Tag archives for Insects
This spring, swarms of periodical cicadas will emerge on the east coast of the United States. These Brood II (or Brood 2), 1.5-inch long cicadas spend most of their lives underground, coming to the surface 17 years after they were laid as eggs by their mother! The cicadas start appearing after the temperature in the ground rises to 64°F. The year’s first cicadas have been spotted in the last few days.
They don’t sting or bite, but there will be millions of them crawling and flying around.
Scientists have been taking a closer look at the “dance” that dung beetles perform on top of their dung balls. So why do the beetles dance? They’re using the sun to figure out which direction to travel. As the beetle moves on top of the dung ball, it is checking the position of the sun to help it navigate.
Photograph by Chris Johns, National Geographic
BOOK NAME: The Dreamwalker’s Child
AUTHOR: Steve Voake
If you think tiny mosquitoes, and horseflies are annoying, imagine what it would be like if you met a mosquito or horsefly the size of a fighter jet!
Sam leads a normal life, but lately it has seemed a bit boring. Strangely, insects have started following him around. However, these insects aren’t just flying around him, they’re monitoring him! They are actually insects piloted by human-like creatures from another world, who have come to Earth using trans-dimensional portals. Sam is unaware that he has a significant role to play in their world. Then a mysterious incident occurs. A bicycle accident leaves Sam in a coma. His essence enters a strange, alien world called Aurobon, where small insects on Earth, are the size of planes. Immediately, he runs into trouble. He is captured by a group of people who plan on developing a disease to destroy human kind. They know that he could foil their plans, which is why they imprisoned him. That’s when he meets Skipper, a daredevil girl who pilots wasps. She says she will help him escape the prison. What Sam does not know is that Skipper and her allies know his true identity. He is the Dreamwalker’s Child. According to a prophecy, the Dreamwalker’s Child will rise up against the dark forces in Earth’s most dangerous hour. How can Sam possibly stand up to the enemies who are trying so fiercely to kill him?
I’ll never look at insects the same way again. The author takes normal insect behaviors and transforms them into intricate military maneuvers. For example, a swarm of wasps swooping down across the landscape means that they are actually searching for enemy aircraft. A group of ants dragging away a dead wasp is actually a rescue group retrieving a fallen aircraft. This author wrote the story in vivid detail, and I could picture every event. The illustrations were also unique. They showed the inner workings of the insect aircraft and land forces. For example, the book provides a picture of the cockpit of a wasp right down to the smallest dial. It helped me understand the intricate inner workings of the aircraft. The idea of human-piloted biological creatures is a very unique concept.
The tamarisk tree was brought to the United States in the 1800s as a decorative tree, and it was also used to help stabilize the soil on rivers. The tree has thrived in the southwest, crowding out native trees. For many years, biologists have removed the invasive trees by digging them up or using herbicides In 2001, land managers began releasing imported salt cedar leaf beetles in an attempt to help stop the spread of the trees (tamarisk trees are also called salt cedars).
The beetles are doing their job more effectively than expected and have migrated up to 100 miles away from where they were released. Scientists are now concerned that species that have gotten used to the tamarisk trees may have trouble adjusting when the trees are gone. One example of this is the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher, which prefers nesting in tamarisk trees even when there are other native trees available.
Iggy Arbuckle has tried a similar trick to eliminate invasive species in the Kookamunga! Watch the video on National Geographic Kids.
Photograph by Michael Melford, National Geographic
The common wasp is an invasive species in New Zealand. These wasps compete for food with an ant species called Prolasius advenus, which is a native species. Scientists performing an experiment with the insects noticed the wasps doing something unique: picking up ants crawling on food, flying a short distance away, and then dropping the ants. The scientists noticed that while the two species competed for a food source, the ants could be aggressive towards the much larger wasps, trying to bite them or spraying them with formic acid. The researchers think that the wasps might drop the ants, rather than killing them, to touch as little of the formic acid as possible.
