Insects

Himalaya Honey Hunters Cling to Cliffside Tradition

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: April 14, 2004   View Article

Twice a year high in the Himalayan foothills of central Nepal teams of men gather around cliffs that are home to the world’s largest honeybee, Apis laboriosa. As they have for generations, the men come to harvest the Himalayan cliff bee’s honey.

The harvest ritual, which varies slightly from community to community, begins with a prayer and sacrifice of flowers, fruits, and rice. Then a fire is lit at the base of the cliff to smoke the bees from their honeycombs.

Bejeweled Beetle May Inspire Synthetic Gem

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: January 12, 2004   View Article

The study of a weevil with an opal-like shell from the dimly-lit tropical forests of northeastern Queensland, Australia, may enable humans to more easily manufacture synthetic versions of the gem.

Understanding how the beetle manufactures the tiny structures in its scales may benefit jewelers seeking a less expensive opal and the computer and telecommunications industries seeking to manufacture tiny electronics.

“No Sting Too Painful” for “Bug Attack” Scientist

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: July 31, 2003   View Article

They swim through swamps, crawl over logs, buzz through the air, and burrow under skin. They sting and bite, spread disease, and devour rotting flesh. Without them, life as we know it would cease to exist.

In a statement promoting a documentary film on the Earth’s most impressive and interesting insects, Phil DeVries said, “It is hardly a secret that insects make the world a safer, homier place.” DeVries is director of the Center for Biodiversity Studies at the Milwaukee Public Museum and an entomologist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Internal Clock Leads Monarch Butterflies to Mexico

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: June 10, 2003   View Article

For every fourth or fifth generation of monarch butterflies that summer in the U.S. east of the Continental Divide, the pull of high-altitude Oyamel fir forests in central Mexico is irresistible.

By the millions each fall they point south and flutter up to 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) to reach the forests on a few small mountain peaks in an approximately 60-square-mile (155-square-kilometer) area in the volcanic highlands that serve as the butterflies’ winter retreat.

Dung Beetles Navigate by the Moon, Study Says

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: July 2, 2003   View Article

Out on the African savanna, a fresh and moist pile of fine-grained antelope dung is a nutritious treasure aggressively fought over by a melee of critters. The spoils go to those with the craftiest strategies to snatch and stash a piece of the pie.

To gain an edge in this battle for the poop, the African dung beetle Scarabaeus zambesianus orients itself by the polarized light pattern cast by the moon to make a straight, nighttime escape with its morsel, according to Marie Dacke, a biologist at the University of Lund in Sweden.

Fruit Flies Highlight Aerodynamics of Insect Flight

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: April 23, 2003   View Article

To swat a fly can be a lesson in futility. The insect darts from each swipe with uncanny precision, altering its course to zip off in nearly the opposite direction.

Precisely how a fly achieves its aerial acrobatics is more than a curiosity of annoyance for Michael Dickinson, a bioengineer at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Dickinson has built an entire research lab, not to mention professional career, seeking an answer to just how a fly’s brain controls its muscles in precision flight.

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.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach