Thursday 31 December 2009

Octopus carries coconut shell for protection

Just in case you thought that invertebrates weren't that clever!

Friday 25 December 2009

Rearing Haaniella scabra

An article that I have written on the rearing of Haaniella scabra will be in the next issue of Practical Reptile Keeping, available on the 30th December. The advice can be used to rear most other Haaniella species successfully.

I encourage you all to go out and buy it.

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Arachnid Picture Week 3

Jumping spider eating a fly from ej and Ugly Overload: Fly Swatter.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Arachnid Picture Week 2

Jumping spider thanks to Ugly Overload and Opo Terser: Spider Awards.

Monday 7 December 2009

Arachnid Picture Week 1

Scorpion fluorescing under UV light. Thanks to Mike Ralford and Ugly Overload: How to Floresce.

Sunday 6 December 2009

Congratulations to the National Lobster Hatchery

Carly Daniels (pictured) of the National Lobster Hatchery has been presented with the John Rose Award (£1,000) of the Instiution of Environmental Science and has given a presentation f her research at the Burntwood Lecture at the Royal Society. The money will be spent making a video for visitors to the Hatchery.

I have been meaning to go and visit the National Lobster Hatchery for a while now, hopefully I can arrange it for next year.

Check out the orginal post at the Rock Blogster: Researcher Carly Daniels receives award for outstanding research

Saturday 5 December 2009

The Cameraman's Revenge

Although the music was recorded in 2008, this film was made in 1912. Thanks to Bug Girl for the link: Vintage Entomology film!

Cnidarian Lifeforms

Cnidarian Lifeforms from Delrious on Vimeo.

Via Deep Sea News: Cnidarian Lifeforms.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Invertebrate Rearing journal

The website for the new journal, Invertebrate Rearing, has seen some recent improvements. I have added submission guidelines, and the ability to get e-mail notification of journal issues.

All you have to do is head over to Invertebrate Rearing, register an account, and then click the link to manage your subscriptions.

We have already received submissions for the first issue, but could do with a few more. Articles can now also be submitted online, so get your fingers out and start typing.

Sunday 29 November 2009

Peacock Spider

"The tiny arachnid, found in Australia, shows off a rainbow of colours to impress nearby females.

It can raise a pair of legs and fan out two brightly patterned flaps at the back of its body.
Displaying its spectrum of shades in an attempt to attract the attention of the less vibrant brown spiders, the creature reveals hues of orange, yellow, green and blue.

Also known as a Maratus Vilans, amateur photographer Jurgen Otto originally spotted the colourful creature in the wild.

However, as it is only 4mm long, he found it easier to capture images in his Sydney home.
The spider also uses its third pair of legs in the mating display, raising them to show a brush of black hairs and white tips.

The spider can also jump, but the common belief that it can use its patterned flaps to glide through the air is an urban myth which has been debunked by the Australasian Arachnological Society.

The spider is found in eastern parts of Australia, including Queensland and New South Wales.
Both sexes of the spider rarely reach more than 5mm in body length. Females are brown with no distinct pattern."

Presents for Entomologists

The Amateur Entomologists' Society has produced a list of Christmas presents for entomologists. Please e-mail me for details of where to send.

Monday 23 November 2009

Leaf cutter ants and bacteria

You can only understand so much about a species by considering it in isolation. It's interactions with the rest of life on earth is often hard to study, but when studies are done they yield some fascinating interactions.

Take leaf-cutter ants as an example. I'm sure that most readers of this blog will know they cut sections of vegetation, take them into their nest, and grow fungus on them. The fungus is what the ants eat, they have evolved to become farmers. The evolutionary history of this relationship is interesting, but there are other players.

In 1999 it was found that the fungus gardens are helped by antibiotic producing bacterium that controls parasites. It has recently been found that an additional species of bacteria is used to fix atmospheric nitrogen, making it available to the fungus. As well as crop protection bacteria also provide the fungus gardens with fertiliser.

Sunday 22 November 2009

Poecilimon sp.: Orthoptera from Turkey

These photographs were taken in Turkey by Geoffrey Summers. The colours tend to fade rapidly after death, so in collections many of these bright, colourful species become a slightly less nice shade of brown.

Spider Smuggling

The transfer of flora and fauna across international borders, and in some circumstances internal borders, is often controlled by law. The reasons for this vary from protecting native species, to protecting imported species, particularly if they are considered rare. reports that A Welshman, Lee Arden, has been arrested in Brazil for smuggling spiders for the pet trade. Now Brazil is one of those countries where you really do have to be careful, and have all of your permits in order. The spiders seem to have been imported for sale in The Spider Shop.

