| | Other topics
News articles on insects
Mongabay.com news articles on insects in blog format. Updated regularly.
(01/13/2010) Few species receive less respect and less conservation attention than insects. This despite the fact that they are some of the most diverse species on the planet andthey provide a number of essential services to humankind, including pollination, pest control, production (for example honey and silk), waster recycling, and indications of habitat health. Scientists are not only unsure just how many species of insects are threatened in world; they are equally uncertain how many insects exist. Currently there are nearly a million insect species described by science, but millions more likely exist. It's probable that innumerable insect species have vanished before even being catalogued by entomologists.
World of Avatar: in real life
(01/13/2010) A number of media outlets are reporting a new type of depression: you could call it the Avatar blues. Some people seeing the new blockbuster film report becoming depressed afterwards because the world of Avatar, sporting six-legged creatures, flying lizards, and glowing organisms, is not real. Yet, to director James Cameron's credit, the alien world of Pandora is based on our own biological paradise—Earth. The wonders of Avatar are all around us, you just have to know where to look.
Researchers catch new cricket species going where no cricket has gone before
(01/13/2010) East of Madagascar, on the small island of Reunion, researchers have made a remarkable discovery: a cricket that pollinates an orchid. The cricket, which is also a species new to science, was caught by a motion sensitive camera pollinating the orchid, Angraecum cadetii. The genus Angraecum orchid is usually pollinated by moths, but cadetti's nectar-spur opening is just the right shape for the cricket, known as the 'raspy cricket'.
Housing developments choking wildlife around America's national parks
(01/05/2010) Housing developments within 50 kilometers (31 miles) of America's national parks have nearly quadrupled in sixty years, rising from 9.8 million housing units to 38 million from 1940 to 2000. The explosion of housing developments adjacent to national parks threatens wildlife in a variety of ways, according to a new study in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). "We are in danger of loving these protected areas to death," says co-author Anna Pidgeon as assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Governments, public failing to save world's species
(11/04/2009) According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) 2008 report, released yesterday, 36 percent of the total species evaluated by the organization are threatened with extinction. If one adds the species classified as Near Threatened, the percentage jumps to 44 percent—nearly half.
The faster, fiercer, and always surprising sloth, an interview with Bryson Voirin
(10/25/2009) Sloths sleep all day; they are always slow; and they are gentle animals. These are just some of the popular misconceptions that sloth-scientist and expert tree-climber, Bryson Voirin, is overturning. After growing up among the wild creatures of Florida, spending his high school years in Germany, and earning a Bachelors degree in biology and environment at the New College of Florida, Voirin found his calling. At the New College of Florida, Voirin "met Meg Lowman, the famous canopy pioneer who invented many of the tree climbing techniques everyone uses today."
Arctic lake undergoing unprecedented changes due to warming
(10/19/2009) The Arctic should be growing cooler, but a new sediment core taken from an Arctic lake reveals that the lake's ecology and chemistry has been transformed by unnatural warming beginning in the 1950s. The sediment core proves that changes happening in the lake during the Twentieth Century are unprecedented over the past 200,000 years. Headed by University of Colorado scientist Yarrow Axelford, the study retrieved the sediment core from the bottom of a thirty foot deep lake on Baffin Island. Importantly the sediment core goes back 80,000 years further than any other core retrieved from the Greenland ice sheet, providing researchers with the longest timescale yet of changes in the Arctic climate.
New species everywhere in Papua New Guinea's 'lost' volcano
(09/07/2009) A five week expedition into a remote extinct volcano has uncovered a treasure trove of new species in Papua New Guinea, including what may be the world's largest rat, a fanged frog, and a grunting fish. In all the expedition estimates it may have found around forty species unknown to science. The expedition was undertaken by a BBC film crew and scientists in January. Local trackers led them into the unexplored jungle, hidden beneath the Bosavi volcano's 2,800 meter summit. Six months prior to arrival, fields of spinach and sweet potato were planted to feed the expedition in such a remote area.
A new effort to save global biodiversity? Just ask E.O. Wilson
(08/24/2009) In a short interview with New Scientist, world renowned entomologist, conservationist, and author, E.O. Wilson speaks about his latest idea to save the world's biodiversity.
Moths defend against bats by 'jamming' sonar
(07/16/2009) Researchers have discovered a species of tiger moth that eludes bats by jamming their echolocation with ultrasonic clicks, a discovery that adds to the list of defensive mechanisms that insects use to defend themselves against bats. The study is published in the journal Science.
Dragonflies migrate 14,000-18,000 km from India to S. Africa
(07/16/2009) Millions of dragonflies migrate thousands of kilometers across the Indian Ocean from southern India to Africa, reports the BBC.
First comprehensive study of insect endangerment: ten percent of dragonflies threatened
(06/23/2009) A lot of time, effort, and funds have been spent on programs evaluating the threat of extinction to species around the world. Yet insects have not benefited from these programs, which have largely focused on more 'charismatic' species such as mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. This gap is clearly shown by the fact that 42 percent of vertebrates have been assessed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and only 0.3 percent of invertebrates.
