Things that get under your skin: Parasitoids

Your worst enemies can really get under your skin. Insects known as parasitoids do just that, getting into other insects’ bodies and eating their hosts alive from the inside out.

More than 100,000 described parasitoid species of wasps, flies and other insects lurk the globe, hoping to turn nearly every type of insect’s life into a horror show.

The following parasitoids master the horrifying art of living inside an all-you-can-eat buffet.

1. Aphidiinae
BHR-parasitoid-illo-2Aphidiinae wasps are aphid specialists. These tiny terrors find unsuspecting aphids and jam their waspy eggs directly into the aphids’ abdomens with needle-like egg-laying devices. Our poor aphids die slowly as wasp larva slurp their nutritious aphid guts. Meanwhile, the aphids’ outsides turn into a papery, brown protective husk, from which Aphidiinae burst triumphantly as adults.

Don’t get too comfy inside that aphid husk, Aphidiinae!

2. Asaphes vulgaris
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Hyperparasitoids, like the even smaller wasp Asaphes vulgaris, attack parasitoid wasps already infecting hosts. Hyperparasitoids of Aphidiinae, for example, will seek out parasitized aphids. The hyperparasitoid inserts an egg into the first parasitoid, and after its own gobblefest, the new larvae pupates before chewing its way out of the aphid, like the tiniest doll in a horrific babushka.

Some parasitoids don’t have an only child complex.

3. Copidasoma

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Copidasoma takes a “DIY, babies!” approach to child rearing by depositing a few eggs into moth eggs. The moth caterpillars hatch, unaware that they’re stuffed with flesh eating aliens. While the young caterpillars grow up, the wasp eggs rapidly divide, and the original few become up to 2000 eggs, […]

Blast from the Past: Animals in Space!

They did it, folks. Ants went to the International Space Station the verdict is out: even in microgravity they can still figure out how to ruin a picnic. Let’s take a minute to remember other crusading creatures who also took the trip beyond earth’s borders (originally posted 4/16/14):

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Editor’s note:

While we commend these brave creatures on their orbital journeys and appreciate the valuable job they do for us humans, we’d like to point out that many other animals went into space before and after them. Animals like monkeys, apes, dogs, mice, cats, goldfish, and chimpanzees. Some returned fine, and others suffered extreme conditions. Outer space is littered with the corpses of more than half a century of our investigations. Here’s a brief summary of some of our unfortunate animals: http://science.howstuffworks.com/dead-animals-in-space.htm, and you can read more about them online.

View/download Animals in Spaaaaaaace in poster form (PDF) 

Drawn by Hoot, written by Roar.

Check our facts!

1 http://archive.rubicon-foundation.org/xmlui/handle/123456789/9288

2 http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/fruit_fly/#.UyMX1oVPJS4

3 http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/ast.2005.5.690

4 http://jeb.biologists.org/content/209/16/3209.short

5 http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/9-12/features/F_Animals_in_Space_9-12.html

6 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12528722?dopt=Abstract

7 http://www.nsbri.org/EDUCATION-and-TRAINING/Teaching-Resources/Middle-School/Butterflies-in-Space/

8 http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition22/butterflies.html

9 http://jeb.biologists.org/content/212/24/4033.full

10 http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0064793

11 http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/786.html

12 http://newsdesk.si.edu/releases/world-s-first-spidernaut-lands-smithsonian

13 http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/space_spiders_live.html

 

By |April 15th, 2015|Bugs|0 Comments

Taxonomy Puns! We Have Winners!

Five winners! Of more than 70 taxonomy appreciation puns emailed, Facebooked, commented, and tweeted our way, our esteemed and impartial judges selected their five punniest winners. We present them to you now, just in time for Taxonomist Appreciation Day!* Check in each day this week to see a new winner. And thanks for all the excellent submissions!

And, drumroll please: Our first winner for 2015!

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Pun by Natalie Sopinka (@phishdoc). Illustration by Christin Hardy (@c_hristin)

And our second winner:

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Pun by Julie Himes (@jehimes). Illustration by Hoot (@sarahblackmon).

And our day three winner:

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Pun by Rick Wright (@birdernewjersey), illustration by Heather Copley.

Here’s winner #4:

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Pun by Jeremy McNabb @JeremyMcnabb, illustration by Roar @VerdantEleanor

And finally, winner #5:

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Pun by Natalie Sopinka (@phishdoc), illustration by Chris Buddle (@cmbuddle).

Meet our celebrity judges!

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.

Gwen Pearson (@Bug_Gwen) writes for WIRED science. She also is the Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Purdue Department of Entomology.

Dr. Floyd W. Shockley (@Beetle_Guy) is the Acting Collections Manager of the National Insect Collection in the Department of Entomology at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.  In addition to managing the 35 million specimens in the collection, he is an expert on […]

By |March 16th, 2015|Contests|7 Comments

Nest building — it’s not just for the birds!

Like their fine feathered friends, fishes build nests too. Check out these fish who nest with the best of them!

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Hoping to attract the ladies, male cichlid (Lamprologus callipterus) industriously hoard empty snail shells in Africa’s Lake Tanganyika. Bigger is better, as females prefer to release their eggs in large shells collected by large males.

 

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Three-spined sticklebacks males spend hours moving around mouthfuls of sand and collecting mouthfuls of algae. Sticky mucus (complete with an antibacterial protein called spiggin) secreted from the males’ kidneys glues together the gathered algae to form hobbit hole-like nests—sometimes, sticklebacks with an eye for design add a red accent at the nest’s entrance to catch a female’s attention.
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Bluehead chub do some heavy lifting of their own, moving thousands of rocks to nest-building sites in freshwater streams. As the rocks start to pile up, females take notice and deposit their eggs into the safety of the rocky mounds. Chub nests are popular places—more than 30 other species of fishes also spawn in their boulder homes!

