The latest internet Meme is the Harlem Shake, and I think this is one of the best versions. A little background:
“Harlem Shake” (not the hip hop dance style) is the title of a 2012 heavy bass instrumental track produced by Baauer. In February 2013, the song spawned a series of dance videos that begin with a masked individual dancing alone in a group before suddenly cutting to a wild dance party featuring the entire group.
And here you go: Harlem shake of the butterflies.
What you are looking at is a bunch of chrysalids, or the pupal stage of a butterfly where it transitions from a caterpillar into an winged adult. They are still able to move and respond to stimuli in this stage, even though they lack functional legs. They are commonly reared like this in butterfly houses.
A really nice example of how to communicate some fascinating evolutionary biology. Illinois Natural History Survey ornithologist Kevin Johnson describes his research on the history of feather lice. Anyone who works with birds knows they are lousy–as in, usually covered in lice.
But how did all those lice evolve? Did they share a common louse ancestor, and then diverge as their bird hosts diverged? Bird winglice from a parrot look a lot like bird wing lice on a duck–but those are very different and unrelated hosts. What does that tell us about the history of lice?
You can read the paper this work is based on here:
Johnson, K.P., Shreve, S.M. & Smith, V.S. (2012). Repeated adaptive divergence of microhabitat specialization in avian feather lice, BMC Biology, 10 (1) DOI: 10.1186/1741-7007-10-52
(Looking for a text transcript of the video; you can get most of the content text here)
It is finally starting to reliably warm up in spring, although we still have a few cold evenings. Bumblebees are one of the first pollinators out in the spring, and the fuzzy adorableness of their bodies does help retain heat.
With the help of a thermal camera, David Attenborough shows us some other clever tricks that let these “cold-blooded” insects warm up and fly on cold days.
I Could Not Make This Shit Up If I Tried.
I’ve mentioned before that the nickname Bug Girl is occasionally used by people that are not me. But this one is a new and unusual twist.
I think they look remarkably like my avatar.
What do you think?
It’s finally turning into winter here on the east coast, and I thought I’d share this excellent video on how to get rid of Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs. They’ve caused quite a …..er….stink…..here, and this video has great suggestions on how to keep them out of your house, and how to send the ones that do get in off to the big cabbage in the sky.
Dr. Raupp is a great model for how to do Extension in the digital age–he’s able to have fun with his information sharing. I loved his CSI: Garden Pests video. Well done, sir!
Oh yeah, another video came out today that you might enjoy, BTW. Interview with a
vampire bug girl.
Yeah, it’s a viral video, but it’s a viral INSECT video. I clearly need to get my minions better trained so that I can power up my iPhone.
I do feel a little bad for the beetle that was shot out of a cannon, though….
This video also raises some really interesting questions about what it’s “appropriate” to do with insects, compared to other animals.
Ah, Labor Day weekend. I was going to get so much work done, and have lots of posts drafted so that I could return to a regular publishing status here.
That didn’t happen, in part because my curiosity got the better of me and I wasted time reading a terrible book called “Bug Naked,” and then watching a truly Epic Bad Sci Fi movie, The Last Days of Planet Earth. Leonard Pinth-Garnell would have been proud.
You might have thought ABC’s V remake gave us the most cheese-tastic take on the “evil alien queen” trope — but you haven’t seen Daryl Hannah in The Last Days of Planet Earth.
If you missed it, Last Days is a 2006 miniseries that aired on the Hallmark Channel…. Hannah plays Liz Quinlan, a former astronaut who is secretly the queen of the alien insect people, who’s planning to lay a ton of eggs and use humans as a food source, and as “jackets” to grow her eggs in.
Honestly, that doesn’t even begin to describe the level of WTFery in that film. One of the main characters is also a beautiful PhD graduate student in entomology, working as an exterminator to pay her way through graduate school. Um. No one seems to have told them that you get paid to go to grad school in entomology.
But at least the entomologist had the great idea to use smoke bombs to “calm the alien hive.” And you get to see Hollywood’s conception of what happens inside the mind of a honey bee in a smoked hive. Duuuuude. Trippin! The colors!
The plot is crazy implausible except for one part–how they acquire humans. They’re using the DMV as a collection center, and kidnapping and implanting everyone who tries to renew a license or pay a parking ticket. Yes. That part is quite believable.