Perhaps the punishment is excessive, but these laws are there to protect our environment from potentially hazardous invaders, and to protect threatened species from having their numbers reduced by removal from their natural habitat. This should be a cautionary tale .

Saturday 21 November 2009

Invertebrate Rearing journal

Along with a few friends and colleagues I am starting a journal, Invertebrate Rearing, that will cover the rearing of all invertebrates (apart from stick insects and cockroaches). The journal is open access and free to publish in so check it out: Invertebrate Rearing.

The website isn't too hot just yet, but we have until January for the first issue.

Saturday 7 November 2009

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009

On the 27th October 2009 (yet another timely post) I visited the Wildlife Photographer of the Year preview at the Natural History Museum, London. This year the exhibit has moved to a different gallery, giving it a bit more breathing room and has a more modern feel with blue lighting - it all looks very impressive.

The exhibition has a new sponsor, Veloia Environnement

The layout of the exhibit is pretty awkward though, with various inter-locking rooms and no clear idea as to which way round to go. I would like to see the photos in the order highly commended, runner-up, and winner - at various points this happened, at others I ended up seeing the winner first.

Of course this is all just a distraction from the photographs which, as always, were stunning. Not a huge number of invertebrates, but I have included a selection here for you to enjoy.

Mating Barnacles Video

Mating barnacles from Casey Dunn on Vimeo.

For more information about barnacle mating check out Mating when you are stuck to a rock by Creature Cast.

Have you got a good marine invertebrate blog post?

... then send it to Southern Fried Science for their 'The Best Marine Invert Blog Posts'.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

The AES Exhibition

Originally uploaded by edwbaker

Every year the Amateur Entomologists' Society has an exhibition where you can buy all kinds of live and dead insects, and all the equipment that goes with having an interest in either or both.

As usual I was tied up with helping the Phasmid Study Group and Blattodea Culture Group for a lot of the time (which is fun but doesn't always leave time to have a good look around the rest). One of the people who stopped by to chat was Erica (responsible for the Curator of Diptera's blog). She can be seen here with the phasmid Anchiale maculata.

Somewhat surprisingly I only took two photographs - the Flickr set could just as easily have been called dipterists meeting phasmids really.

Monday 26 October 2009

Blog Post on Stick Insects

See this post on Diapheromera femorata.

Cicada Parasite Beetle

Check out the post on Cicada Parasite Beetles on Myrmecos

Sunday 25 October 2009

New U of I Entomology Blog

The IB 401 students at the University of Illinois (I was there briefly earlier in the year: U of I Pollinatarium) have started an entomology blog. So far they seem to be pretty keen and doing a fine job, so check it out.

Good to see they have chosen an orthopteroid as the logo image too!

Snail Porn

Since my women and cockroaches post Aydin at Snail's Tails has been mourning the lack of snails and women. Never one to shy away from sticking a hand down the back of the internet to see what probably shouldn't be found, I discovered these:

The non-safe version of above image

The non-safe version of above image

Yes, it seems that the internet really does have everything you had no desire to find......

Culture List

I have recently been talking to various people involved in captive breeding of invertebrates (of the hobbyist rather than professional type) and several times a desire for an online system of managing livestock cultures and the exchange of livestock has been mentioned.

There seemed to be some merit in this, particularly in the context of the Phasmid Study Group and Blattodea Culture Group. As both of the groups use Scratchpads as a website platform it makes sense to develop this within the context of the Drupal framework - so I have started to implement a livestock management system on my own website (has been under-development for months, but I'm working on it).

So does anybody have any suggestions as to features?

Saturday 24 October 2009

Mail Eating Snails

The Times reports that snails have been eating mail from Royal Mail post boxes. The article suggests the molluscs are after the gum on the envelope, however Aydin from Snail's Tales suggests they after the cellulose content of the paper.

I can't say that I have ever had slimy mail, however I have fallen for the paper data label trap for collecting live snails.

Caterpillar Overload

Macro Video of Jumping Spider

FHM Cockroach

Do you ever wish you could combine half-dressed women with your interest in cockroaches? Well here you go....

I think the cockroach is Lucihormetica verrucosa, I have no idea who it's crawling on.

If that isn't enough try Cockroach Fetish Pornography. That page is safe but I don't encourage you to use Google too much!

