The secret extra animals in your food

Yes, you CAN have your peanut butter and some roaches, too! In the United States, it’s legal to get served a little extra protein in your PB&J. Even vegetarians get a little extra meat, whether they want it or not.

Here are some of the FDA’s regulations regarding acceptable levels of insect parts in food. Most of these regulations were made for “aesthetic” purposes only:

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Peanut butter: You can have up to 30 insect parts or 1 rodent hair per 100 grams.

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Chocolate: If you want that Hershey bar, go for it, and get yourself up to 60 insect fragments or a big, fat rodent hair in every 100 grams.

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Canned fruit juice: Have yourself a nice glass of orange juice—with up to one maggot for FREE!

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Cornmeal: If you want to go whole-hog, may we suggest some cornmeal? You can get up to one whole insect per 50 grams and up to 1 piece of rodent doo doo per 50 grams (on average) and be juuuust fine. Tamales and hushpuppies for everyone!

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Fish: Because we like oozy things, we’d love to see the stuff we’re allowed to eat on fish. With red fish and ocean perch, we can have copepods “accompanied by pus pockets,” and for blue fin and other freshwater herring, we can have up to 60 parasitic cysts per 100 fish.

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Hops: How about a beer? With an average of more than 2,500 aphids […]

Lessons from the Schoolyard: Why Do Dogs Hump?

Sometimes you just need a good hump. If you’re a dog. We’re talking about dogs here. Why do dogs hump even when they’re not gettin’ it on? Check out the top five reasons:

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1. Play date!

By six weeks old, male and female puppies already start with those sexy pelvic thrusts as a normal, healthy part of play. Later in life, it could help dogs get attention from their buddies. Most research shows that mounting in play is one way that dogs win friends and influence doggies. It’s like saying, “Let’s be friends. Like me! Like me!” Keep this in mind for the playground, kids!

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2. Arousal and excitement

Fist pump? How about air hump? Sometimes dogs get excited about going in the car or playing at the park. Dogs. Get. Excited. Like cheering when your team scores a touchdown, a hump here or there could easily pop out during times of excitement.

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3. Nervous nancies

For dogs, mounting is a well-known displacement behavior, associated with emotional conflict or anxiety. If a new person or dog drops by the house, a nervous Nancy could quickly become a nervous humper.

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Some kids suck their thumbs to calm down; dogs don’t have thumbs, so some may get in the habit of mounting, say, a pillow, while winding down for the night. Who are you to judge?

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5. Who’s the boss?

Many folks think dog mounting is about dominance. Why not? It looks and feels all […]

By |December 3rd, 2014|Backbones|2 Comments

Take 5: Notes of Greatness from the 2014 ESA Conference

Hoot traveled to Portland, Oregon last week for the Entomology 2014 conference, and had a blast! Here’s some of what she learned:

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1. Twitter takes taxonomy to the next level. Tweeps tweet life around them in places where taxonomists can’t always go. Just ask Morgan Jackson @BioInFocus.

 

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2. In fact, there are all kinds of reasons scientists should use Twitter and other social media—to find collaborators, help fight off imposter syndrome, share a really cool story about a centipede…  Such great insight from Derek Hennen (@derekhennen)

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3. People are seriously taking a sofa safari across the U.S.A.! We’re tuning in, as the Bug Chicks (Kristie Reddick, M.S., and Jessica Honaker, M.S.) trek through some of our own backyards. Awesome photos and stories on their blog, http://thebugchicks.com/blog/. Follow them on Twitter too (@thebugchicks)

 

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4. Phil Torres is more than just a fancy TV personality! He’s a social media whiz who really knows his science. Check out his work on TheRevScience and Al Jazeera America.

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5. Yes, bug art is a thing. Some of it is beautiful, some of it is fun, and some of it just tells us what’s up. Take, for example, Chris Hedstrom (@OregonBeatSheet), Katie McKissack (@beatricebiology), Esabelle Ryngin (@wowowosh), Carly Tribull (@cmtribull), Alexander Westrich, and Ainsley Seago (@americanbeetles).

