Jan 022016

Another year has come to a close; papers were written, grants awarded, and theses… progressed? Regardless, 2015 continued the trend of challenging but ultimately rewarding solar orbits for me, marking some pretty major milestones, and forecasting a few others. As we head into the great unknown of 2016, I hope we can look forward to the same incredible quantity & quality of science writing, videos, and podcasts that were produced in 2015. I found a lot of inspiration in the creativity & talent of science communicators (and other types of communicators) this past year, and learned a lot of interesting information, all while being endlessly entertained.

If you find yourself needing some inspiration of your own this coming year, or just want to be entertained at the alter of science, here are my favourite reads, watches, and listens from 2015.


There’s no better way to tackle a new year than head on, which is exactly what this ant-decapitating phorid fly does, albeit in an entirely new way. Ed Yong covers this cool story with his usual panache, and brings the struggles of the undergrowth to life in vivid detail.

When it comes to other media, nothing quite got under my skin (in a good way) like Piotr Naskrecki’s video detailing the life cycle & effects of Dermatobia hominis, the Human Bot Fly. With stunning macro videography and time-lapses, as well as a narration that details first-hand what the entire experience was like, this is one video that has truly stuck with me.


In February, the Entomological Society of America commissioned a series of biographical articles detailing the lives and work of 5 female entomologists. All 5 articles were astonishingly good, but Tanya Josek’s creative chronicling of Berta Scharrer’s life by way of a first-person Twitter feed was so fun and personal that I haven’t forgotten it.


Continuing the trend of celebrating female entomologists, David Maddison and Kip Will tell the story of Hilary Hacker, an entomologist who published a high-quality and massive monograph about a subgenus of carabid beetles, but who then seemed to disappear from entomology. After some sleuthing, David & Kip come face to face with the woman who their own work is built upon. Great stuff.

Meanwhile, in southern California, Aaron Pomerantz was putting together this fantastic video explaining how researchers at the Natural History Museum of LA County discovered 30 new species of phorid flies in the backyards of Los Angeles.

Bonus good read: Catherine Scott on the bizarre biology and natural history of Bolas spiders.


There are a number of ways maggots can cause problems for us (see above), but Cassandra Willyard details one way in which we used science and ingenuity to fight back against a major veterinary pest, the New World screwworm.

If reading about myiasis doesn’t shake you up, I guarantee Love + Radio’s The Living Room (aired by RadioLab, which is where I originally heard it) surely will. This radio tale is as unsettling as it is magnificent, and I guarantee you’ll have a mix of emotions and opinions upon its conclusion.

Bonus good read: Familiarize yourself with Dunn’s Provocation, especially if you’re interested in global biodiversity and figuring out how many species we share this planet with.


What happens when you browse through 70 year old entomology papers? For Dez Huber, it was the discovery of a bizarre beetle that can reportedly live where no insect should theoretically be able to: in wood submerged in saltwater for years or even decades. Natural history and historical literature at its finest.

Some mysteries don’t take 70 years to unfold of course, especially when dead things are involved. Erika Engelhaupt details one such example, explaining how using rat poison lead her to be sitting in her car with the headlights glaring through her front windows.


With what may be the strangest method for immobilizing prey I, or my inner 12 year-old, has ever heard about, Gwen Pearson explains how the beaded lacewing knocks out its prospective dinner with a well-aimed and particularly noxious fart. Really.

June also featured a trio of astoundingly good podcast episodes. The Adaptors podcast explores the complicated world of lichens and how their delicate balance is being impacted by climate change and air pollution. Reply All went from mistaken email identities to the story of a girl guide troop in the most unlikely of locations: a WWII internment camp in China. Finally, Mystery Show picks up the case of a novelty belt buckle with a toaster on it, and attempts to track down its original owner, with absolutely delightful conversations along the way.

Bonus good read: Helen MacDonald and her love of field guides and identifying nature.


Possibly the greatest piece of science writing I read all year, The Really Big One by Kathryn Schulz is a masterpiece, marrying geology with policy and disaster with community, creating one of the most terrifyingly incredible stories ever. Do not miss this one.

Shaena Montanari takes on the four-legged fossil snake discovered this year, while boldly and openly tackling an issue many paleontologists and taxonomists seem loathe to acknowledge: the import and export of natural history specimens, and the legal, moral, and ethical ramifications of global biodiversity research in the absence of collaboration.

Bonus good read: Paul Rudd classifies ants, and puts astronomers in their place.


In August, I spent most of my reading time sitting on a dock at the cottage where WiFi is definitely lacking. Luckily I brought 2 excellent books with me, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend everyone pick up.

