A strange insect

A strange insect

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I saw this ant-like insect in Brazil, close to Rio de Janeiro. It was around 2 cm long. I tried to use google's search by image, but no luck. Does any one know the name of the species?

Insects like this are commonly called "velvet ants", but they are wasps, not ants. This insect is in the family Mutillidae, and it's called Hopolocrates cephalotes. (

Scientists reveal the strange cause behind a "biblical plague" in Las Vegas

In the summer of 2019, an immense swarm of tens of millions of grasshoppers descended on Las Vegas’s tourist strip, resembling a plague of near-biblical proportions.

At the swarm’s peak on July 27, approximately 45.8 million insects — clocking in at a whopping 30.2 metric tons — were hovering over the city.

The temporarily massive deluge of insects perplexed Sin City residents, but according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Biology Letters, scientists have identified one illuminating reason for the swarm’s strange appearance.

What’s new — The insects seemed particularly drawn to a spotlight beaming from the top of the iconic, pyramid-shaped Luxor hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.

This led to speculation that bright city lights — specifically, UV lights — were to blame for the insect plague.

The newly-published research confirms the reporters’ suspicions. The insects demonstrated a “daily pull” toward the city’s famously bright night lights, which served as a “sink” that attracted the massive insect throngs.

While other studies have focused on the impact of local light sources on insect populations less than one kilometer away, this is the first such study to explore a very bright light source — known as “skyglow” — that attracts insects from distances farther away.

This is one of the first studies to grasp how human-produced (anthropogenic) lights can dramatically alter the behavior of insects on a mass scale. The researchers write: “We document for the first time that anthropogenic light acts as a macroscale attractive sink for nocturnal insects.”

An NBC News video documenting the swarm of grasshoppers over Las Vegas.

How they did it — The researchers deployed radar technology — typically used in weather surveillance — to track the aerial movements of the grasshoppers from vegetated areas during the day to well-lit areas at night.

Scientists have increasingly used weather surveillance radar to track the migratory patterns of birds and insects, according to the study.

Using this technology, researchers were able to generate images of the total mass of grasshoppers around Las Vegas (referred to in the paper as their biomass), depending on whether it was day or night.

Digging into the details — The researchers found that the insects were most likely to migrate at night, “when artificial light may constitute a nocturnal attractive cue.”

The New York Times reported that the grasshoppers came from possibly as far away as Arizona during an unusually wet season in the region, which led to the swarming behavior. The Las Vegas lights then acted as a beacon.

In other words: the grasshoppers were drawn to the big city lights at night, but during the daytime — when there are fewer UV lights — grasshoppers were driven back to vegetated areas on the ground farther away from the city.

Grasshoppers rose high into the sky and took off for the city shortly after sunset, reaching peak mass over Las Vegas at midnight.

Why it matters — Las Vegas, the researchers write, is “unrivaled as a nighttime light source.”

Due to the bright lights on its tourist strip, the city contains more radiance per unit area than any other metropolitan area in the U.S.

However, growing light pollution has harmed insects — and humans — all over the world. Light pollution creates excessive or unwanted light, which makes it difficult for us to see the night sky in well-lit, urban areas. Emerging research is also showing that the effect may be affecting animals like migrating birds and even plants, which rely on sunlight for photosynthesis.

But light pollution also significantly disrupts the behavior of insects. A 2017 study found a startling 75 percent decline in the biomass of flying insects over a 27-year period in Germany, with light pollution listed as a contributing factor. Recent research corroborated that light pollution may be partly to blame for the insect apocalypse, as some insect populations are declining at a rate of 1 to 2 percent each year.

And in places like Las Vegas with enormously bright lights, light pollution can have far-reaching consequences for insects. According to National Geographic, artificial light pollution extends more than 40 miles from the city center. That artificial light, in turn, attracts swarms of insects from far away.

What’s next — Despite the study’s intriguing findings, there are still a few things that scientists struggle to understand. For example, why did the grasshoppers form such a large swarm?

Under one hypothesis, researchers speculate that the positive response of some grasshoppers to nocturnal lights strengthens the behavior of other grasshoppers, creating a positive feedback loop, and resulting in dense throngs of insects like those that invaded Las Vegas.

This sort of group swarming behavior may have also been behind the migratory hordes of locusts that dominated the Horn of Africa and swept headlines in 2020.

The researchers also suspect that atmospheric conditions and weather patterns may play a role in whether swarms of insects congregate around nocturnal lighting. However, further research will be required to determine the long-term impact of nocturnal light pollution on the grasshopper’s evolution and survival as a species.

