Insects

U.S. Military Looks to Beetles for New Sensors

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: March 14, 2003   View Article

Some like it hot. Some beetles like it smoking hot.

When a forest goes up in flames normally elusive Melanophila acuminata beetles from miles around head for the inferno in droves, joining a mating frenzy so that the females can lay their eggs in the freshly burned trees.

The beetles are attracted to the smoldering wood because the burned trees no longer have active defense mechanisms such as flowing sap.

Tiny Flying Robots Modeled on Insects

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: March 13, 2003   View Article

Black flies, wasps, and bumblebees may be the bane of backyard barbeques, but their keen ability to navigate from potato chip to hamburger to bare arm is the inspiration for a host of robots that may soon be hailed as international heroes.

Scientists from around the world are reverse-engineering the mechanics of insects as they design midget robots to scout battlefields, search for victims trapped in rubble, and record images as they hover over distant planets.

Ants Practice Nepotism, Study Finds

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: February 26, 2003   View Article

The highly social and complex world of ants is not void of selfish acts. Worker ants of the species Formica fusca apparently can distinguish who their closest relatives are and kill their more distant relations.

“That workers capitalize on this ability simply means that the workers use the information they have to enhance their genetic contribution to future generations,” said Liselotte Sundström, an entomologist at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

U.S. Students to Continue Ants-in-Space Experiment

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: February 4, 2003   View Article

Student scientists from Syracuse, New York, say they plan to finish their ants-in-space experiment started aboard space shuttle Columbia in honor of the seven fallen astronauts and their commitment to scientific discovery.

“[The students] feel that their experiment should not be in vain, they want to finish their project,” said Charlotte Archabald, the students’ teacher at Fowler High School in Syracuse. “They feel that what happened with the shuttle was a tragedy, but they need to fix it at NASA and move on. Space needs to be explored, research needs to be done.”

Brazil Bug Study May Aid Farmland Preservation

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 3, 2002   View Article

Overturn a wet rock or poke into a pile of damp leaf litter, and you may send a mass of tiny creatures known as Collembola jumping for cover.

The world’s most abundant insect (although taxonomists debate if they are true insects), Collembola have been around for at least 400 million years and exist in as many as 100,000 varieties.

Ant Study Shows Link Between Single Gene, Colony Formation

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: January 24, 2002   View Article

The complex group behavior of social insects such as ants and bees has long intrigued scientists and other observers. This activity is thought to be shaped by a combination of factors, including genetics, learning, and the environment. But a new study shows that when it comes to fire ants, a single gene plays a major role.

The finding may offer important insight to researchers who are working to determine what genes influence social behavior in people.

Invader Ants Hurting Ecosystems, Economies

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: November 9, 2001   View Article

When merchant ships embarked from the shores of Brazil and Argentina in the early 1900s to carry coffee and sugar to South Africa, North America, and the Mediterranean, they carried a mischievous stowaway: Linepithema humile.

The tiny black insect, better known as the Argentine ant, used burgeoning global trade to invade ant communities around the world. Scientists are just now beginning to tally the damage. The reports are grim. Entire native ant populations have disappeared.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach