Email question: are fireflies attracted to CO2?

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?”

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Gamified Entomology Workshops & Ecuador EcoTourism. Hai – I’m Nancy

                              Written by Nancy Miorelli

You know – I was supposed to write an introduction after we got back from our hiatus in May. But then there were “murder hornets“, and the BLM movement, and then people putting up fake wasp decoys, and well … it was a lot to cover. So Now we’re in August and …

So here I am!

Hai – my name is Nancy. I’m an entomologist with my Master’s from the University of Georgia, living in Ecuador.

I normally conduct ecological tours in Ecuador focused on insects, ecology, conservation, and also Ecuadorian local culture. through my business SciBugs.

A girl sitting on a front of a small boat in a lake with tree tops coming out of the water. It's called the "Floating Forest"

My Ecuador, Entomology, EcoTours are 100% personalized! You tell me where you wanna go – and I get you there. And do all the translation. And connect you to cool locals. And toss you bug facts from the back of canoe.

But, Ecotourism is kind of not a thing that is happening in 2020, so I’ve started working on my YouTube channel again and have started working on gamified entomololgy workshops.

This is the Entomology Workshop in Question.
Chem-Tales: The Stories of Arthropods, their Chemical Weapons, and their Every Day Lives!
Psst: Signup closes August 14th, 2020.

Gamified Entomology Workshops

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What’s so special about periodical cicadas?

So. Short and easy question.

Why do people love the periodical cicadas?

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Bugs With Fuzzy Butts: What are They?!


Question from Sam asking what bug this is and why it has a fluffy butt. May 2020.

Screen Shot 2020-07-20 at 7.42.42 PM

@Earth2Meekus asked about these on Twitter. May 2020.

Spring and summer time bring out all the interesting bugs! Over the years (and recently) we’ve had a few people ask what these insects are and why they have “fuzzy butts.” These insects are broadly called planthoppers. Why do they have these fluffy projections out of their abdomen? Let’s look closer at their group.

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Do Wasp Nest Decoys Work?

                            Written by Nancy Miorelli

Summer is upon us (in the Northern Hemisphere) and that means the wasps are out in full force. They’re doing their best work killing off pests and feeding their families but sometimes – their homes are a bit to close to ours.

You’ve seen the hubbub of wasp nest decoys on your Facebook and Twitter. Sounds simple – just put some sort of fake wasp nest around your home and BAM – no other wasps will want to build their nest there.

So does it actually work?

Well – not to burst your bubble, but probably not.

Image of a wasp nest. 
Claim: Adding a decoy wasp nest around your home will prevent wasps from building their nest in that area. 

Ruling: FALSE
Wasps are likely undeterred by false nests as active wasp nests have been found in close quarters.
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Do new species always happen because of reproductive isolation?

So, I really like this question from Zach Weinersmith:

He later followed up the query with a further clarification:

This is a fantastic question, because there’s a lot of REALLY weird biology when it comes to how lineages diverge. Sometimes, it happens gradually. Sometimes, it happens instantly.

Sometimes, animals can even undergo speciation while still mating with each other.

Let’s start breaking this down…

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Sophie Lutterlough: The One Woman Information Bureau

                                     Written by Nancy Miorelli

As we bring our celebration of Black Entomologists Who Shaped Entomology to a close, the Ask an Entomologist team is continuing the conversation about how we can help provide support, inclusivity, and diversity in our science communication and Entomology. But more on that and what YOU Can do to help will be at the end. For now, let’s give the spotlight to our next amazing entomologist!

Sophie Lutterlough: 1910-2009

An African American woman sitting in a white lab coat in front a microscope

Sophie was a determined lady! Wanting a curation job at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History she was denied, as in 1943 as it was still possible to discriminate candidates based on their race. So she did the next best thing.

Got a job as an elevator operator (the first woman to hold that position mind you!) and decided to learn everything she possibly could in her free time. That free time mainly being her lunch break.

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Dr. Charles Henry Turner: An Amazing Scientist

This week we are featuring Dr. Charles Henry Turner. Before I begin my article on him, I have a personal note that I’d like to share. As Nancy stated in her blog post on Dr. Margaret S. Collins, I would like to reiterate that entomology is for everyone. Science is meant to help us increase our understanding of the world around us. Although science is meant to be free of biases, it does exist within a social construct; therefore, we should acknowledge its shortcomings. On June 1st the Entomological Society of America (ESA) posted the article Why Black Lives Matter to Entomology, addressing the fact that people of color do not often choose careers in the life sciences4 and that black entomologists make up 2.7% of ESA membership3,5. It is very sobering to see these statistics, but it is necessary to be aware of the discrepancies in order to initiate real change. Nancy, Joe, and I were extremely saddened by the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. These events displayed the extreme injustices and inequalities that people of color face. 

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Lonnie Standifer and the beginning of honeybee toxicology

Image of: Lonnie Standifer

Honeybees and humans have an ancient relationship. There’s evidence of honeybees being kept in clay pots in North Africa roughly 10,000 years ago. On Twitter, we’ve even discussed the bizarre twists and turns of how honeybees were studied up until the 1800s. We’ve never discussed how honeybees became a central part of our agricultural system, one which we take great care to work around.

Of all the topics related to honeybee biology, the one which seems to have justifiably captured the most concern is how pesticides effect honeybees-or, honeybee toxicology to put it in the language a scientist would use. Although honeybees are more or less livestock, the issues which harm them also harm the more vulnerable bees. For better or worse, honeybees are the model for bee biology (although this is quickly changing).

We’ve been studying this for years, with the USDA leading the charge of figuring out how insecticides harm honeybees. If you’re interested in the topic of bees and pesticides, it makes sense to know a little bit of the history about how we began studying honeybee toxicology.

A huge portion of this story revolves Lonnie Standifer-a black entomologist who was in charge of the Carl Hayden bee research center in Tucson Arizona in the 1970s.

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Dr. Margaret S. Collins: The Termite Lady – Featuring Black Entomologist Stories

Written By                                        Nancy Miorelli

A Note

The Ask an Entomologist Team would like to first and foremost express our heartache and anger with the recent injustices. We here believe that entomology, nature, and science are for everybody. Despite the unfortunate history of science rooted in exploitation and racism, we are breaking that narrative.

Entomology, Science, and Nature are for *everyone* to enjoy and partake.
The injustices that our black and POC communities face every day are unacceptable. We are heartbroken, angry, and ready for change.

For the month of June we will be focusing on black entomologists who not only furthered science and entomology as a whole but also fought for civil rights and equality. We are filled with gratitude for their contributions to entomology and it is with great respect, pleasure, and honor that we are sharing their stories.

Today, we will be featuring Dr. Margaret S. Collins. A self-proclaimed field biologist, termite scientist, and humans right activist.

A photo of a young African American woman by a microscope in the Science magazine. The caption reads "Studies Termites: Following the presentation of a paper on 'Differences in Toleration of Drying and Rate of Water Loss Between Species of Florida Termites' to the 125th Annual Meeting of the American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science, Dr. Margaret S. Collins, professor of Biology at Florida &M in Tallahassee, conducts experiment.
Margaret S. Collins. The Termite Lady
Herbert and Veronica Collins
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