Ultimately, only time will tell whether the 2019 swarm was a one-off event limited to the bright lights of Sin City, or whether growing urban centers — and their accompanying lights — will draw more hordes of insects to cities around the globe.


Causes of formication include normal states such as onset of menopause (i.e. hormone withdrawal). Other causes are medical conditions such as pesticide exposure, [3] mercury poisoning, diabetic neuropathy, skin cancer, syphilis, Lyme disease, hypocalcaemia, or herpes zoster (shingles) and neurocysticercosis. [2] Formication can be a result of stimulant intoxication or withdrawal (methamphetamine, cocaine, [4] MDMA aka ecstasy [5] ) or alcohol withdrawal in alcoholics (i.e. delirium tremens), and is often accompanied by visual hallucinations of insects (formicanopia). [2] It can also occur as a symptom of benzodiazepine withdrawal, withdrawal from medication such as SSRI/SNRI antidepressants and tramadol and as a side effect of opioid analgesics. [ citation needed ]

Formication is etymologically derived from the Latin word formica, meaning "ant", precisely because of this similarity in sensation to that of crawling insects. The term has been in use for several hundred years. In the 1797 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, a description of the condition raphania includes the symptom:

. a formication, or sensation as of ants or other small insects creeping on the parts. [6]

Described again in an instructional text from 1890:

A variety of itching, often encountered in the eczema of elderly people, is formication this is described as exactly like the crawling of myriads of animals over the skin. It is probably due to the successive irritation of nerve fibrils in the skin. At times patients who suffer from it will scarcely be persuaded that it is not due to insects. Yielding to the temptation to scratch invariably makes the disease worse. [7]

Chimerism and Sibling Rivalry

What could possibly be going on here? Why should scale insects, of all creatures, have obligate chimerism involving activated polar bodies? Essentially, we have no idea, largely because no one has even ventured a serious guess. When the phenomena were discovered, early in the 20th century, the theoretical tools for making sense of them were unavailable. One such tool is W. D. Hamilton's (1964a) theory of inclusive fitness, which holds that the degree of cooperation between two organisms (or tissues) must depend upon their degree of genetic relatedness. But the rise of Hamiltonian thinking coincided with the eclipse of classical cytogenetics in favor of the molecular biology of model organisms, and these remarkable little chimeras have languished in undeserved obscurity. Perhaps merely by looking at them with a modern eye, we can turn up some plausible hypotheses.

Consider the special theoretical difficulty posed by chimerism between tissues derived from the oocyte and those derived from the polar bodies ejected by it during meiosis. Two siblings will typically exhibit some degree of sibling rivalry—their interests are not identical. If an individual were a chimera comprising full-sibling tissues (identical across approximately half of their genomes), there might be conflict between the two nonidentical cell lineages, as there is between the tissues of a mother mammal and her fetus (also identical across half of their genomes) during pregnancy (Haig 2002). This may explain why obligate sibling chimerism never evolves (except perhaps in the very limited case of blood cells between sibling marmosets). But the problem of cooperation between tissues that derive from the oocyte and those that derive from the polar bodies is, if anything, even greater. The oocyte and the polar bodies are less closely related than two siblings would be, because the polar bodies are enriched for chromosome regions not present in the oocyte.

If there were no crossing over between homologous chromosomes during meiosis, then the first meiotic division would consistently separate the chromosomes derived from the mother's mother from the chromosomes derived from the mother's father, producing two cells that are not related to each other at all (or, more precisely, exactly as closely related to each other as the mother's mother was to the mother's father). Crossing over prevents this, creating a mosaic of related and unrelated chromosome regions between the products of the first meiotic division and uncertain relationships between the final four meiotic products. Nonetheless, the consistently depressed relatedness between the oocyte and the polar bodies may help to explain why polar bodies are almost always eliminated—sibling rivalry might be even greater if some siblings were derived from each other's polar bodies.

A Strange Bioinsecticide

Ladybird is one uncommon compound word made by the union of two simple common words – Lady and Bird. But, the two simple words when joined together can produce strange effect.

Well, the ladybird is neither a lady nor a bird. It is common name of an insect which is very important in controlling aphids and many other insects that damage our crops.

Thus, ladybirds are insects that can be employed for controlling many small insects that damage our crops and orchards. You may call them natural bio- insecticides.

What is a ladybird?

The ladybird is a cleaver little creature. It looks like a red pill with black spots on it. If you disturb it, it will fold up its legs and drop as if dead. It will remain in this attitude of rigid death for at least a minute or two and then will begin to claw the air with all its six legs in its effort to turn right side up.

