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.


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.


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

Contender 1:


Contender 2:


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

Guard your script, Paul Rudd!


Thanks to Lauren Rugani.

Check our facts!




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


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

Why Are We Afraid of Spiders?


We don’t like all those legs and their creepily erratic ways of running around2. But why? Spiders don’t try to hurt us on purpose, and almost no spiders could hurt us if they tried.3 In contrast, our fear of spiders maybe hurting us has led to everything from minor freakouts to major birth defects.4,5

It turns out that we might not be able to help ourselves. Like Lady Gaga, some of us were born this way.


Plus, people with fraidy cat family members are more likely to be fraidy cats themselves, whether or not the fraidy cats grew up together.6


But evolution and heritability aren’t the whole story.


Nature and Nurture: Still BFFs!

*Spiderzillas don’t actually exist. We made them up because spiders don’t care about us and they never want to bite us in the face unless we’re being obnoxious and bothering them with our faces, but you’d probably want to bite them in the face if they were bothering you like that, too. Well, maybe not bite them in the face. You’d probably rather take a shoe to them. But you get the idea.

By Roar and Chris Buddle. Illustrated by Christine Fleming, Buzz Hoot Roar’s Artist in Residence. Follow Christine at @might_could and check out more of her work here.

Chris Buddle is a Professor at McGill University, in Montreal Canada. Chris does research on spiders, including recent work on arachnids living in the Arctic (yup, spiders live up there, too!). He’s been working with spiders for almost two decades and has never been bitten. He […]

By |August 13th, 2014|artist in residence, Bugs|8 Comments

Japanese Beetles Are Shiny, Green Party Animals

Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) have been a big part of the U.S. spring and summer scene since the year Albert Einstein presented his Theory of General Relativity. (That was in 1916.)

These brilliant green insects emerge between late May and early June and spend the next six weeks eating, mating, eating, laying eggs … and eating.


The eating part can be a problem. Adult Japanese beetles eat the leaves and flowers of more than 300 plant species2, but they seem to have a particular fondness for ornamental plants beloved by homeowners – like roses.


When these insects chew on leaves, these leaves  release “don’t eat me” chemicals to ward off leaf eaters. But Japanese beetles take one whiff and consider them an “all friends welcome” invite.  It doesn’t take long for a hearty plant to be completely stripped of its leaves and blooms.


Their flowers’ “don’t eat me” chemicals cause temporary beetle paralysis that lasts 12-16 hours. Somehow, Japanese beetles prefer them anyway, and will do the ole eat-and-freeze until they trundle off to better food.

What’s a gardener to do?

Written by Buzz and regular contributor 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 Catherine Kehoe Arnold

Art by Catherine Kehoe Arnold. Catherine is a multi-disciplinary designer with a serious passion for craft and beauty. Generating inventive and creative design solutions are my areas of expertise. In her […]

By |August 6th, 2014|Bugs|2 Comments

How Many Does It Take?

Here at Buzz Hoot Roar, we love how humans measure everything and hand out superlatives. Today, we see how many of the biggest, longest, or tallest animals in their class (or order or family!) it would take stacked end-to-end to reach the top of some of our favorite landmarks. (It’s probably pretty important to know how many of the largest known bacteria it would take to reach the top of the Eiffel Tower.)

How many of the tallest dinosaur versus the biggest bacteria does it take to reach the top of the Eiffel Tower?



…and how many of the longest jellyfish versus the longest tapeworm does it take to stretch to the top of the Grand Canyon?



…and how many of the biggest mammal versus the tallest bird does it take to reach the top of the Statue of Liberty?



…and how many of the tallest marsupial and biggest ant does it take to reach the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa?



…and how many of the tallest land mammal and longest snake does it take to stretch to the tip of the Great Sphinx?



Meet our Contenders!

BHR-how-many-1-dinosaur-v2 BHR-how-many-1-giraffe-v2 BHR-how-many-1-ostrich-v2 BHR-how-many-1-snake-v2 BHR-how-many-1-tapeworm-v2 BHR-how-many-1-ant

By |July 2nd, 2014|artist in residence, Backbones, Bugs, No Backbones|4 Comments

What’s the difference?

When it comes to some animals, it can be hard to say at first glance exactly what makes one group different from another. Besides, someone always breaks the rules (We’re talking to YOU, Mrs. Macaque!). That said, here’s a quick-and-easy guide to help you tell the general differences between some often-confused animal doppelgangers.

What’s the difference between . . .

a frog and a toad?


an ape and a monkey?


a turtle and a tortoise?


a wasp and a bee?


a dragonfly and a damselfly?


an ant and a termite?


an alligator and a crocodile?


Written by Roar, drawn by Christine Fleming.

