Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bugs, bugs, and more bugs

Two weeks ago was the awesome bug fair at the Natural History Museum of LA, which is always a great event to attend. I was looking forward to it this year because we were planning on getting some companions for our gray death-feigning beetle, Stumpy. In preparation for this, we upgraded her tank to a 10 gallon terrarium and got her fresh plants.

She started laying eggs in the new enclosure, which I took as a sign of approval. However, I have suspected that the eggs that she has been laying may not be fertile, so we were really hoping to get a male for her. When Bug Fair rolled around we picked up 3 more beetles. We think we did get a male, as the smallest beetle likes to clamp on top of the identified females (ran up to stumpy first thing) and they always try run away.

One of the other beetles is most likely another female, as she exhibited egg-laying behaviour fairly soon after being placed in the tank. Hopefully, we'll have little ones in a few months, although I am worried about getting this larger tank up to the temperature that I suspect may be necessary for larval development (over 100 degrees F).

Here you see the ovipositor...

and lay those eggs, lady!

Life Photo Meme: Woven

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Arthropoda

Class: Insecta

Order: Lepidoptera

Family: Bombycidae

These are silkworm (Bombyx mori) cocoons. While I always knew that silk was made from silkworms, and that the cocoons were boiled and unraveled to make a single strand of silk, I did not know that the cocoon could be unraveled to 1 Km (~ 1,100 yards).

Silkworms eat the leaves of mulberry trees and are native to northern china. They are considered domesticated, and have been raised by humans for over 5,000 years. They are considered unable to survive in the wild at this point and depend on human intervention to complete their breeding. (Supposedly, because they have lost the ability to fly) The silkworm pupa is also considered a delicacy and is eaten after the cocoon itself has been boiled to soften the silk strands.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Life Photo Meme: Metallic

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Arthropoda

Class: Insecta

Order: Coleoptera

This is a box of beetles, which are one of the most numerous insect groups on the face of the planet. This combined with the fact that insects are the most numerous animal, means that this planet really belongs to the beetles. While the bright colors are often used as a warning signal that the beetle tastes bad or is poisonous, it can also be an attractive signal to lady beetles.

Jewelery and other fashion accessories have been made from the beetles' shiny metallic overwings. On the science side, beetles are used to create carmine particles. These particles have helped researchers understand water flow and feeding rates for many aquatic organisms, and are also used as a food coloring (red) for many foods.

As a fun side note to this insect-filled week, if you are in the LA area check out the Bug Fair at the Natural History Museum of LA this weekend. It is one of the largest and most amazing insect fairs around!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Life Photo Meme: Honor an Invert

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Arthropoda

Class: Insecta

Order: Hemiptera

Family: Belostomatidae

This crazy looking bug is a giant water bug, Abedus herberti. They are found in pools of freshwater in the mid-west to southwestern region of the US. This is a male water bug, as females lay eggs on the backs of the male carapace. Matings are cyclical, where a female will only be allowed to lay a few eggs on a male's back before having to mate with him again. This will ensure that the males aren't brooding eggs fertilized by another male. This is particularly effective as genetic markers show that the last male's sperm has precedence in fertilization over any stored sperm [1].

The males take care of the eggs until they hatch. This includes spending more time on land, to keep the eggs from getting fungus. I would be interested in knowing what traits females are selecting for when they choose their mates.