In Insect News

Reports from the bug world.

extreme close up on wasp

Non-holiday Mondays tend to call to mind various matters that I’d prefer to avoid, so perhaps this is why this morning’s thoughts turn to bugs. Realizing that not since the stories about murder hornets and the coming of the cicadas, have I paid any attention to much in the way of insect news (except for the stories on Monarch butterflies and  other lepidoptera, which hardly qualify, given that both are widely revered for their beauty), here comes a brief attempt to catch up.

In my case, news about insects encompasses many of the stories of the last ten years. Aside from these, I was aware of few beyond mass extinction, a fact perhaps indicative of certain tendencies to accelerate it, if only by ignorance––which is a great way, when you think of it, to accelerate many ills.

I am heartened to learn that those killer bees that recently terrorized Puerto Rico and the United States have relaxed their aggression. Apparently, a decade or so of evolution renders them similar to honeybees, at least on a scale of aggression towards humans. 

Wasps, on the other hand, long considered “degenerate bees”(Plutarch), are in the midst of a makeover intended to highlight their capacities as essential workers, vital for pollination, pest control, and various promising cancer treatments.

In other news, a record-breaking stick bug measures two feet long, and the Dobson fly of China, large enough to cover the face of the average adult, is now considered to be the world’s largest aquatic insect. 

Meanwhile, public officials have issued stomp-to-kill orders on the lantern fly, widely considered a menace to vineyards, fruit trees, and hardwoods across the northeastern and middle states. They feed on sap, and their current tally of destruction across several states is measured in the billions of dollars. 

According to witnesses, an Australian beetle has been walking upside down in a pool of water, on the underside of the surface. “This is new,” one researcher announced with authority, regarding the method of travel.

Arts and culture: in May of this year, Jonathan Balcombe released Superfly: The Unexpected Lives of the World’s Most Successful Insects, in which he reveals the idiosyncrasies, social lives and sensitivities of some common pests, which as Burdensome reads them, have within their short lives more parallels to our own behavior than most of us would care to acknowledge. 

In case you are wondering, as I was, eradication of murder hornet nests is ongoing, and no research has yet delivered emerged with any book of deep sympathy to the particular sensitivities of this species. The stinger is apparently long enough to puncture a beekeeper’s suit–– to agonizing effect, it is reported. I had not realized, until now, that the primary threat of this species has much less to do with the ick and danger of such stings, and more to do with their capacity to wipe out honeybee nests. I can’t help but think that my ignorance here is at least somewhat indicative of yet another problem with the machine that makes Mondays so difficult. Once you are in it, almost every viable perspective is viable precisely because it misses most of what is actually going on. 


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Author: Stacey C. Johnson

I keep watch and listen, mostly in dark places.

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