Body of the ladybird

There are many species of ladybirds, but all of them resemble a tiny pill cut in half, with legs attached to the left side. Sometimes it may be a round and sometimes an oval pill, but it is always shining and the colours are always dull dark red, or yellow, or whitish, and black.

Sometimes she is black with red or yellow spots, sometimes red or yellow with black spots and the spots are usually on either side of the thorax and one on each snug little wing cover.

If we look the ladybird carefully we can see the head and short cube like antennae. Behind the head is the thorax with its shield, broadening towards the rear, spotted and ornamented in various ways.

The head and the thorax together occupy scarcely a fourth of the length of the insect, and the remainder consists of the hemispherical body, encased with polished wing covers.

Movement of the Ladybird

The little black legs of ladybird are quite efficient because they can be moved very rapidly. However, these are not the only means of locomotion of a ladybird. She is a good flier and has a long pair of dark wings which she folds crosswise under his wing covers.

It is comical to see her pull up her wings, as a lady tucks up a long petticoat.

The ladybird takes very good care of herself and spends much time in washing up. She begins with her front legs, cleaning them with her mandibles, carefully nibbing off every grain of dust. After this she cleans her middle and hind legs by rubbing the two on the same side back and forth against each other Each leg acts as a whisk broom for the other. She cleans her wings by brushing them between the edges of the wing cover above and the tarsus of her hind leg below.

Importance of Lady Bird

Ladybird is of great value from our standpoint. These insects feed upon those insects that damage our crops and orchards.

Lady Birds are usually fond of aphids and scale insects. Larvae of ladybirds are very different from their parents. They crawl around on plants and chew up all the aphids or the scale insects. Adults too eat away all the aphids and scale insects that damage our crops.

An Important Example

Long ago the orchards of oranges and lemons in the Pacific coasts were once destroyed by a cottony cushion scale insects and it caused great worry to farmers, and causing great loss to production.

An important species of ladybird from Australia was introduced in the area. These ladybirds were very fond of eating cottony cushion scale insects.

The ladybirds reproduced at a fast speed and soon there were numerous ladybirds to eat away all the insects that were damaging the orchards of oranges and lemons. Thus, cottony cushion scale insects were exterminated from the pacific coasts within a few years and crops were saved from damage. This was one of the greatest achievements of economic entomology.

Insects are among the most interesting and available living creatures for the study of nature for us and yes, for our children. The lives of many of them are more interesting. Many of them show interesting colours. Many of them are so small that they remain easily hidden from our observation.

Since all life is linked together in such a way that no part of the chain of environment is unimportant, it is important for us to protect all life forms on the earth. Here I must ask tour children to try to identify a ladybird in Neighborhood and study its habits to prepare a bulletin board showing how a ladybird is useful link of the natural environment and how it is useful in pest control.

Ancient, scary and alien-looking specimen forms a rarity in the insect world—a new order

This strange insect found preserved in amber represents a new species, genus, family and order of insects. Credit: George Poinar, courtesy of Oregon State University

Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered a 100-million-year-old insect preserved in amber with a triangular head, almost-alien and "E.T.-like" appearance and features so unusual that it has been placed in its own scientific "order" - an incredibly rare event.

There are about 1 million described species of insects, and millions more still to be discovered, but every species of insect on Earth has been placed in only 31 existing orders. Now there's one more.

The findings have been published in the journal Cretaceous Research and describe this small, wingless female insect that probably lived in fissures in the bark of trees, looking for mites, worms or fungi to feed on while dinosaurs lumbered nearby. It was tiny, but scary looking.

"This insect has a number of features that just don't match those of any other insect species that I know," said George Poinar, Jr., an emeritus professor of entomology in the OSU College of Science and one of the world's leading experts on plant and animal life forms found preserved in the semi-precious stone amber.

"I had never really seen anything like it. It appears to be unique in the insect world, and after considerable discussion we decided it had to take its place in a new order."

Perhaps most unusual, Poinar said, was a triangular head with bulging eyes, with the vertex of the right triangle located at the base of the neck. This is different from any other known insect, and would have given this species the ability to see almost 180 degrees by turning its head sideways.

This insect head, that researchers thought almost resembled the way aliens are portrayed, was so unusual it required the extinct insect to be placed in an entirely new scientific order. Credit: George Poinar, Jr., courtesy of Oregon State University

The insect, probably an omnivore, also had a long, narrow, flat body, and long slender legs. It could have moved quickly, and literally seen behind itself. It also had glands on the neck that secreted a deposit that scientists believe most likely was a chemical to repel predators.