You can watch the whole thing on YouTube, although it’s almost 3 hours long. It isn’t until the last 20 minutes or so that you see the aliens’ true form–but the buildup to it is so peppered with dubious plot lines and dialog, it’s almost worth watching the whole thing. Almost.
Best line: “They’re just bugs. They put their humans on one leg at a time.”
I *finally* got to see this movie, after waiting almost a year–it is now available on Netflix. It was delightful, but not at all what I expected.
The Japanese have a profoundly different relationship with insects than Westerners. This film examines why that is, and how insects are part of Japanese culture and history. We meet characters that range from a Ferrari-driving beetle dealer to little children caring for their 6-legged pets.
The LA Times described this movie as “a meditative piece that is by turns hypnotically beautiful and painfully slow.” The director describes the movie as “about attention to detail, patience, and ultimately harmony – all of which are so rarely present in our modern lives.” This film does not have a linear narrative or tell a story in the way we are used to Western movies conveying information. It’s not so much a documentary as a visual poem.
The contrast of busy Tokyo with the natural world; the J-pop sound track that alternates with insect songs; all of it contributes to a sense of paradox. This movie feels like it’s dragging at points because we are too fast and impatient.
The film begins with this quote from a Westerner living in Japan in 1890:
“The people that could find delight, century after century, in watching the ways of insects, and in making verses about them, must have comprehended, better than we, the simple pleasures of existence.” ~Lafcadio Hearn
Cross pollination of Zen Buddism and the native Shinto religion of Japan manifested as an aesthetic appreciation of insects in centuries of poems and music. These spiritual roots created the philosophy of Kokugaku and “mono no aware“, sometimes translated as “the pathos of things.” This philosophy emphasizes awareness and attention to the transience of all things, and appreciation of their beauty because of their fleeting nature. What could be more transient than an insect, or the cycles of nature?
Always more clear and shrill,
as the hush of the night grows deeper,
the Waiting-Insect’s voice;
- and I that wait in the garden,
feel enter into my heart
the voice and the moon together.
The only staged talking-head piece is an interview with author and anatomy professor Takeshi Yoro, who talks about his love for insects:
”If you have eyes to see and ears to hear, they will tell you something.”
Yes. Yes they will.
Shut off your computer and go outside.
Don’t come back until tomorrow.
Ant-Man first appeared in 1962, and is described in a comic Wiki with this wonderful sentence:
“With the help of his hexapoda allies Hank was able to stem the tide of most minor crimes. “
The basic Ant-Man plot line is, like most comics, convoluted and involves many different story arcs and reincarnations. Hank Pym discovered a group of subatomic particles and produced two serums from them, one to reduce someone in size and another to restore them. This allowed him to shrink to the size of an ant and return to normal shape.
He went on to develop a helmet that let him communicate and control ants, and became a crime fighter and one of the founding members of the Avengers. (Sadly, he has been edited out of the Avengers movie to be released in 2012. Speciesism!!)
He turned his girlfriend into an insecty sidekick (Wasp) and also had several nervous breakdowns and developed alter egos. I suppose as a physicist forced to constantly violate physical principles (conservation of matter, for one), that is to be expected. About the only constant for Ant-Man over the years is that he seems to have been a bit of a perv, inclined to hide out in inconspicuous spots on women. Like… brassieres.
Do a Google search for images of “Ant-Man” or browse through the back issues of some of the comics online for much hilarious insecty action.
Anyway, back to the movie. The director is Edgar Wright, and initial reports suggested Simon Pegg as the lead, which is just all sorts of flavors of awesome.
Mr Wright and Mr. Pegg:
I hereby offer my services as entomological consultant.
Spare your self the ignominy of The Bee Movie’s horrible fate (i.e., being mocked here and elsewhere for their utterly crap insect science.)
Accept professional help. Hire an entomologist!
Other Insect Superheros:
Thanks so much to Tim for the tip on this video. Hilarious! I especially like the way in which the black flies even attack the National Film Board Logo. Make sure you watch to the end so you don’t miss the soft shoe bit.
“‘Twas early in the spring when I decide to go
For to work up in the woods in North Ontar-i-o;
And the unemployment office said they’d send me through
To the Little Abitibi with the survey crew
And the black flies, the little black flies,
Always the black fly no matter where you go;
I’ll die with the black fly a-pickin’ my bones,
In North Ontar-i-o-i-o, in North Ontar-i-o.”