Friday 23 October 2009


Penis Eating Worm

As reported by Practical Fishkeeping: Giant penis-eating worm found in UK aquarium

Also from PFK;

Common name: Bobbit worm

Scientific name: Eunice aphroditois (Pallas, 1788)

Origin: Indo Pacific and Western Central Atlantic.

Size: Around 100cm/39", but potentially as large as 3m/10'.

Diet: Lives in soft substrates with its head protruding and feeds on live fish which it detects using a number of sensory antennae on its head. Prey and grabbed in its powerful jaws and then the worm rapidly retreats into its burrow to consume the prey.

Notes: Said to breed at a size of just 10cm/4", which is very early given the size and age of larger specimens. It has an protrusible proboscis, rather like that of the native British ragworm.
Some claim that there may be several related species masquerading under the scientific name Eunice aphroditois, including E. tentaculata.

Thursday 22 October 2009

A trip to London Zoo

I should really be more prompt in writing about things here.

Last Thursday I went to ZSL London Zoo to talk to Matthew Robertson about a forthcoming issue of the Blattodea Culture Group's journal, Cockroach Studies. (Issue 3 is almost at the printers, Issue 4 will be a rearing handbook).

Apart from discussing husbandry we talked about possible ways the Zoo and the BCG, and also the Phasmid Study Group could work together in some way - watch this space.

I took the opportunity to see the latest star attraction - Galapagos Giant Tortoises. Photographs will be on Flickr soon.

Dead Insect Art

Dead Insect Art: thanks to Heather for the link.

Friday 16 October 2009

Spider on Passiflora edulis

I found this via Taxacom, no ID on the spider yet, but it is rather beautiful.

Saturday 10 October 2009

iPhone Mosquito Repellent

The iPhone mosquito repellent takes a good bashing from Bug Girl here. Ultrasonic insect repellents just don't work.

Sap Beetle

AES Annual Exhibition

The Amateur Entomologist's Society Annual Exhibition will be held on the 17th October at Kempton Park Racecourse. There are more details here. This is a great event, with lots of livestock, specimens and books for sale. There will be representatives of the Blattodea Culture Group and Phasmid Study Group (I guess I'll be hanging around there for a while if you want to catch me).

Monday 5 October 2009

Phasmids in Badas Peat Swamp Forest

A bit of retro Phasmid Study Group meeting video - recently transferred from VHS (that's what we used before DVDs I am told). The voice is that of Mel Herbert (I am told - I wasn't a member of the PSG at the time) who got to spend a lot of time looking for stick insects - and some impressive looking ones at that.

Phasmids of Badas Peat Swamp Forest from Ed Baker on Vimeo.

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Nauphoeta cinerea nymphs

Nauphoeta cinerea nymphs
Originally uploaded by edwbaker

The Nauphoeta cinerea I received from Mark Bushell at the last Phasmid study Group meeting are really starting to fly. I managed to catch this group of nymphs before they "coloured up" (the exoskeleton is soft when the nymphs emerge and as it hardens it develops the usual brown colour).

This brief white phase also occurs after the insect moults. I have seen several "albino" cockroaches on Flickr and elsewhere where people have seen a freshly moulted cockroach on display. My favourite was when I corrected somebody (I believe on DeviantArt). Their photograph showed a freshly emerged cockroach with it's moult (normal coloured) and other non-albino cockroaches. He replied saying that the display said it was of albino cockroaches. Liar!

Monday 28 September 2009

A Diptera Blog

Erica McAlister, Curator of Diptera at the Natural History Museum, London has recently started a new entomology blog. So far there's posts about farm animals, genitalia and taxonomy. Always a good mix.

Sunday 27 September 2009

The Great Pretenders

This is not actually the version of the presentation used in my talk, but the photographs are the same. Slideshare did some strange things, I guess because this was originally widescreen.

Sunday 20 September 2009

Falkland Islands Dependencies Invertebrate Stamps

A selection of invertebrate stamps from the Falkland Islands Dependencies. Over the next few weeks I will try and research some of these species and tell you a little more about them one by one. So if you happen to know anything - let me know!

Saturday 19 September 2009

Nature Live: The Great Pretenders

I'm giving my Nature Live talk, The Great Pretenders, again at the Natural History Museum, London. This time though it will take place in the brand new Attenborough Studio in the museum's new wing, Darwin Centre phase 2.

I will be giving the talk this Monday at 12:30 and on Sunday, 8th November at 12:30 and 14:30. For more information see The Great Pretenders on the NHM website.

