiated from the similar Euglossa ignita. According to the authors, Euglossa bazinga is the smallest species in the subgenus Euglossa (Glossura), but it possesses the longest tongue relative to it’s body size. Many taxonomists would perhaps see this as a good character to derive a name from (gigaglossa springs to mind, or perhaps microsomamegaglossa2 for the verbose), so how did Nemésio & Ferrari settle on Euglossa bazinga?

Etymology: The specific epithet honors the clever, funny, captivating “nerd” character Sheldon Cooper, brilliantly portrayed by the North American actor James Joseph “Jim” Parsons on the CBS TV show “The Big Bang Theory”. Sheldon Cooper’s favorite comic word “bazinga”, used by him when tricking somebody, was here chosen to represent the character. Euglossa bazinga sp. n. has tricked us for some time due to its similarity to E. ignita, which eventually led us to use “bazinga”. Sheldon Cooper has also an asteroid named after him (246247 Sheldoncooper).

–  Nemésio & Ferrari, 2012

I think this may be a first for a Celebronym, with the species named after a catchphrase rather than the actual character or celebrity! What’s next, a beetle with enlarged fore tarsi named “ayyyyy” after The Fonz? As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t mind these Celebronyms personally, especially when they serve to draw attention to a very special habitat such as the Brazilian Cerrado.

No matter what your stance on Celebronyms, the joke may be on the authors of this new species; Sheldon Cooper is allergic to bees! Bazinga.

NEMÉSIO A. & FERRARI R.R. (2012). Euglossa (Glossura) bazinga sp. n. (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Apinae, Apini, Euglossina), a new orchid bee from western Brazil, and designation of a lectotype for Euglossa (Glossura) ignita Smith, 1874, Zootaxa, 3590  63-72. Other:

  1. Euglossa  – Greek – “eu” = good, well; “glossa” = tongue; Euglossa = “well-tongued”, in reference to their very long mouthparts.
  2. “little body, big tongue”
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. :)

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 »

Jun 112012

After some not-so-gentle encouragement (ahem, Geek), I finally updated my blog list with all of the new and different blogs to which I subscribe. I can’t link to all of the great content that’s produced by the online entomological community, but I highly recommend giving each of those blogs a look to see what they’re up to!

General Entomology

If you’ve ever wished you could have seen a dragonfly with a 6′ wingspan, Ed Yong explains why birds are partly to blame. Jerky birds ruin everything.

Undoubtedly coming to a Bond movie in the near future, a new insect-inspired device can skate between oil & water.

Pretty soon we’ll be able to know whether Encino Man was science fiction or science possible, because researchers are working on making Drosophila melanogaster freeze-tolerant. Nice guest piece at the Journal of Experimental Biology by UWO’s Katie Marshall, who will be making her debut on ESC Blog later this week!

Adrian Thysse at Splendor Awaits has a super-crop challenge this week and is in knee-d of some participants. See what I did there? Yep, I’m that guy.


Larval mosquitoes may be aquatic, but that doesn’t explain why adults aren’t obliterated and drowned after the lightest of spring showers. Turns out the actual explanation is pretty awesome.

When Dave Stone named his blog All Things Biological, he meant it. Exhibit A: signal fly sex.

The Geek found a fly close to my heart, a soldier fly!

Brigette at Caterpillar Blog is big into fitness & Crossfit, and has created a new racing event: Chrysops Cross-Country!


Well, it seems Alex Wild’s trip to Brazil was successful. In this instance, success will be measured in the level of OMG SQUEEE induced by the encyrtid wasp he found.

The USDA has begun releasing a parasitic wasp around Maryland to try and stem the spread of Emerald Ash Borer.

Brian Fisher and the AntWeb are on a world tour to photograph all the type specimens (the exact specimen that a scientific name is attached) for all ant species described and given a name. Despite the headline, which is garnering a lot of media attention, the team isn’t taking 3D photos of ants, just high-detail focus-stacked images, a technique that has been used by macro photographers for years and years. Maybe one day 3D rendered insect photos will be possible (which would be amazing), but unfortunately that day is not today.

Other Arthropod Orders

Last week featured a bunch of glowing arthropods, and now Derek Hennen has discovered millipede eggs glow too!

Apparently there was a cute bug competition this week, and Brian Cushing threw down with some nymphal stink bugs.

If you’ve ever chased a cockroach across your counter until it suddenly disappeared over the edge, scientists have figured out how they disappear. Ed Yong on fire, again.

Birds may have led to insects getting smaller, but that doesn’t mean they’re defenseless, as this mantid made clear by catching and eating a hummingbird in Panama.


Jumping spiders, they vant to suck your blood! But only after it passes through a mosquito! Ed Yong finishes off a trilogy of excellent posts.

So now that you’re on the lookout for vampiric spiders and their mosquito minions, Chris Buddle wants you to know that you are in fact rarely more than 3 feet from a spider.

There’s a new blog on the Scientific American block, Running Ponies by Becky Crew, and she’s off to a rolling start with some tumbling spiders & beetles.

Science Communication/Publication

Exciting news: Michel Cusson’s first post on ESC Blog was selected as an editor’s choice by the team at ResearchBlogging!

The role of science communication in academia has been gathering quite a lot of attention lately, even garnering a discussion in Nature (well, their blog, not the journal itself. Yet):

The discussion has since spilled out from Nature and into the blogosphere.

Scicurious explains why although it’d be great for more scientists to reach out and explain their work, there isn’t much of an incentive for those in academia to do so.

Kate Clancy, a pre-tenure anthropologist, picks up the outreach+tenure torch and runs with it, and provides a slice of hope care of her department review committee.

Deciding to invest time into science outreach, whether by blogging or by speaking about your passion to a group of students like Derek Hennen recently did, can certainly have benefits for future career prospects. I’ll definitely be expanding on my thoughts on the issue soon.

Ted MacRae provides some excellent advice about preparing a scientific manuscript for publication.

Finally, I leave you with two videos this week. One with hypnotizing footage of a dragonfly in flight, and the other a viral song that’s been on loop on my computer all week.