Check our facts:

1. Frogs vs. Toads

2. Monkey vs. Ape

3. Turtle vs. Tortoise

4. Bee vs. Wasp

5. Dragonfly vs. Damselfly

6. Termites vs. Ants

7. Alligator vs. Crocodile


Christine Fleming is an illustrator whose work tends to have a whimsical feel with organic lines, delicate textures, and hidden details. She is currently writing and illustrating her first children’s book. You can see more of her work on her website, and follow her @might_could.

By |May 21st, 2014|Backbones, Bugs|13 Comments

Animals in Spaaaaaaace


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 16th, 2014|Backbones, Bugs|4 Comments

For Love or Supper: Why Critters Light Up

Breaking news: Hundreds of underwater species radiate neon greens, reds and oranges as they shimmy through the ocean’s depths.1 But sea creatures aren’t the only animals at ease in the limelight. Buzz Hoot Roar guest-author Matt Shipman offers a few good reasons why sea and land animals put on the ultimate light show.






Check our facts!

1 http://www.amnh.org/explore/news-blogs/research-posts/researchers-reveal-covert-world-of-fish-biofluorescence?utm_source=social-media&utm_medium=facebook&utm_term=2014-01-08-wed&utm_campaign=biofluorescence

2 http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00227-005-0085-3

3 http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.ento.53.103106.093346

4 http://entomology.ifas.ufl.edu/baldwin/webbugs/3005_5006/Docs/firefly%20paper.pdf

Harvey , E.N. and K.P. Stevens. 1928. The brightness of the light of the West Indian elaterid beetle, pyrophorus. J. Gen. Physiol. 12: 269-272.

Nicol, J.A.C. 1978. Bioluminescence and vision, pp. 367-398. In P.J. Herring , Bioluminescence in action. Academic, London.

*Measured at around 143 cd/m2, their luminescence is comparable to the average computer screen, which can range anywhere from 50-300 cd/m2.

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 James Hutson

James Hutson (@jameshutson) is a writer, illustrator and animator.  He is co-director at Bridge8 (www.bridge8.com.au), a foresight and futures agency fostering critical, creative and compassionate thinking through workshops, animations and artefacts.


By |April 9th, 2014|Bugs, No Backbones|3 Comments

Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants of New York City

The FREE iBook “Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants of New York City” (written by Roar, edited by Buzz, and designed by Hoot) is out and available for download. While we know a bunch about who’s crawling underfoot in exotic lands like rainforests, we often overlook who’s sneaking around our own backyards and across our kitchen counters.

Here are three common New York City (and United States) ants we’d like you to meet:



The books feature amazing photography by Alex Wild, the World’s Best Ant Photographer. It was written for the Your Wild Life team with the support of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund (that’s how it’s free!). Download your free copy of “Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants of New York City”  or “Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants” to read more here.


By |February 19th, 2014|Bugs|2 Comments

Our Valentine to You

Too shy to tell your crush you’re into her? Want a way to wow your sweetie? Let your bestie know he’s . . . um . . . the best? Let these awesome BHR-approved Valentines do the talking for you! Just e-share, or print and clip! And happy heart day!

BHR_Millette_COCKROACHES_valentine BHR_Millette_CRICKETS_valentine BHR_Millette_MOTHS_valentine BHR_Millette_SCORPIONFLIES_valentine BHR_Millette_WATERBUGS_valentine

Download high-res versions for printing here.


Emily Millette is a designer living in North Carolina.  Follow her on Twitter @emilymillette.


Creative Commons License
Insect Valentines by Emily Millette is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

By |February 14th, 2014|Bugs|0 Comments

5 Insects That Might Make Okay Boyfriends…

When it comes to being an awesome boyfriend, sometimes all it takes is a little love and affection. And presents. Lots of presents. Maybe presents during love and affection.

Just so we know not all insects make terrible lovers, here are a few that might not be so bad:

1. Scorpionflies

millette_scorpionflies_022. Decorated crickets

millette_crickets_023. Burnet moths


4. German cockroaches


5. Giant water bugs


Check our facts!

1 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003347209002553

2  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003347207002552

3 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0031942211001105

4 http://www.sciencedirect.com.prox.lib.ncsu.edu/science/article/pii/S0022191009001930

5 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003347200915070

*Cockroach expert Coby Schal tells us the roach nuptial gift is a combination of sugar and phospholipid (lecithin), the two critical ingredients in chocolate (minus the cacao)!


Emily Millette is a designer living in North Carolina.  Follow her on Twitter @emilymillette.

Creative Commons License
Good Insect Boyfriends by Emily Millette is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

By |February 13th, 2014|Bugs|4 Comments