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Perhaps most elegant and artistic of all fish nests is that of a pufferfish from the Tetraodontidae family. These meter-wide underwater crop circles are crafted by a single male no larger than your hand. Days of vigorous tail shimmying, pectoral fin flipping, and an eye for symmetry produces a sandy castle fit for a fish queen.

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Written by Natalie Sopinka and illustrated by Bethann Garramon Merkle.

Natalie Sopinka recently finished her PhD at the University of British Columbia studying what happens to salmon babies when their mom is stressed […]

By |February 25th, 2015|Backbones|5 Comments

Attention! Attention! Taxonomy Pun Contest!

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In honor of our great appreciation for those who love to order, classify, categorize, group, arrange, grade and rank (and just in time for Taxonomist Appreciation Day), Buzz Hoot Roar is proud to announce its second annual pun contest.

Here’s how it works:

1. Tweet us your best taxonomy-related pun by Friday, February 27.

2. We’ll select our five favorites.

3. Winners will receive: their puns illustrated on Buzz Hoot Roar’s blog, a set of printed greeting cards to share with the taxonomists in their lives, and a BHR super-soft T-shirt.

Let the witticisms begin!

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By |February 18th, 2015|Contests, Other Science|3 Comments

Sinister Sniffles: Animals with Malevolent Mucus

Welcome to winter’s icy dread: Everywhere we look, people are miserably shuffling about, constantly sniffing back a runny nose. While the sneezing soul crammed next to you on the bus might seem adversarial toward your good health, the world is full of critters that have truly weaponized their gooey secretions. This winter, we’re jealous of these four:

1. Hagfish: These primitive, worm-like fish, with their scaleless bodies and poor eyesight, seem like easy prey for predatory fish.

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But hagfish, when threatened, release a thick slime from glands running along their sides.

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This slime quickly expands in seawater to several gallons’ worth of slippery, translucent grossness. The booger cloud clogs the gills of attackers, promptly persuading them to cough out their hagfish meal.

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2. Boxfish: When harassed, these little reef fish excrete a soapy mucus from their skin, which disperses widely into the water.

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It is loaded with pahutoxin, a potent, lethal poison that targets enemies’ gills, destroying red blood cells.

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Aquarium-residing boxfish, hours after a chance poisonous release, are commonly discovered as a lone, oblivious survivor surrounded by scores of dead tankmates.

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3. Velvet worms: These weird, plushy invertebrates are slow, but they capture their food in an amazing fashion.

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Velvet worms have two glands near their mouths that […]

By |February 11th, 2015|Backbones, Bugs, No Backbones|2 Comments

Bearded Wonders

Hipsters of the animal world, these creatures’ beards boast form and function.

Harvester ants, the original bearded ladies, have long goatees (called psammophores) they use for scooping up otherwise slippery sand and seeds. Their lovely chin locks can increase their carrying capacity up to 200 percent.

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Male goats, purveyors of the first goatees, urinate on their beards to appear sexier to hot-to-trot females.

male_goatWalruses. No, they don’t want to sell you any Quaker Oats or diabetes supplies. Walruses just want to use their mustaches (made of hairs called vibrissae) to snarfle around the ocean floor, looking for mussels and clams to eat.

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Although they don’t look bearded, Geoffroyi’s marmosets use their Chairman Mao-like hairdos to let the ladies know they are the sexiest game in town. It works for the marmoset, but did it work for Mao?

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Bearded dragons not only use their beards to signal sexiness but also for psychological warfare. Flashing the extra face shows that they could fight if they wanted to.

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By Roar and David Eichenberger.

David Eichenberger is an illustrator/muralist from Raleigh, North Carolina.  He currently works at the Autism Society of North Carolina as an art specialist. You can see his most current projects on his Instagram feed, @troubleberger or follow him on twitter at @dmeichenberger. His website is davideichenberger.carbonmade.com

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By |January 28th, 2015|Backbones|0 Comments

Keepin’ It Glassy: How Some Animals Turn to Glass to Survive

Thirsty? Why not turn yourself to glass until you can get a drink? That’s what a tiny fly called the sleeping chironomid does.

As babies passing their days in the super-dry areas of Africa, sleeping chironomids live in little huts they make for themselves out of dirt and slobber.

The problem with living in a puddle in a super-dry place is that puddles don’t last too long. Everybody dries up.

If we dried up, our cells would collapse and would be irrevocably damaged. Nobody could bring us back to life. If we lose just 14 percent of our bodies’ water, we croak. Remember all those leathery people they find in the desert sometimes? That’s people for you.

To keep their cells from the fate of humans, sleeping chironomids first make a whole bunch of sugar called trehalose, which takes the place of water in their cells.

 

 

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Other animals, like sea monkeys and the ever-indestructible tardigrades, do it, too!

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Check our facts!

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/iub.463/full

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0014008#pone-0014008-g005

http://jeb.biologists.org/content/211/18/2899

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18070104

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By Roar and Chris Hedstrom.

Chris Hedstrom is a entomologist in Corvallis, OR studying biological control for the Oregon Department of Agriculture. He’s also an illustrator and photographer. Check out new drawings, photos and writing as they appear at chedstrom.tumblr.com or oregonbeatsheet.wordpress.com.

By |January 14th, 2015|Uncategorized|2 Comments

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.

Buzzhootroar_4_10nov144. Like a massage, but different

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|3 Comments