Infested: How the Bed Bug Infiltrated our Bedrooms and Took Over the World by Brooke Borel

Infested: How the Bed Bug Infiltrated our Bedrooms and Took Over the World by Brooke Borel

Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle by Douglas Emlen

Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle by Douglas Emlen

Infested by Brooke Borel is a wonderful examination of the rise, fall, and rise again of bed bugs in the western world, featuring a whole suite of interesting human characters throughout. Be warned: this one might be a little tough to read while laying in bed.

What can I say about Animal Weapons by Douglas Emlen? Well, it quickly rocketed into my all-time Top 5 list of favourite books about natural history and evolutionary biology. Beautifully written, Emlen shadows the development of human tools of war with the ways in which animals wage battle, tying everything back to natural selection and how it is constantly influencing the world we live and fight in, and adding in personal touches from his years of field work for good measure. I’ll be recommending this book for anyone interested in learning about popular science writing for years to come.

Podcasts are a lot of things. Sometimes they’re interviews or people talking at each other. Sometimes they’re narrative stories told by hosts and subjects together. And sometimes, they’re something special and entirely different. The Memory Palace is the latter; spoken word essays about historical events by Nate DiMeo that are incredible twists and turns through emotions, humour, and education. Craning, describing the launch of Apollo 11, is an audio masterpiece.


Kaitlin Janecke has the most astute rallying call for how natural history museums must adapt to the world of social media, and how adopting new technologies and media can expand the missions of these venerated and increasingly beleaguered institutions.

If I had 1,000 legs, I would give Emily Graslie’s Millipedes: The First Land Animals 1,000 thumbs up.

Bonus good read: Ed Yong pleads for the conservation of parasites.


At several points throughout 2015 we saw anger and false-environmentalism flare up over the collection & sacrifice of creatures for scientific study, but perhaps none caused as much of a stir as a rare moustached kingfisher from the Solomon Islands. While armchair conservationists raged about the indecency of collection in this day and age, Christopher Filardi expertly explained why specimens are necessary. Even better, Audobon.org published an editorial explicitly agreeing with Filardi, despite strong and vociferous opposition from their commentariat.

Field work doesn’t always go exactly as one might hope, and pride tends to come before the fall, or in Aerin Jacob’s case, before the mud hole. This is The Story Collider at its best.

That being said, sometimes work in the lab doesn’t always go according to plan either. Science Friday shares the a case of a herpetologist who has the worst day of his career, and documents it from start to end.


If you have plans to drown a pseudoscorpion this year, make sure to clear your calendar: it could take awhile. Chris Buddle takes us on an adventure to the arctic with a team of collaborators to test the natural history of an odd little arthropod.

The adventurous life of a field biologist can be exciting, but what about family left at home? Nate DiMeo of The Memory Palace again with a beautiful audio essay about the unbridled devotion and despair of a women in love with North America’s preeminent naturalist.


While it is often overlooked, occasionally scorned, and rarely admired, taxonomy has the ability to inspire and engage with people like few other disciplines. Robin Kazmier shares how 20 new braconid wasp species in Costa Rica are helping to inspire a group of lucky school children, and how a direct attachment to the wasps in their region may impact the future of this area.

Related, some taxonomists still deride new species names that reference popular culture or individuals not deemed “worthy” of patronyms. Rachel Feltman explains exactly why this is a self-defeating attitude, and how a good name can take a species from obscurity to celebrity.

And in the anthropocene, we can use all the help we can get when it comes to conservation. The American Museum of Natural History tackles the issue of extinction with excellence in their Shelf Life episode, Six Extinctions in Six Minutes.

So there you have it, all the things I read, watched, and listened to that I couldn’t get out of my head in 2015. I hope 2016 is a year of unparalleled success and happiness for you and yours, and thanks for continuing to stop by and read my own work throughout the year. It’s been fun.

Jan 232014

Seeing how Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has suddenly become a bastion for conservation biology, ornithology and science outreach with the announcement that a bird sanctuary has been named in his honour in Israel, I put together a little memento for him to hang in his office. Hopefully it will serve to remind him just how awesome birds and nature are, as long as they aren’t getting in the way of his Albertan oil field development plans, of course.

Stephen Harper's The Birds Sanctuary Poster

All kidding aside, the fact that another country thought that it was appropriate to bestow an honorary doctorate on and name a scientific research facility after a man who has been on a not-so-subtle campaign against scientific research & evidence-based policy making in Canada for the past 8 years is an absolute farce.

I guess in the end the joke is on me though. I’m the one spending the prime of my life fighting against the anti-science rhetoric being spewed by my elected officials to earn a PhD the old-fashioned way instead of just dismantling research divisions, field stations and libraries that don’t support my political platform!

Yep, he sure showed me…

Nov 232012

Today is Black Friday in North America, a day where all manner of consumer goods go on sale to jump start the holiday gift-giving buying season, and people go crazy trying to grab their share of the deals. Instead of fighting the crowds for a slightly cheaper sweater or another widescreen TV, why not stay at home and fund some exciting arthropod science this year?

