Insect Links

Guest Post: Crowdfunded study of maternal care in leaf beetles

The following is a guest post by entomologist Guillaume Dury.

In the tropical forests of South America, survival can be tough for a small larva. Ravenous predators are on the prowl and deadly parasites soar nearby. Even faced with these threats, most species simply abandon their offspring, usually eggs. My favourite solution to survival of offspring is maternal care, but this raises the question: “Why do some insects care for their young while most do not?”

Comparatively few people study maternal care in insects and I’d like your help to be one of them. Insects are my passion, below is a photo of me at 4 years old, in the Swiss Alps with my insect net. Since then, I’ve obtained a B.Sc. in biology and ecology and I’ve finished my M.Sc. working on leaf beetles. I’m a BugShot 2012 alumnus and love insect photography, you can find my portfolio and my complete research C.V. on my website:

Guillaume, 4 years old, with his insect gear in the Swiss Alps.

My project is partially funded by a National Geographic Young Explorer’s grant. I’m collaborating with Dr. Windsor of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and Dr. Bede of McGill University, we propose a series of observations and experiments to determine how Proseicela vittata Fabricius (Chrysomelidae: Chrysomelinae) mothers defend their offspring, and from what threats, and how it differs from a closely related species without maternal care.

Proseicela vittata guarding a brood of larvae. Photo by Dr. Donald Windsor.

Leaf beetles feed on leaves exposed to predators and parasites, parents of some species guard their progeny. The picture above is a mother Proseicela vittata with her larvae. In P. vittata, the mother beetle protects her eggs by gestating them, then, after giving birth to small larvae, she remains with them for all of their development.

The mother beetle doesn’t feed her larvae, but prepares their first meal. She will cut the veins of the first leaf the larvae eat. The leaves are those of the toxic Solanum morii (Solanaceae), and no one is certain about why the mothers cut the veins, we think it makes the leaves less toxic for the newborn larvae.

If you can share my project and spare a few dollars, it will make a big difference for me and I’ll do my very best to give back the best science I can! I am collecting funds through an Indiegogo campaign:

Links for the New Year

Myrmecia pilosula, Australia charming (and dangerous) jack-jumper ant.

Welcome to 2012! You look like you need something to read:

Also, we have a date and place for this year’s BugShot insect photography workshop: 23-26 August at the Archbold Biological Station in Florida. Full details & registration information will be posted by February; consider this a pre-announcement.

Weekend Bug Links

Papilio polyxenes, larva

I’m off to give a short chat on South American beekeeping to the Central Illinois Beekeeper’s Association. In the meantime, here’s what the internet has to say about bugs:

Enriching the blogroll

Need some new reading? Here are blogs I’ve started following over the past month:

6legs2many: Alison Bockoven, a student at Texas A&M, blogs her work with fire ants and other entomological musings. For a start, check out the silverfish.

Context & Variation: Kate Clancy is an Anthropology professor here at the University of Illinois, and C & V provides thoughtful scientific coverage of human behavior & reproductive issues.

Honey Bee Suite: Pacific northwest beekeeper Rusty’s blog carries timely apiculture tips along with various bee-related news.

Living with Insects: Jonathan Neal teaches entomology at Perdue, and his blog is a frequently updated trove of insect natural history.

Nature Closeups: You may know Troy Bartlett from the amazing This is Troy’s blog.

Art Evans’ Facebook feed: Sure, Art also has a blog. But his public facebook page is a rapid-fire stream of relevant bug news and commentary.

Up Close with Nature: Kurt (aka Orion Mystery) expertly captures the Malaysian bug fauna.

Photo Naturalist: I can’t imagine a better site to introduce the art of nature photography than this excellent blog, co-written by Steve and Vic Berardi.

Magnificent Insect Eggs

If you haven’t seen the amazing SEMs of insect eggs in this month’s Nat Geo, or read the accompanying text by ant guy Rob Dunn, you’re missing out…

Bear in mind that some of the beauty- the color bits- are added later. Scanning Electron Microscopy cannot record color, so the striking hues are interpretations of the artist.

May Berenbaum on Bed Bugs

May Berenbaum, entomologist extraordinaire, considers the modern bed bug resurgence in today’s NY Times:

I had been a professor of entomology for 15 years before I saw my first live bedbug. It crawled out of a plastic film canister that had been mailed to me by a distraught student in the Boston area who had no idea what it was. I was so thrilled to see a live bedbug, I showed it off to every graduate student I ran into that day: Cimex lectularius — a small, flat, wingless, brown ectoparasite that hides in cracks and crevices in human dwellings and emerges under cover of darkness to feast on human blood.

That was in 1995, and none of my students had laid eyes on Cimex lectularius either.

Read the whole thing.