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For more awesome science on social media, be sure to follow Gwen Pearson (@bug_gwen), Marianne Alleyne (@cotesia1), Cameron Webb (@mozziebites), Leslie Allee, and Scott Meers(@ABBugCounter). […]

By |November 26th, 2014|Bugs, News|0 Comments

A Good Nose Isn’t That Hard to Find

Ever since the dawn of time — give or take a few millennia — humans and dogs have been best buds. People liked dogs, with their scary barks and teeth when needed. And their great noses. Dogs thought, “Why not, as long as they feed and pet us?”
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Ever since the dawn of technology, researchers have gazed past the dog’s eager eyes and sensitive nose and thought, “Meh. I can build something better than that!” The race was on for a “biomimetic olfactory microsystem” to replace the dog.
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Mash-ups of mechanisms and organisms abounded. An army lab rigged a tube with a wire that blood-loving bugs would dance on and signal if they smelled the enemy.  The cone-nosed bugs lacked judgment.
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Plants take less maintenance than dogs. What about a super fern that would turn white if it detected a bomb? Sure enough. A transgenic plant could detect TNT. It took the torpid topiary between 24 and 48 hours to turn pale.

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The Germans figured the turkey vulture, with perhaps the most advanced smell of any raptor, could replace the earthbound dog.
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Sherlock didn’t like to fly when he was searching. He waddled like a duck. He would bolt and hide.
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Reconsider the humble dog. The one researchers looked at and said, “Sorry, I’m just not that into you.” More fun than a machine and usually less expensive. Check. Can signal the […]

Happy Halloween! Lesser-Known Vampires of the Animal World

Forget Dracula—these Nosferatus of the animal world would make our blood curdle if they didn’t seem so impossible.

Vampire finch: Somehow, the thought of adorable birds hanging around drinking blood is just about the eeriest thing ever. The sharp-beaked ground finch in the Galapagos has the annoying and creepy habit of pecking at other birds until they bleed and then sipping their blood.

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Vampire bats: Yes, yes. We all know about these sharp-teethed exsanguinators. But did we know that if the vampire bat Desmodus rotundus goes for two nights without a blood meal, it will starve to death? They need to consume at least 50 percent of their body weight in blood each night and will vomit blood into their less-fed friends’ mouths to keep them alive. We’ll keep company with fruit bats instead, thank you.

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Vampire squirrels: Okay, this is local legend, but folks say the little-understood Bornean tufted ground squirrel (Rheithrosciurus macrotis), known to us as Mr. Bushytail Deluxe, attacks larger animals, severs their jugulars, and scarfs down their innards. Go get ‘em, Bushytail Deluxe!

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Vampire spiders: The vampire spider (Evarcha culicivora) wants to drink your blood—but only if it’s in the belly of a mosquito. The small East African jumping spider looks for blood-fed mosquitoes to slurp down as its favorite meal.

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Dracula ants: Hmmm. What would make a delicious and nutritious meal for a hungry ant queen? How about her own children’s blood? When dracula ant (in the […]

By |October 29th, 2014|Backbones, Bugs|2 Comments

Buzz Hoot Roar shirts! Finally!

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Super soft tri-blend shirt in kelly green, featuring Heather Copley’s* adorable Squirrel Chat illustration.

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*That’s the artist, Heather, on the right!

By |October 15th, 2014|Shirts|0 Comments

It’s Our Birthday!

This time last year, we were just opening our wee little eyes to the Great World of Blogging. In honor of our birthday, we’d like to share with you this totally unscientific list of our top 3 favorite, mostly official baby animal names. Do you have any more favorites?

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Also in honor of our birthday, we printed limited-edition BHR squirrel talk T-shirts. They’re green! They’re for sale! And, if you’re interested in drawing for us for a super-soft T-shirt with a squirrel on it, now’s your chance! Email us and let us know!

