June 14, 2011
"This insect is unusual, because it has the largest tongue found thus far and measures two times the size of its body," Rudolfo Ospina, the director of the biology department at Colombia's National University, said in a press release.
The bee's tongue, which is kept curled up in its mouth when not extended, measures 33.76 millimeters (1.32 inches), about the length of a paperclip.
A member of Euglossa bees, the new species uses its incredibly long tongue to feed on a variety of orchids. While all Euglossa bees—known for their bright colors—have long tongues, none beats Euglossa natesi.
The new species was collected in 2005 in Nariño Department at the Rio Nambi Private Nature Reserve near the border with Ecudaor. The area is known as one of the wettest places on Earth.
Male bee in the Euglossa genus showing off the characteristically bright colors of its genus. The species in the photo hasn't been identified. Photo by: Jacob Rus.
The value of the little guy, an interview with Tyler Prize-winning entomologist May Berenbaum
(04/06/2011) May Berenbaum knows a thing or two about insects: in recognition of her lifelong work on the interactions between insects and plants, she has had a character on The X-Files named after her, received the Public Understanding of Science and Technology Award for her work in making science accessible to the public, and this year has been awarded the prestigious Tyler Environmental Prize. "Winning the Tyler Prize is an incredible honor—most of my scientific heroes have been Tyler Prize winners and I’m exceedingly grateful to be considered worthy of being included among their ranks," Berenbaum told mongabay.com in an interview. "The Prize is also tremendously enabling—because the money is unrestricted I can use it to carry out projects that have been difficult to fund."
U.S. bumble bees experiencing significant declines
(01/04/2011) Many US bumble bee populations have declined significantly over the past few decades, with certain species dropping off by as much as 96%. While the decline is linked to low genetic diversity and disease, an underlying cause remains uncertain.
Uncovering the intelligence of insects, an interview with Lars Chittka
(06/29/2010) Many people would likely consider 'insect intelligence' a contradiction in terms, viewing insects—when they think of them as anything more than pests—as something like hardwired tiny robots, not adaptive, not intelligent, and certainly not conscious. However, research over the last few decades have shown that a number of well-studied insects are capable of performing amazing intellectual feats, from recognizing individuals to employing a symbolic language in a behavior known as a 'bee waggle'. "Already in 1900, Buttel-Reepen asked whether honeybees are mere reflex machines—and emphatically denied that claim," Dr. Lars Chittka, professor of Sensory and Behavioral Ecology at Queen Mary University in London, told mongabay.com in an interview. "Over the last century, we have seen a fundamental change in perspective on the learning capacities of insects, and there a now several credible lines of evidence that insects are capable of cognitive feats that had previously been ascribed only to 'higher' vertebrates".