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.