Special thanks to Matt Shipman and Julia Ellis, who give great birthday presents.

Illlustrated by Julia Rice, an educator, designer and artist based in Raleigh, North Carolina. She develops and directs design education programs for young people at the Design Lab at the College of Design at NC State University, has a master’s in art therapy and counseling, and likes to tell funny stories. Whether she’s making things or making things happen, you can see what she’s up to at http://thedotank.tumblr.com/. Follow her on Twitter @IamTheDoTank

By |October 8th, 2014|Backbones, Bugs|1 Comment

The Horrors of Your Backyard: Squirrel Warbles

It’s that time of year again. Time when squirrels come lumbering up to our windows minding their own business with their bellies looking like Quasi Modo had a baby with the Elephant Man.

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Our squirrels have warbles.

In parts of the United States, about one in four squirrels has warbles.

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Here’s what warbles are:
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Here’s what they really are:
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Check our facts!
By roar.
By |September 24th, 2014|Backbones, Bugs|4 Comments

Dinosaurs Wore Party Hats!

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Little-known fact: Some dinosaurs wore hats.* And one group of duck-billed dinosaur had the best hats of all.

This hat (henceforth, we’ll call it a crest, for scientific accuracy) was not just any fancy accoutrement. Not at all. This crest contained the dinosaur’s nasal passages. That’s right; the dinosaurs breathed through a hollow crest on their head.

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As an example, let’s take a look at the Parasaurolophus, who had the longest nasal passages of any animal ever, except for a large wooly mammoth.
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Here’s how air makes its way from nose to lungs:

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That is over four meters from nostril to lung.

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Different shapes, colors, sizes and lengths of nasal passages: Why the variety?
 
These crests form the basis of communication.


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*Not real hats, of course. Through evolution, the bones of their face extended, shrank and otherwise rearranged so a totally awesome crest grew on top of their heads.

By Terry “Bucky” Gates, a paleontologist and evolutionary biologist at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and NC State University. He spends his time researching a wide variety of topics but one of his favorites is the crazy crests and spikes on dinosaurs and other animals. Follow him on Twitter, @terryagates, LinkedIn, and his series of Cretaceous Cold Case blogs.

Illustrated by Talcott Starr […]

By |September 17th, 2014|Backbones|0 Comments

Ant-Man’s Retinue: Ants That Have What it Takes to Fight Supervillains

In 2015, Hollywood plans to roll out a movie based on Ant-Man – a superhero who can shrink himself to the size of an insect and use a “cybernetic helmet” to communicate with ants.

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There’s been a lot of talk about who should play Ant-Man (Paul Rudd!), but what about the ants? After all, it takes a special kind of arthropod to fight supervillains.

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Consider these species that have what it takes to thwart evildoers.

Contender 1:

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Contender 2:

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Contender 3:Wang_UPDATED-2-argentine-ant-sheet

Guard your script, Paul Rudd!

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Thanks to Lauren Rugani.

Check our facts!

http://www.pnas.org/content/103/34/12787.abstract

http://www.jstor.org/stable/1445486

http://www.pnas.org/content/99/9/6075.short

*Note: The Maricopa harvester ant’s sting is so poisonous that as little as .01 milligrams per kilogram would probably kill a grown man.

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Written by Matt Shipman

Matt Shipman (@shiplives) is a public information officer at North Carolina State University and a freelance science writer. He also writes the Communication Breakdown blog, which focuses on science communication. He lives near Raleigh, in a house full of humans.

Illustrated by Christina Wang

Christina Wang is an aspiring law-student who has no “objection” to making bad puns. She’s a student by day, artist by night, and nerd all the time. She lives in Southern California with her turtle and fish. Follow her on tumblr atplanetbob.tumblr.com

By |September 10th, 2014|Bugs|2 Comments