Photograph by Julien Grangier, Victoria University of Wellington
This picture may look like an ant with antlers, but it’s actually an ant that’s infected with a fungus! This fungus, called Ophiocordyceps camponoti-balzani, is one of four fungi species that infects ants, takes over their brains, and then kills the host ant when it reaches an ideal location for the fungus to grow. The different species of fungi infect ants in different ways. “It is tempting to speculate that each species of fungus has its own ant species that it is best adapted to attack,” said study leader David Hughes, who is an entomologist (or insect scientist) at Penn State University.
Photograph courtesy David Hughes
What appears to be a flower bud is actually a bee nest. One species of bee called, Osmia tergestensis, made it by “gluing” flower petals together with mud. Once the container is complete, the bee fills it with nectar and pollen and lays a single egg inside.
After finishing the egg chamber, the bee buries it. As the chamber dries, it becomes very hard, which protects the egg inside. The baby bee hatches after spending ten months in the flowery egg chamber.
See more pictures and learn more about the bees on National Geographic News.
Why are honey bees disappearing? Investigate the honey bee mystery on National Geographic Kids
Photographs courtesy J.G. Rozen, AMNH
Photograph by Polka Dot Images via Photolibrary
Gross but true: Maggots help wounds to heal faster. Some hospitals use maggots to help difficult wounds like ulcers and burns to heal. The maggots eat dead tissue around the wound that can prevent healing and cause infection. Doctors know it works, but how? A new study suggests that maggots secrete a special fluid that helps them to eat the dead tissue.
What does this mean? In the future, doctors may be able to harness the bacteria-busting power of maggots without having to put the creepy-crawlies on people. David Pritchard, a researcher working on the project at the University of Nottingham School of Pharmacy in the U.K., says that putting the liquid in a gel or ointment is the most likely way the liquid will be used. Such a treatment would probably be just as effective as using the maggots.
Read more about the study on National Geographic News.
Read about plants that eat flies on National Geographic Kids.
In the final days of the expedition we started our journey to the rain forest. From Cusco we took a plane to a small airport where we boarded a bus to our lodge. Instead of traveling on roads to get to our lodge we took a motorboat up a tributary of the Amazon River. We saw a caiman and two capybaras on the way there. After about an hour-long boat ride we reached the edge of the river near the lodge. From there we had to hike for about ten minutes through the forest. The calls of many exotic birds surrounded us. I could only wonder what they could be.
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Scientists are using transmitters the size of three or four grains of rice, powered by a tiny hearing-aid battery, to track bees. The transmitters are small and light enough to attach to the backs of bees from two larger bee species with just a bit of eyelash glue and superglue.
Even loaded up with these backpacks, nearly a third of their body weight, “they fly beautifully,” says zoologist Martin Wikelski, a 2008 National Geographic Emerging Explorer and director of the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany.
Honeybees have been disappearing and scientist hope that using radio transmitters may be a way to find out where they are going and why and they may help scientists explore native bee behaviors and understand the best ways to use native bees as crop pollinators instead of domestic honeybees.
Read about the disappearing honeybees here.
Learn more about the tiny transmitters on National Geographic News.
BOOK NAME: Ask Dr. K. Fisher About Creepy-Crawlies
AUTHOR: Claire Llewellyn
Creepy-Crawlies is an interesting book about how a bird named Dr. K. Fisher fixes the problems of other creatures. Some pages of the book are written as letters to Dr. Fisher and the opposite pages are the bird’s letters back.
One of the letters is from a hover fly who says he gets pollen all over him when he drinks nectar from flowers. Dr. Fisher tells him that it’s good for him to pick up pollen and to spread it from flower to flower because it helps the flowers make seeds. Other letters are from a scorpion, glowworm, stick bug, earthworm, millipede and caterpillar.
Other pages of the book are guides to different facts about insects, like their many disguises and wings.
What is really cool is about the book is that on the very first page there’s a real envelope that you can open with a real letter inside from Dr. K. Fisher to you.
I’ve never read a book like this. I like it a lot. What I really like about it is how the bird sends notes back to different bugs to help them out and she writes about bug facts that are really, really cool.