The insect has been assigned to the newly created order Aethiocarenodea, and the species has been named Aethiocarenus burmanicus, in reference to the Hukawng Valley mines of Myanmar - previously known as Burma - where it was found. Only one other specimen of this insect has been located, also preserved in Burmese amber, Poinar said.

Those two specimens, which clearly belong to the same species, now comprise the totality of the order Aethiocarenodea. The largest order of insects, by comparison, is Coleoptera, the beetles, with hundreds of thousands of known species.

Needless to say, this species from such ancient amber is long extinct. It obviously had special features that allowed it to survive in the forests of what is now Burma, 100 million years ago, but for some unknown reason it disappeared. Loss of its preferred habitat is a likely possibility.

"The strangest thing about this insect is that the head looked so much like the way aliens are often portrayed," Poinar said. "With its long neck, big eyes and strange oblong head, I thought it resembled E.T. I even made a Halloween mask that resembled the head of this insect. But when I wore the mask when trick-or-treaters came by, it scared the little kids so much I took it off."

Neck glands on this extinct insect preserved in amber appear to release a substance that may have been used to repel predators. Credit: George Poinar, Jr., courtesy of Oregon State University

Addict Ants Show That Insects Can Get Hooked on Drugs, Too

The temporary euphoria associated with opioids comes at a steep price: heroin, oxycodone, opium, morphine and other painkilling drugs are some of the highly addictive culprits fueling the drug epidemic that is sweeping America. On average, opioids claim the lives of 78 people in the U.S. each day. Now, in a bid to understand more about substance abuse and how it affects people neurochemically, researchers are turning to some unlikely addicts: Ants.

As it turns out, humans aren’t the only animals who can fall hard for these drugs. Ants love them, too—maybe even more than sugar. In a paper published today in the Journal of Experimental Biology, researchers show for the first time that a social insect can form a drug dependency—a finding that they believe can help us better understand how addiction affects human communities.

“Now that we’ve proven we can addict ants and that the neurochemical pathways are similar to mammals, what’s most exciting to me is the next step,” says Marc Seid, a neuroscientist at the University of Scranton and the study’s senior author. “We can addict individual (ants) and see how that affects the ants’ social network, which is somewhat like humans'.”

When it comes to studying substance abuse, getting humans addicted to drugs isn’t an option. So researchers have long turned to rodents, finding that addicted rats, for example, will chose cocaine over food. But while rats have a relatively similar physiology to people, they are quite distinct socially. They do not form complex, interdependent groups in which other individuals will be affected if someone they know suddenly forms a serious drug habit. Ants do, making them an ideal—if improbable—subject for investigating the cascading effects addiction can have on a society.

First, researchers had to determine if ants could indeed form addictions to drugs. To find out, they set up a classic “sucrose-fading procedure.” This method involves presenting two groups of ants with a bowl of sugar water, and then gradually lowering the concentration of that sweet treat over the course of four days. One of the ant group’s bowls also contained a second treat, which did not diminish in concentration: morphine.

Unlike the ants in the water-only control group, by day five, the ants in the morphine group had returned to their now-sugarless bowl, seemingly to lap up the drug. To see how deep their potential addiction went, the researchers gave both junkie ants and a new group of untrained control ants two options: a sugar-only bowl or a morphine-only bowl. Sixty-five percent of addict ants went for the morphine bowl, while most control ants chose sugar.

“As anyone who’s ever had ants in their kitchen knows, ants really like sugar,” Seid says. “But we showed that [the addict group] foraged much more on morphine than on their natural reward, sugar.”

After the sugar-morphine experiment, the team extracted the insects’ brains to see how their addictions had changed their neurochemistry. They used a technique called high-performance liquid chromatography to detect chemicals in each brain sample. Compared to the control ants, the morphine addicts had significantly higher levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine plays a significant role in addiction in both humans and rodents. 

While past studies showed that Drosophila flies can become addicted to alcohol, those studies always coupled the drug with an extra perk like sugar. The new study, as far as Seid knows, represents the first time researchers have demonstrated drug self-administration without a caloric reward in a non-mammalian animal.

“The results are very interesting, but perhaps not unusual given the deep history of animals using plant-derived compounds, including alkaloids like caffeine and morphine,” says James Traniello, a biologist at Boston University who was not involved in the research. For example, he says, honey bees exhibit improved short term memory when they feed on plant nectar containing caffeine. “So the result in ants is quite novel, but perhaps not terribly surprising in light of the broader evolutionary picture,” Traniello says.

