Yes, to all of this! Some of the most headbanging questions I get explained by attendees at the Entomological Society Meeting last month.
I have been getting a lot of questions about Wheel Bugs this fall, for some reason. They are fairly big, and pretty unusual looking. Their most characteristic feature is a round, cog-looking wheel on their thorax.
They also move very slowly, which makes them easy to spot and follow.
Wheel Bugs are part of the Family of Assasin Bugs (Reduviidae), and are helpful insect predators. You definitely would like to have these in your garden. They’ll eat grasshoppers and caterpillars, among other insects.
They can give a painful poke if they are picked up, so don’t let kids handle them. Their beak, or mouth, is basically a straw for stabbing through an insect’s exoskeleton, and then sucking the innards out.
You can see a great series of photos at the BugGuide Wheel Bug Page!
(and thanks to zen for this very nice photo.)
I don’t know why this irritates me so much, but it really does. I have been fighting with Snopes about this for years. (And they were really snotty and rude about my pointing out their taxonomic error, too! Most disappointing!)
What set me off this time is the news that Aveda is cutting out carmine and cochineal dyes from their lipsticks:
“What’s on your lips? Dead beetle eggs? No, actually, dead beetle eggs. Allow us to explain, at least for the sake of your daily dose of TMI: Many lipsticks are stocked with carmine pigments, a red color taken from the dried and crushed shells, wings, and eggs of the female cochineal beetle. “
Carmine is made from the cochineal scale insect–not even remotely a beetle.
Not. A. Beetle. GAH!
I love the description of scale insects from this Vermont Extension publication:
“Scale insects are a peculiar group and look quite different from the typical insects we encounter day to day. Small, immobile, with no visible legs or antennae, they resemble individual fish scales pressed tightly against the plant on which they are feeding.”
Cochineal insects are a natural predator of prickly pear, and cover themselves in a white, fluffy wax. The genus is Dactylopius, for those who like those sorts of details.
Carmine is made from the collected crushed bodies of these female scale insects. (The females don’t have wings, BTW–another point the journalist got wrong.) They are smashed to release the pink pigment–it is not a happy process for the scale insect.
Some day when I’m not completely swamped, I’ll have to write more about how this animal provided a great way for many indigenous people to make some cash by harvesting cochineal. Alas, now that folks (including PETA) are in an uproar about bugs in lipstick, these tiny little cash cows are out of work.
Don’t look too closely at the label on your pink juice drink, either
EDITED 2/29 to add: I completely forgot to credit the photo! It’s from BugGuide.
Here’s my (anthropomorphic) insect pumpkin:
In other news, continuing to settle into new job, and even had a day that I felt like I had clue last week.
Definitely some big challenges ahead, but I am really happy I made the change.