Joseph Parker is planning an expedition to Peru in search of tiny little rove beetles (Staphylinidae: Pselaphinae) that live within ant colonies. I met Joe at the Entomological Society of America meeting last week, and he wears his passion for beetles on his sleeve (and his Twitter handle – @Pselaphinae). While Joe spends most of his time as a post-doc at Columbia University studying the mechanisms that drive insect size, he’s been working on the taxonomy & phylogeny of pselaphine beetles as a “hobby” for several years, and I think it’s about time Joe gets the chance to leave the lab and play in the dirt looking for beetles!

It’s not all about Joe though, because he’d like to repay your donation with anything from a sincere “Thank You”, to his services IDing insects, and even the opportunity to name a new species! Even though Joe has reached his financial goals, every dollar raised above his goal will go towards DNA sequencing costs, meaning there’s always room to help — believe me, DNA don’t come cheap! You can follow along with Joe’s progress & trip to Peru on his Facebook page.

If sneaky beetles living on the forest floor aren’t your thing, perhaps you’d rather help researchers in Spain study arthropod diversity high up in the canopy of a protected forest that’s under threat from human activity? Jorge Mederos is a biologist (and crane fly enthusiast) with the Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona who loves to get up high in the forest canopy, a place he calls “the nearby cosmos”. Just as we’re discovering new things about the cosmos light years away, the biology of the forest canopy is poorly understood, even though it’s only metres above our heads. Jorge’s work revolves around Collserola Park, a large protected forest on the edge of Barcelona, which is under growing pressure from human activity and urban development. Jorge needs your help to purchase weather monitoring equipment and lab supplies that will allow him to understand what life is like for insects living out of our reach.

Jorge is also on Twitter (@jmedeCCF) and will be acknowledging those of you who help fund his project in the scientific papers he publishes. Jorge still needs help to reach his funding target, and time is quickly running out on his project, so don’t delay in helping him reach for the sky!

So there you have it, two exciting scientific projects which need a little help from you this holiday season! Remember, sweaters go out of fashion and electronics are outdated before you get home, but scientific papers & species names last forever. 😉

Oct 102012

A few weeks ago I was invited to help out with a cool project connecting high school students with working scientists via Twitter called SciStuChat. The program, started by high school science teacher Adam Taylor, encourages students and other inquisitive minds to talk about science, ask questions and get to know their friendly online-neighbourhood scientist!

I tuned in to September’s chat which centred on sharks and marine biology, and it seemed like fun for both the students and the scientists who participated. It turns out that October’s theme will be Insects, so when Adam (@2footgiraffe) invited me to help out, I jumped at the opportunity!

I know there are a lot of entomologists on Twitter who really enjoy outreach and spreading the good word about bugs, so I hope that some of you might be interested in joining the discussion. The chat will be taking place this Thursday, October 11 starting at 8pm CST (9pm EST or 6pm PST), and I think it’s scheduled for about an hour or so. All you need to do is log on to Twitter, follow the hashtag (#SciStuChat), and start interacting with curious minds! There is such a diverse field of entomologists on Twitter that I’m confident that we can answer and engage with any questions people may have regarding insects.

Finally, don’t worry if you’re not on Twitter, I’ll round up all the discussions and post them here later in the week so you can see how it went, although this as good a reason as ever to sign up for Twitter if you’ve been thinking about doing so!

Sep 082012

Well look at that, I’m actually getting a Flypaper out on back-to-back weekends! That means this one is pretty short, but with the semester just starting, that means you’ll still have plenty of time for homework/grading/lesson prep! OK,  that’s not really a great alternative, sorry.

General Entomology

DEET: good for keeping mosquitoes away, bad for mixing in your drink. The tragic story of two Canadian tourists in Thailand.

A new IUCN report suggests 20% of invertebrates are at risk of extinction. Holy crap.

Wolbachia is a strange bacteria that makes insects do crazy things, like eat their own brains.

Do you know what the label around the neck of a ketchup bottle is for? The answer will probably surprise you.

I could probably include every post by Piotr Naskrecki in these weekly roundups because his writing and photos are so damn good, but I’ll keep it to just these two this week; The benefits of constant rain & Leaf-eating Leaves.

Continue reading »

Sep 072012

Photo by Jonathan Joseph Bondhus, CC BY-SA license

The Why

Journal clubs are common in many labs/departments, with students meeting with post-docs and advisors to discuss the latest and (sometimes maybe-not-so-) greatest research being published in their field of study. These journal clubs not only help students learn new techniques and concepts, but also teach them how to critically examine and review an academic paper, an important skill for evaluating new research.

