Tag Archives: Fun

Do fire ants cause weddings?

6 Sep

aka the “Correlation is not Causation” post

chart via Google Correlate

Google search activity for “fire ant” and “wedding gift” show a strong correlation.  (via Google Correlate)

While playing with Google Correlate recently, I discovered that lots of people tend to search for the term “fire ant” at the same times when lots of people search for the term “wedding gift.”  In fact, with regards to being the search term most strongly correlated with “fire ant,” searches for a “wedding gift” rank second only to searches for “fly traps.”  (I am uncertain if this latter represents an urgent need for pest control solutions or carnivorous plants, but I wish people luck in their quest.)

What does this mean?  Do fire ant stings somehow induce people with a desire to form government-recognized pair bonds, or at least acquire gifts for such events?  Does the proliferation of wedding cake cause outbreaks of ravenous stinging ant populations?  Could the fire ants themselves be the ones searching for the perfect, tiny wedding gift?

Or, more likely, does this correlation highlight the strongly seasonal nature of both these phenomena?  I’ll let you judge that for yourself and also tell you that the answer is that last one.  In fact, fluctuations in fire ant and wedding gift searches are more likely affected by fluctuations in temperatures, weather, and times that are convenient to fly in-laws across the country.  These similar direct causes (with the exception of vacation time and airfare, which fire ants tend not to worry about) probably lead to the indirect correlations.  This is a fun reminder that establishing causality can be challenging, and statistics must be interpreted with care.

Judging by the graph of search activity, the need to deal with both weddings and pesky fire ants peaks in summer months and tapers off sharply in the cold of winter, when presumably both ants and prospective happy couples go dormant for the winter.

Other notable seasonal search terms that correlate with “fire ants”:

“Wedding gift” on the other hand tends to correlate extremely strongly with terms involving golf, for reasons I will leave to some other scientist to explore.

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May Taxonomy Fail: Insect Tattoos

24 May
insect tattoo art book

And when they say “insect” they mean…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a good taxonomy/morphology fail.  This one’s got a little of both.

A friend gave me this wonderful little booklet of temporary “insect tattoos” a few months back, and my fellow entomology graduate students and I had a lot of fun picking out which tattoo best suited each of us.

As you can see from the cover, this collection played fast and loose with the definition of “insect.”  (Wait, scorpions are insects, right?)

Something is awry with this spider.

Something is awry with this spider.

My personal favorite was the tarantula.  At least, I’m assuming that’s what it was.  You can see the artist has made the common mistake of counting the pedipalps (essentially a leggy sort of mouthpart) as a pair of legs.  This would-be arachnid has, not eight, but six legs.   It seemed appropriate.

As an alternative theory, perhaps they were trying a little too hard to fit the spider into the “insect tattoo” classification.

I wore it with pride.

I wore it with pride.

 

Q&A

3 May

Today I am answering RANDOM QUESTIONS FOUND IN MY BLOG SEARCH HISTORY.  Just for fun.

Let’s get started.

do insects have legs on their abdomen

Nope.  They have legs on their thorax.

what does dead lice look like

Pretty much like live lice.

do ants sting or pinch

Both, depending!

spider has how many legs

Eight.

Large wolf spider on face (8legs2many)

how ants carry food

In their jaws or as liquid food stored in their crop.

is ladybug one word

Yep.

did you mean: black hairy spider with white face

…no?

what adaptations do fire ants have

Lots! One cool example is they can form living rafts of ants to survive floods.

do katydid nymphs sting?

Nope.

carpet beetles bite

Not people.  They will wreck natural fibers and insect collections, though.

do carpenter ants live alone or with family?

With family.

Dimorphic carpenter ant workers at a nest entrance.

a bug with six legs and looks like a lady bug

Sounds like a ladybug.  😀

…or it could be a mimic, taking advantage of the ladybug’s warning coloration.  There are a number of beetles (and even spiders) that do this.

small bugs in bathroom
insects that live around the toilet
bug that eat toilet paper
silver bugs in bathroom
bathroom bugs tiny
little silver bugs in my bathroom
little bugs in bathroom
silver insect, bathroom
tiny little bugs in the bathroom
bugs in bathroom

Could be silverfish.  Or…baby roaches?

silverfish with legs

Mostly a thing that is true, yes.

i found a weird insect in my bathroom how do i recogbize it

Try posting a picture to BugGuide’s awesome ID Request section.  Or describing some recognizable features.

wasp or beetle?

I like beetles, personally.

different types of insects and their names with pictures

This is an excellent description of my blog!

6 legged reptile

That is definitely 2manylegs.

ant – mini spider queen

What.

show me a picture of a fuzzy worm

Okay.

A tiger moth caterpillar (Arctiidae) climbs a grass stem.

That’s actually a caterpillar, though.

small bug 6 legs

Wow, that’s kind of…all of them.  Here’s a cool one.

small jumping bugs

That could be a planthopper!  Or a flea.  Or a springtail.  Or…a baby grasshopper.  Or something else.

fire ants go to war with jumping spiders

That sounds awesome. O_O

Wiggle Wiggle Wiggle

25 Jun

Here’s one more picture of the mama wolf spider from last week that I kind of liked even though it was taken through plastic of the container:

Lycosidae mother wolf spider with babies on back.