Not everyone is convinced that the ants in the experiment formed a true addiction, however. “It is possible that the ants in the study got addicted to morphine, but the authors don’t show evidence for addiction,” says Wulfila Gronenberg, a neuroscientist at the University of Arizona who also was not involved in the research. The findings show that morphine interacts with the dopamine system, as it does in other animals, he says. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they have developed a true substance dependence, which includes tolerance, withdrawal and behavioral effects.

“I find the paper interesting,” he said, “but this is a very preliminary study.”

Seid plans to follow up on his findings by mapping specific neurons activated by dopamine in the brains of ants. He is also collaborating with a mathematician to create models of ant social networks, to see how connections are affected when individuals in that system become addicted. “We can have a society in a microcosm,” he says. “We can dissect pieces of these networks and manipulate individuals to get a better idea of addiction’s down-cascading effects.” 

Who knows—someday, this kind of research might even help us find an ant-idote to one of society’s most entrenched problems.

Trilobite Beetles

Trilobite beetles are strange but little-known insects that have been found in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia and India. They belong to the family Lycidae and the genus Platerodrilus (or Duliticola in an older naming system).

A female trilobite beetle looks very different from other beetles. Her body is flattened and is divided into segments that look like plates of armour. The plates are decorated with knobs and projections and are known as scutes. The head is tiny in relation to the size of the plates and is retractable. The beetle’s appearance reminded early observers of extinct marine animals called trilobites. Trilobites were arthropods, but they weren&apost insects. Some of the female trilobite beetles that have been discovered are colourful and beautiful insects.

Male trilobite beetles are much smaller than the females and have a typical beetle appearance. The fact that the genders are so different in both appearance and size makes it hard for researchers to recognize that they belong to the same species unless they see mating taking place. According to National Geographic, mating has only been observed (or at least only reported) twice—once in 1924 and again in 1993.

In many insects, the egg hatches into a larva. There may be several larval stages. The final stage changes into a pupa, from which the adult emerges. The adult generally has a very different appearance from the larvae. Female trilobite beetles stay in the larviform phase their whole lives (although they do molt and grow bigger), a phenomenon known as neoteny.

Stranger in a strange land: an optimal-environments account of evolutionary mismatch

In evolutionary medicine, researchers characterize some outcomes as evolutionary mismatch. Mismatch problems arise as the result of organisms living in environments to which they are poorly adapted, typically as the result of some rapid environmental change. Depression, anxiety, obesity, myopia, insomnia, breast cancer, dental problems, and numerous other negative health outcomes have all been characterized as mismatch problems. The exact nature of evolutionary mismatch itself is unclear, however. This leads to a lack of clarity about the sorts of problems that evolutionary mismatch can actually explain. Resolving this challenge is important not only for the evolutionary health literature, but also because the notion of evolutionary mismatch involves central concepts in evolutionary biology: fitness, evolution in changing environments, and so forth. In this paper, I examine two characterizations of mismatch currently in the literature. I propose that we conceptualize mismatch as a relation between an optimal environment and an actual environment. Given an organism and its particular physiology, the optimal environment is the environment in which the organism’s fitness is maximized: in other words, the optimal environment is that in which the organism’s fitness is as high as it can possibly be. The actual environment is the environment in which the organism actually finds itself. To the extent that there is a discordance between the organism’s actual and optimal environments, there is an evolutionary mismatch. In the paper, I show that this account of mismatch gives us the right result when other accounts fail, and provides useful targets for investigation.

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The Strange Way Mosquitoes Fly

How do you fly, little guy? CDC Global/CC BY 2.0

Mosquitoes are one of nature’s most annoying creations, and also one that we are still learning about. In fact, we weren’t even actually sure quite how they get off the ground until just this week, when a newly-released paper revealed tests showing that have shed some light on their bizarre wing movement.

Given the size and shape of a mosquito, they shouldn’t really be able to fly the way they do. A paper published Wednesday in Nature revealed that instead of flapping their wings the same way a similarly-sized insect like a bumblebee might, mosquitoes twist their wings while they flap, creating a mini-vortex to keep them in the air.

In addition, the arcs their wings trace is also surprisingly small, covering just 44 degrees in each flap (an article on Quartz compares this to the 180 degrees of a butterfly’s flap). Because of this, mosquitoes have to move their wings incredibly fast to achieve lift. To quote the SCIENCE from the Nature paper, “their long, slender wings flap at remarkably high frequencies for their size (>800 Hz) and with lower stroke amplitudes than any other insect group.” It’s also this speed that gives them their telltale buzzing sound.

This discovery has an impact on the study of aerodynamics and insect biology, but unfortunately does nothing to make mosquitoes more tolerable.

Watch the video: 15 Weird and exotic insects you wont believe exist (October 2022).