A video of my previous talk can be seen at a previous post: The Great Pretenders.

Name your own wasp

The Natural History Museum and The Times are joining forces to let you name a new species of wasp. More details here: Give a wasp a name.

Natalie Jeremijenko: Human-Beetle Interface

In an earlier post I explained that Pestival Symposium speaker Natalie Jeremijenko was involved in a project that let you interface rhinoceros beetles. For those of you didn't quite understand this (rather werid) idea here is a video.

Pestival: Insect Detectives

As soon as death occurs your body becomes a potential food source for various insects. Natural History Museum forensic scientists study the insects associated with decaying bodies to help solve crime.

This was perhaps the best hands-on part of Pestival for children. Under a tent (which had actually be used previously on real crime scenes) a simulated crime scene, complete with fake dettached hands and blowfly larvae, was set up. Under the supervision of Amoret Whitaker and Martin Hall you could collect the larvae and identify them.

You can see more photos of Insect Detectives on my Flickr pages.

Thursday 17 September 2009

Prince William of Wales

Originally uploaded by edwbaker
Prince William at the Darwin Centre opening ceremony.

David Attenborough

David Attenborough
Originally uploaded by edwbaker
The man himself at the Darwin Centre opening ceremony.

Butterfly Confetti

Butterfly Confetti
Originally uploaded by edwbaker

After the building was opened by HRH Prince William of Wales thousands of red butterflies came fluttering over the Cocoon. This photo shows some making their way down the outside.

There are more photos of this on my Flickr.

DC2 Opening Butterfly

DC2 Opening Butterfly
Originally uploaded by edwbaker

This photo is from the opening ceremony of the Darwin Centre (Phase 2) at the Natural History Museum, London. This building will contain a large proportion of the dry entomology and botany collections (17 million insects and 3 million plants).

The building was officially opened by Sir David Attenborough and HRH Prince William of Wales (who both missed this piece of theatre). More to come soon.

Thursday 10 September 2009

Not-Doings (by Jane Wafer)

Not-Doings (by Jane Wafer)
Originally uploaded by edwbaker
Human-sized butterfly chrysalises exhibited at the Royal Festival Hall as part of Pestival.

Pestival Symposium: How Insect Are We?

Thursday 3rd September, 2009 7:30PM

I am always slightly suspicious about the boundary or art and science. It can be great, such as Fred Edwards' work on Alfred Russel Wallace or Tessa Farmer's The Horned Skullship (shown at the main Pestival event at the South Bank Centre - I will blog about this later ).

The Pestival programme is meant to look at "insects in art and he art of being an insect". In other words it tries to use insects to bridge science and art (and achieves this to a greater or lesser extent). The Pestival Symposium was perhaps the main science-focussed event (introduced by New Scientist editor Roger Highfield), and was held at the Meeting Rooms of the Zoological Society of London.

The first talk by Stanford University ant biologist Deborah Gordon (of Gordon Lab) was a good start. She covered some examples of ant behaviour (they're lazier than most people believe) and society structure (it's not much like ours). There is a great video of Deborah giving a TED talk here (parts of which are very close to her Pestival talk): Deborah Gordon digs ants.

Deborah's conclusion was that we really aren't that much like ants.

The second speaker, the very eloquent Steve Connor (Professor of Modern Literature and Theory at Birkbeck College, London), spoke about flies - 'The Times of Our Lives' - showing how they had made appearances in art and literature for centuries. Being an enlightened chap he has made the text of his talk (PDF) available here.

Steve did at one point come up with an amusing measure of how insect we are: we are genetically 98% identical to a chimpanzee and 40% the same as a banana, therefore we are between 40% and 98% insect.

In the third talk Simon Laughlin (Professor of Neurobiology, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge) showed how the neural networks in the eyes of flies used to identify roll during flight can be used a basis for studying the more complex networks present in humans.

Finally engineer and designer Natalie Jeremijenko spoke about some methods she uses to promote conservation in cities and also about her work on interfacing with insects in their own way (in the photo below a human is wrestling a large beetle - from the beetle wrestling page).

You can read more about Natalie's projects here.

In conclusion there was no agreement about how insect we are. In fact this issue was only really skimmed over by the speakers - but that's for the best as the question is actually pretty useless. What is good is that it bought some people together, who had a good time. The best answer heard all evening was essentially that we are half a billion years different from insects.