Also, so that you can enjoy the full effect I made a little animated GIF for y’all to enjoy:

Wiggle wiggle wiggle

Cunning Caterpillars

13 Apr
A luna moth caterpillar with coin for scale.

A luna moth caterpillar with an Argentinean peso for scale.  For some reason this was the only coin I could find.

I wasn’t going to do another caterpillar post but I haven’t had a chance to key out the springtails for the other post I’m working on, so here you go.  As you can see, they’re still growing like fiends.  Also, I haven’t been to Argentina in two years; how is that peso still in my wallet?

A luna moth caterpillar with front half of body raised.

Yesssssss….. Exceeeeellent.

Overnight all my caterpillars turned into evil masterminds.  Or so it would appear.  Just days before they all appeared to be perfectly innocuous little caterpillars who sometimes tried to chew off their siblings’ faces.  But now just look at that caterpillar!  He’s clearly up to something.

Plotting Mr. Burns.

Someday soon I will be a beautiful butterfly.

I can’t find much in the literature on this reared-head posture–which appears to be pretty common in this family of caterpillars–but popular opinion around the internet seems to be that this is a defensive/camouflage posture to make the caterpillars look less like food to hungry predators.  They do resemble little green twigs, although it’s kind of creepy when they’re all lined up in a row staring at you.  It also puts them in a good position to employ another defensive response: clicking and puking!

A luna moth caterpillar (actias) on partially eaten leaf.

A luna moth caterpillar in feeding posture on a partially eaten leaf.

When disturbed, late instar luna caterpillars and many other bombycoids (silk moths, hawk moths, emperor moths, etc.) make an audible “clicking”, “squeaking” or “crackling” noise with their mandibles and then regurgitate noxious chemicals.  The regurgitant is apparently broadly deterrent to both vertebrate and invertebrate predators:  in the kind of science experiment I love, Brown et. al (2007) demonstrated that both ants and mice reject food treated with caterpillar puke.

I haven’t heard mine click, but they have spewed brown goop all over when I change their leaves.  I chose not to eat them, so it was apparently an effective deterrent for human predators as well.

No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.

>>The Luna Moth Saga

Maggot Art Live

24 Feb

Here’s a video I put together of the “maggot art” I talked about earlier this week.  Enjoy!

 

Entoblitz 2012

21 Feb

Relaxing and collecting in the woods at Entoblitz 2010

It’s time for Entoblitz 2012, April 27th-29th.  Be sure to check this out.  Entoblitz is a yearly collecting weekend that brings together entomology students, professors, and hobbyists from across the southern US.

This year Entoblitz is being hosted as a joint effort between Texas A&M and Oklahoma University, so we’re looking forward to lots of new faces.  The location will be right on the border between the two states, in beautiful Fobb Bottom Wildlife Management area, as well as Buncombe Creek.  Beds are available at the OU Biological Station, and there are camping and RV options as well.

It’s been a lot of fun every year!  It’s a great opportunity to visit limited-access collection sites, take photos, visit with colleagues, and generally have an excellent time entomologist-style.

Registration closes February 28th, so don’t delay!

For more information visit:

OU Entoblitz Website

A&M Entoblitz Website

Entoblitzers insect collecting at a light sheet.

Maggot art, etc.

20 Feb

Maggot art with Chrysoma rufifacies, the hairy maggot blow fly

Two new pages up today in the Techniques section.

I’ve started a collection of cool insect-related techniques as I happen across them around the internet:

Techniques from Around the Web

I also had a lot of fun doing maggot artwork at an outreach event and I put together a “how to” post on that.  Check it out!  The pics are all taken with my iPhone but they turned out great:

How to Paint with Maggots

Maggot art makes a nice item to sell or give away at events, and it also provides a fun, hands-on outreach opportunity that people of all ages can enjoy. It’s great to watch people go from “Ew!” to “Ooh!” as they see a disfavored insect make something pretty and interesting. Don’t forget to talk to people about the role of maggots in the ecosystem, the life cycle of flies, and the usefulness of maggots in cleaning wounds. The maggot artwork also makes for a nice souvenir to take home, and hopefully encourage people to talk about what they learned with even more people.

6legs2many

23 Jan

I’ve been reading Cul-de-Sac.  It’s cute.  The author has a very good handle on children, which is actually somewhat unusual in the comic world.

This one seemed appropriate to the blog:

source: Cul-de-Sac

(This one’s not bug-related at all but it’s my favorite.)

First, Remove Cat from Ants

21 Nov

Fire Ant Treatment Step 1: REMOVE CAT (source: GotoAID)

I have updated my Things That Are Not Fire Ants page with 7+ new pest control sources.  Check it out!

In the course I stumbled across the above illustration for treating fire ant bites in cats which may be one of my favorite “fire ant” graphics of all time. Caption:

Step 1: Make sure you remove yourself and your cat from any fire ants and gently hose off ants if you need to get them off your pet.

GoToAID looks like a useful first aid resource, plus it has the added bonus of (presumably) unintentionally hilarious 3D rendered graphics.

I’m sold!