Every year, November is an especially busy month for Nancy, Joe, and I. This is because it is time for the national Entomological Society of America (EntSoc or ESA) meeting, in addition to our other responsibilities. This meeting is a conference were entomologists and other scientists communicate and network with each other through professional presentations, workshops, mixers, student events, professional meetings in various entomological research areas, and more. Since November has been an exceptionally busy time for the three of us, for the past several years, we decided that from now on November will be a time where we post about our events EntSoc, unless something changes in the future.
Nancy has a new project called the SciHive on Facebook, and it’s a great resource if you want to interact with professional entomologists (like us!). In light of the Washington State Department of Agriculture exterminating a Asian Giant Hornet nest, I thought this question was worth a full discussion:
So I just read a newspaper talking about the giant Asian hornets that were caught , and it claims it was a nest of 85? Is that a normal nest size , seems low to me? Not there long enough to increase numbers maybe? Someone who knows wasps educate me please
Eliminating invasive species requires you to act fast and act early, because finding and eliminating a handful of nests is easier than finding and eliminating a lot of nests. So it helps to really understand what the WSDA is up against.
So let’s talk about the nesting biology of V. mandarinia and what the WSDA is potentially anticipating for next season.
Tick, tick. Tap, tap, tap. These sounds are produced by a deathwatch beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum). Old buildings can sometimes give us spooky vibes. However, for the deathwatch beetle, they are quite welcoming. This is because these beetles are woodboring and oftentimes infest lumber of old buildings. Woodboring beetles comprise of many different species of beetles that eat wood. This can be the larval or adult stage (beetles go through complete metamorphosis like butterflies do). The natural history of woodboring beetles varies depending on the species in question, however, many species of these beetles tend to select dying or dead trees. For the deathwatch beetle, very old wood is preferred and only the larvae feed. The adults do not feed and are short lived.
Howdy y’all. We wanted to try something a little different. For next week’s post, I have a couple of topics in mind – but I’m only going to write about one. Which topic would you like to read about next Tuesday (10/27/20)?
A student of mine is researching scorpions and he has a question about emperor scorpions that we have been unable to answer through our own research. He has learned that baby emperor scorpions are born white, but he cannot find the answer to the question “WHY they are born white.” We would appreciate it very much if you knew and shared the answer.
Bret, via Email
When scorpions are born, they’re ghostly pale. They actually stand out against their mom, looking almost more like maggots than actual arachnids.
But adult emporer scorpions, like mom up there, are dark. That darkness is an indicator of a hard exoskeleton, which scorpions need on their claws and stingers to crush and eat prey.
My undergraduate student that I’m mentoring this semester asked me a question about when an insect is dead. He pondered this because we read a paper were researchers infected carpenter ants with a fungus were considered dead after no movement was detected. This got us thinking, if a brain is completely damaged or missing, is an insect alive? My thoughts immediately went to questions we’ve received here at Ask an Entomologist – specifically, the questions that asked, “why does a cockroach stay alive after its head is removed?” OR “why does a cockroach’s legs still move after its head is removed?”
This question popped up in my learning community The SciHive and I thought to myself … what a wonderful question. So here we go.
We run #SpiderSunday where we post pictures of spiders and generally just learn about their biology when one of my members posted this cool shot of a zipper spider. Well … I’ve always called them Zipper Spiders. Apparently they’re also called “Writing spiders, black and yellow garden spiders, golden garden spiders, zigzag spiders ….” you get the idea.
A rant about common names another day…
To which Jared asked … “why do they make those little zippers?”
Well … the short of it is “we don’t know” and the long of it is “we don’t know but we have some good guesses.”
I wanted to take the approach today of looking at some of the various hypothesises that have been put forward and look at them with a critical eye. Is this likely? What evidence do we have to support these? What evidence do we have not to? I think – especially – in the age of Covid people think that scientists come up with an answer and then it’s fact. Forever. The end.
When in reality we propose a bunch of different ideas, test them, retest them, use new evidence, use more logic, and settle upon an idea. Usually after a decent amount of back and forth. Sometimes the idea that’s settled upon finally isn’t the initial hypothesis. And that’s okay. Science is all about fact checking and then re-fact checking.
Sometimes, when writing for this blog, I learn new things about bugs as well. This is one of those times when I have to admit that I didn’t know the answer, and got curious enough to read up on the topic.
Back in June we received an email that stuck with me. A person had a question about CO2 attraction in fireflies. Their question pertained to an insect trap that emits CO2 to attract and capture insects. They were concerned about the trap attracting fireflies. The trap claims that it’s safe for honeybees and butterflies because they aren’t attracted to it. At Ask an Entomologist we cannot give pest control advice because we aren’t licensed pest control operators; however, we are entomologists that have a broad knowledge base on insect science. CO2 attraction in insects is complex. What I mean by this is that insects use many stimuli to find their nest, a potential mate, or food. What signals insects use to find food or whatever highly depends on their biology.
So, let’s answer question, “[…] are Fireflies attracted to CO2?”