Insects

Dragonfly Migration Tracked With Tiny Radio Tags

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 12, 2005   View Article

Dragonflies fitted with tiny radio transmitters may aid scientists’ efforts to track where the insects buzz off to on their southward migrations. The results should shed light on this little-studied behavior, according to the project leaders.

“We don’t know where they go or, to be honest, why they do it,” said Michael May, a dragonfly expert at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Paper Wasps Beg Their Young for a Saliva Snack

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 17, 2005   View Article

Parents across the globe usually take their role as providers very seriously. But in an unusual role reversal, paper wasp queens beg their young for a meal.

When they get peckish, the queens wag their abdomens across their nests, creating vibrations that “ask” for a nutritious saliva snack.

Beat Bugs Without DEET: U.S. Boosts 2 Alternatives

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: July 26, 2005   View Article

Summertime … swat … and the living is … swat … swat … swat—nothing ruins a summer day like a swarm of bloodthirsty mosquitoes.

For years the only scientifically proven way to ward off the buggers was to use an insect repellent containing the chemical compound DEET (diethyl toluamide).

Flesh-Eating Caterpillars Discovered in Hawaii

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: July 21, 2005   View Article

In Hawaiian rain forests, scientists have discovered caterpillars with a taste for escargot: They trap snails on leaves using silk webbing and then eat them alive.

These are the first caterpillars known to eat snails or mollusks of any kind, an evolutionary adaptation likely enabled by the island chain’s isolation. The insects are also the first caterpillars known to use silk to ensnare prey in a spiderlike fashion.

Snap, Buckle, Pop: The Physics of Fast-Moving Plants

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: May 26, 2005   View Article

Fleet-footed animals, such as gazelles and cheetahs, aren’t the only livings things that rely on speed for their survival. The same is true for some plants and fungi.

Consider the Venus flytrap, the poster child for carnivorous plants: Its jaw-like leaves can ensnare insects in an eye-blurring one-tenth of a second.

Insects Key to Rain Forest Diversity, Study Shows

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: March 10, 2005   View Article

When it comes to maintaining and accentuating the mind-boggling plant diversity of the Amazon rain forests, insects are a friend, not a foe, according to a new study.

“The point is that insect herbivores magnify the differences between the habitats,” said Paul Fine, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Plants vs. Insects: An Amazon Epic for the Ages

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: March 7, 2005   View Article

Insects are enemy number one to plants the world over: They munch leaves, suck sap, bore stems, and devour roots. To fight back, plants have evolved an army’s worth of defenses that confuse, repel, deter, and sicken their attackers.

“As soon as the first insect took a bite out of a plant, what I like to refer to as the arms race began between plants and insects,” said Tom Turpin, an entomologist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

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