Sunday 26 April 2009

Pollinatarium at University of Illinois

On a recent trip to meet the Species File development team I had the privilege of visiting the University of Illinois Pollinatarium. This is a great outreach project geared to educate school groups (and others!) about pollinators. Of course there is plenty about bees (see video below - they have live ones) but also information about birds, bats and other creatures.

This is certainly one of the most exciting outreach projects I've seen, and the enthusiasm of the staff for this resource is infectious.

I have put some photos on Flickr. If you can go I strongly encourage you do so.

Saturday 25 April 2009

Fossil Phasmids in Amber

I'm currently in Champaign, Illinois. I will post some details of my activities in the next few days. In the meantime, have a look at these photos. Original source here.

Monday 20 April 2009

Bluebell Survey

I would encourage all you UK residents to have a go at some citizen science, and help the NHM botanists out a little!

New Beetle Newsletter

The first issue of Beetle News is available now. Haven't had time for a proper read but certainly seems pretty interesting (the focus is on UK beetles). The contents are as follows:

Review: British Scraptiidae
Warwickshire Coleoptera- an update
Somerset beetle records wanted
Some observations on the Orange Ladybird
Vivarium heat mats : a few suggested uses for the coleopterist
Cassida nebulosa Linnaeus (Chrysomelidae) in flight
News from recording schemes (Tenebrionoidea, Scirtidae, Stenini, Silphidae)
Beetle publications for free download
Beginner’s Guide Silphidae 1: Nicrophorus

The Beetle publications for free download may be worth a look, although the links are to home pages and not to the page you want.

Friday 17 April 2009


This week Hojun Song visited the Natural History Museum, London (after also visiting Philadelphia and Paris). Hojun's website ( has a lot of information on this genus. It's well worth a visit.

There is a key to 43 Schistocerca species and a photo gallery in addition to background information on ecology, plagues, taxonomy and biogeography.

The image below if of Schistocerca obscura from Hojun's site.

Wednesday 15 April 2009

Phasmid Study Group Newsletter

The April issue has just been sent to the printers. This is the delayed March issue. I will make it available to PSG Members online as soon as I receive my copy through the post.

Non PSG members should join - full details are available at

Leopard Slug Mating Video

Spiders 101

Saying that Daddy Long Legs are arachnids causes some issues! In North America harvestmen (order Opiliones) are known as daddy long legs, and are arachnids. In the UK the term Daddy Long Legs applies to certain crane files (family Tipulidae) which are insects.

The Other 95%: Lophozozymus incisus

It seems that Eric Heupel is trying to out-crab me!

The Other 95%: Lophozozymus incisus

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Another Budak Snail

More snail eye candy from The Annotated Budak.

Pom Pom Crab

These small crabs carry around two small anemones for self-defense. Pom pom crabs are fairly common in the aquarium trade and apparently live well in captivity, with or without their anemones. The crab shown here is Lybia tessellata, the anemones are usually of the genus Bunodeopsis or Triactis.

Monday 13 April 2009

Cicada Moluting

A photo by Russel Slutz I found via Ugly Overload.

Pretty Awesome Backpack

If anyone makes one please send me it!

Nerite Snails

Photo from The Annotated Budak.

Saturday 11 April 2009

Some Orthoptera from Panama

Given that in a few short weeks I'll be in Panama I was pleased to see the link on Bug Girl's blog to Adrian Royle's Flickr set from Panama. Posted below is some orthoptera eye-candy!

Friday 10 April 2009


Some videos from Dwindling In Unbelief: Did God create the Ichneumonidae?

Fruit Fly Competitive Sexual Practices
This is the second post I have made on peer-reviewed research. I did intend to make them more regular, and I will endeavor to do more soon.

This paper essentially deals with sexual selection (females choose the males they want to mate with) and some 'tricks' used by males to increase the likelihood of their sperm being used to fertilise the female's eggs.

The male's sperm is delivered within the seminal fluid. The seminal fluid contains a mixture of energy and nutrient rich chemicals to ensure the survival of the sperm outside of the male's body. In addition to these chemicals are proteins designed to alter the behaviour of the female. In insects these seminal fluid proteins are known to have a range of effects including "promoting sperm storage, temporarily increasing female egg-laying rate and decreasing female sexual receptivity". The effect of these (in isolation and combined) is to increase the reproductive fitness of the male by decreasing the chances of other males successfully reproducing with that female.

What the paper by Wigby et al shows is that the concentration of certain seminal fluid proteins depends on the presence of potential rivals. The researchers studied two seminal fluid proteins: ovulin (known to increase egg production) and sex peptide (known to increase egg production and reduce the probability of a female accepting a mate). The presence of a competing male caused the duration of mating to be extended and the amount of seminal fluid protein transferred to the female to be increased.

Wigby, S., Sirot, L., Linklater, J., Buehner, N., Calboli, F., Bretman, A., Wolfner, M., & Chapman, T. (2009). Seminal Fluid Protein Allocation and Male Reproductive Success Current Biology DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.03.036

More Snails

I'm trawling through a backlog of things I want to write about. More snails today - this time Rumina. I have already written about my breeding of Rumina decollata (see posts on this blog).

Aydin at Snail's Tales has written a paper and blogged about the reproductive behaviour of a closely related species, Rumina saharica (photo below is from Aydin's blog).

For the record I have a list of species that I keep in culture here. It is far from complete at the moment - I have only just put it online and I need to check exactly what I have!

Thursday 9 April 2009

Natural History Museum Hawkmoth Collection

The Natural History Museum (London) recently raised over £150,000 through donations to buy the hawkmoth collection of Dr Jean-Marie Cadiou. Some of these specimens are currently on display at the museum - click here for the press release.

Slug Eating Snail Shell

A couple of months ago Bug Safari posted some images of a slug eating a snail shell.

As any of you who keep snails as pets know, snails require a source of calcium in the diet in order to grow their shells. In captivity this id usually provided by giving the snails cuttlefish 'bone' or powdered chalk in addition to their usual diet. In the wild snails mainly get their calcium requirements from calcium slats in the soil. This explains the relatively higher concentration of slugs (compared to snails) in areas with low soil calcium.

Some slugs do have crystalline calcium carbonate in their mantle, as shown in this photo from Snail's Tales.

Eating snail shells is a great calcium source for slugs which have calcium carbonate in the mantle.

Monday 6 April 2009

Pink Phylliums

The leaf insects (family Phylliidae) are very interesting insects. I intend to write a more detailed article about them at some point, but thought you may want some eye candy.

After the post I made on pink katydids I mentioned to a palaeontologist in the pub that I'd seen photographs of pink leaf-insects. Well here they are...

Wednesday 1 April 2009

PayPal Donations

On the suggestion of a fellow blogger I have added a link to the menu (right hand column) that gives you the option of donating money to support this blog. Blogging is not lucrative financially but does take a fair amount of time. Instead of plastering the blog with adverts I have decided to give you the option to throw some money my way if you enjoy the blog.

I don't want your life savings - just your spare change. In compensation for your donation I will accept ideas for topics to blog about. I won't make any promises - but if I know enough, or can research enough in my spare time I will write about them.

If you do donate, thank you!

Naming Phasmids

Phil Bragg's talk from a (fairly) recent Phasmid Study Group meeting.