Unfortunately for those of us who work in smaller labs without many other grad students or senior researchers, we don’t get the opportunity to have these discussions very regularly (if at all). While I took a few course-based colloquia during my MSc, I would love to take part in a journal club that lasts more than a semester. When I first joined Twitter, I floated the idea of a Twitter-based taxonomy journal club, but never really got much of a response at the time (largely due to my small follower list I suspect).

Then earlier this week Rafael Maia (a PhD candidate at the University of Akron) confessed on Twitter that he cyber-stalks journal clubs in other labs and universities, and so I suggested perhaps we start our own journal club via social media! It wasn’t long before grad students from other institutions expressed an interest, and so I figured I’d get the ball rolling and start fleshing out some of the ideas that were thrown around on Twitter about how we can make this happen! Continue reading »

Jul 112012

This morning I was reading a newly published paper that I found intriguing, not only for its content1 but also for who it cited — sort of.

Among the regular cadre of peer-reviewed journal articles supporting the author’s findings were two blog posts by University of Glasgow professor Roderic Page. Rod is a major proponent for digitizing and linking biodiversity literature with all aspects of a species’ pixel-trail across the internet, so I was excited to see his blog being “formally” recognized. As I finished reading the paper and reached the References section, I skimmed through to see how a blog citation might be formatted. Much to my dismay, after breezing through the L’s, M’s, and N’s I found myself within the R’s, with nary a Page in sight.

Despite having directly referenced Rod’s work on three separate occasions, the authors failed to formally acknowledge his contributions to the field. I may still be a little wet behind the ears in this whole academic publishing game, but I suspect that if someone didn’t properly cite a Nature paper, they’d be quickly reprimanded by the editor of the journal they submitted to and be told to include the citation or face rejection.

I’ve been thinking about this situation all day, and I can’t come up with a reason why the author’s didn’t include a proper citation, other than the continuing bias against blogging (and social media in general) among the scientific community. Certainly there are those in the scientific community who realize the potential of social media and blogging in science2, but in large part it seems the message is being ignored because of prejudices regarding the medium in which it’s published.

But why do scientists have such a hard time accepting blogging & social media as valid outlets? It can’t be because of the holy peer-review process, as Bora Zivkovic3 elegantly points out:

“One of the usual reasons given for not citing blog posts is that they are not peer-reviewed. Which is not true. First, if the post contained errors, readers would point them out in the comments. That is the first layer of peer review. Then, the authors of the manuscript found and read a blog post, evaluated its accuracy and relevance and CHOSE to use it as a reference. That is the second layer of peer-review. Then, the people who review the manuscript will also check the references and, if there is a problem with the cited blog post, they will point this out to the editor. This is the third layer of peer-review. How much more peer-review can one ask for?”

There’s also plenty of evidence that the content being produced by today’s bloggers, tweeters and G-plussers is slowly earning the attention of the academic community. Kate Clancy, a tenure-track anthropologist who blogs at Context and Variation, had someone skim one of her blog posts and intellectually plagiarize her ideas by publishing them in a traditional journal, further evidence that “attention” doesn’t necessarily mean “respect”. Just this week Eric Michael Johnson, a science history PhD student, wrote an incredible article summarizing the arguments between kin vs group selectionists and published it on his blog, The Primate Diaries; it has since been recommended by E.O. Wilson himself, via his Facebook fanpage no less! And of course there’s Rod’s work which was included in the paper in question, even if it was improperly cited, and which started this entire digression.

So if the quality of content published on blogs is of interest, well supported and being recognized by our peers, why do we still see this disconnect between traditional literature and social media when it comes to proper credit? I think the social media movement4 is so new, seemingly free of traditional rules & roles and so quickly evolving that many academics have yet to take the time to explore its potential before dismissing it as a waste of time best reserved for celebrities and teenagers. Frankly, with the ever increasing pressure to publish, find funding and shoulder more responsibilities within academic circles, I can’t say I totally blame them. But just like those in academia have (mostly) accepted and embraced other technologies, I’m confident that social media, including blogging, will find its place among the scientific community and will revolutionize the ways we go about doing, discussing and disseminating scientific research. Certainly it will be an uphill battle for those who aspire to change the way this new technology is perceived and credited within the academic community, but ultimately I think it’s in all our best interest to push the boundaries!

Perhaps Rod Page summarized this entire post in a single tweet:


1- Which I won’t comment on here for a variety of paranoid political reasons, but I would still highly recommend you read the paper.

2- I’m talking about you, the people (person?) who took the time to read this blog post; thank you!

3- Nicknamed The Blogfather among the ScienceOnline community, he also appears to have the distinction of having the first blog post cited by a technical scientific article. Fitting.

4- Which is exactly how I see it. Much like the cladistic wars of the 1980s and the Darwinian debate 100 years before that, it’s only a matter of time until social media is embraced by the scientific & academic communities.

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.