Tuesday 8 September 2009

Tegenaria duellica

Tegenaria duellica
Originally uploaded by edwbaker
Found outside of the Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum, London.

This species feeds on small invertebrates, building a flatish nest with a funnel where the spider lurks waiting to inject its prey with venom. This species is not known to bite humans.

Towards the end of summer males are often seen roaming in search of a female to mate with - which is probably the case here.

Thursday 3 September 2009

Stick Insects at Heligan

A phasmid clip from A Wild Day in Heligan. The species is Acanthoxyla inermis, imported accidentally over 100 years ago from new Zealand and now increasing its range in Soputh-West Britain.

Wednesday 2 September 2009

Lost Land of the Volcano

A preview of the new BBC series Lost Land of the Volcano (starring George McGavin). There is a great shot of a stick insect around 0:16.

Sunday 30 August 2009

Not the Heaviest Insect

Several news sources, mainly in Australia, have been reporting that a Macropanesthia cockroach (the one pictured is called Heathcliffe) may be a contender for heaviest insect in the world.

THIS IS NOT TRUE (at all). These cockroaches can sometimes approach a weight of 40g. The heaviest recorded phasmid (Heteropteryx dilatata) exceeds this weight regularly. Additionally many beetles weigh in excess of 50g, and some even 100g, so poor Heathcliffe has absolutely no chance at the title.

It is a pretty amazing cockroach though.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

I get SPAM....

Somebody has taken it upon themselves to comment on my NYC Cricket Crawl post. Unfortunately they, or their automated blog-spammer, has made a fatal mistake:

"Shane Warne – The best bowler Australia has ever produced has opened up his mind to the media. He exposed his discontent regarding umpires. According to the ace spinner barring a few exceptions like Simon Tauter and ASAP Rauf other umpires went awry in terms of performance .Expressing disappointment that the standard of umpiring has deteriorated to the worst extent in the past twenty years of time he opined that though umpiring was a hard job, the performances of the umpires in the Ashes series had been consistently so ordinary. As far as Warne is concerned umpire Billy Bowden whom he expected to deliver correct judgments was also not consistent in performing his duty.
The spinner repents that there are too many instances of such bad judgments, which is increasingly becoming a cause of concern. He directly made a mention of names of umpires Daryl Harper and Billy Bowden, accusing them to be adamant in not confessing their wrong judgments. He also tried to strengthen his claim by mentioning that several players were not having a good opinion about those umpires in their minds. Warne insisted that the umpires should maintain a friendly attitude towards the players by shedding their high-handed attitude Warne also expressed his view repetitively that fifty over match should be withdrawn once for all as if such a change is brought about it would enable the players to spend more time with their families and relieve them from "

So there... the only real sport ever mentioned on this blog so far....

Monday 24 August 2009

New York Cricket Crawl

This sounds like a pretty neat event. On the 11th September (or 12th if the 11th is called off due to rain) from 19:45 you can go out and listen to the 7 orthopterans found within New York City.

For more details go here or contact There is also a Facebook group.

Jellyfish Mix the Oceans

This video shows a luminescent dye being delivered into the path of a swimming jellyfish. As the jellyfish swims through the dye you will notice that it "carries" some of the dye along behind it. The dye is not actually carried, but "follows" the jellyfish as its forward movement causes a low-pressure area behind it that the dyed water moves in to equalise.

In this way it has been proposed that jellyfish contirbute significantly to the mixing of the oceans.

Thursday 20 August 2009

My Unbirthday Card

As I was away for my birthday (in the New Forest) my friend and colleague Natalie constructed me this unbirthday card, expressing in symbols our joint frustration at entomological common names. Small prizes awarded to anyone who makes cool equations (with pictures) along the same lines. If need be e-mail them to me edwbaker {at} gmail [dot] com.

Cockoaches and Mites

"Thinking of keeping a giant roach as a pet? Make sure it's infested with beneficial parasites firs" from PopSci.

Aeshna mixta (Migrant Hawker)

I found this yesterday outside of the first phase of the Darwin Centre, Natural History Museum, London. The individual was stationary for around four hours in the shade.

Thursday 6 August 2009

If you go out in the woods today....

...don't do this.

I have only ever once encountered a couple in flagrante while out in the wild. It wasn't pretty.

Monday 3 August 2009

Phyllium giganteum

National Geographic has a piece on 'The Art of Deception' in it's latest issue. I identified this species for them, and another that they didn't use (like the quotes I provided). Oh well, here I make a pathetic, needy claim for minor credit! Check out more photos here.