Photos: treasure trove of new species discovered in Ecuador
(06/16/2009) Near the once-contentious border of Ecuador and Peru in the mountainous forests of the Cordillera del Condor, scientists from Conservation International (CI) conducted a Rapid Assessment Program (RAP), uncovering what they believe are several new species, including four amphibians, one lizard, and seven insects. The team focused on the Upper Nanharitza River Basin, which has been geologically isolated from the rest of the Andes, giving it broad potential for new species.
Photo: brilliant pink moth discovered in Arizona
(06/11/2009) A new species of moth with brilliantly-colored pink wings has been discovered at 7,700 feet in the Chiricahua Mountains of southern Arizona. "This large moth flew in and we didn't think much of it because there is a silk moth very much like it, a Doris silk moth that feeds on pines that has dark wings with pink on the hind wings. It's fairly common there," said University of Arizona biologist, Bruce Walsh, who discovered the species.
The unknown role of coextinctions in the current extinction crisis
(05/28/2009) Scientists have long recognized ‘coextinctions’ as a major concern when it comes to the current mass extinction crisis. Despite such recognition, however, the role of coextinctions remains largely mysterious and little-studied. A new paper attempts to address this by settling what is known (and unknown) about the phenomenon of coextinctions and where research needs to go next.
Photos: top 10 species discovered in 2008
(05/22/2009) Scientists documented 18,516 previously unknown species in 2007, report researchers from the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University, who also unveiled the "top 10 new species" described in 2008. The "top 10" species include a pea-sized seahorse, caffeine-free coffee, bacteria that live in hairspray, a tiny snake, a two foot long insect from Malaysia, a fossilized specimen of the oldest known live-bearing vertebrate, a snail whose shell twists around four axes, a ghost slug from Wales, a deep blue damselfish, and a palm that flowers itself to death.
Assessing Tropical Butterfly Communities When Time Is Short
(03/23/2009) Butterflies can be used to quickly assess the conservation value of an area, report researchers writing in the journal Tropical Conservation Science. Timothy Bonebrake of Stanford University and Rubén Sorto of SalvaNATURA managed to sample 40-60% of the butterfly community in Playa El Icacal, El Salvador in just nine days. In the process, they identified areas in the region that hold the most conservation value.
Tropical forest tree is source of new mosquito repellent as effective as DEET
(02/05/2009) Isolongifolenone, a natural compound found in the Tauroniro tree (Humiria balsamifera) of South America, has been identified as an effective deterrent of mosquitoes and ticks, report researchers writing in the latest issue of Journal of Medical Entomology.
Butterfly tricks ants by mimicking their queen’s vocalizations
(02/05/2009) With cohesive hierarchical societies and a number of communication techniques, ants have been able to conquer a wide variety of ecosystems with great success. However, according to a recent paper in Science ants’ highly structured society at times comes with a price. A number of insects have evolved means to covertly infiltrate the ants’ society and live off their work and bounty by closely mimicking various ant communication methods. While scientists believe that these parasitical insects largely mimic ant communications like chemical exchange and physical contact—such as touching antennae—the study, however, discovered a butterfly which succeeds in infiltrating the highest echelons of ant society by vocalizing like a queen.
The honeybee can count
(01/29/2009) Plato once said: “numbers are the highest degree of knowledge: it is knowledge itself.” By Plato’s standards researchers have just discovered that the honey bee is a knowledgeable insect indeed. The honey bee can count to three in an instant according to a new study in the online journal PLoS ONE. Using dots and other abstract symbols, scientists from the Vision Centre in Australia tested whether the honey bees had the ability to count items in their environment.
Symposium tackles big question: how many species will survive our generation
(01/16/2009) Nine scientists dusted off their crystal balls Monday at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, weighing in on the future of the world’s tropical forest. Despite the most up-to-date statistics, prognosis for the future of tropical forests varied widely. In the last few years a schism has occurred among biologists regarding the future of the tropics. No tropical scientist denies that rainforests and the species which inhabit them face unprecedented threats; neither do they argue that some of these forested regions and species will likely not survive the next fifty years. What has sparked debate, sometimes heated, is how bad will is it really? When the dust settles, what percentage of species will survive and how much forest will remain?
Infecting mosquitoes with parasite could reduce dengue fever outbreaks
(01/05/2009) With an average of 50 million cases worldwide dengue fever is second only to malaria in terms of concern for mosquito-borne illnesses. Carried primarily by the mosquito species Aedes aegypti, the fever is usually not fatal; however a particular strain of disease can be especially dangerous to children. However, early this year new research brings hope to the tropical areas where dengue fever is prevalent. Scientists have discovered a new possibility in debilitating the mosquitoes carrying dengue fever: the Wolbachia parasite.
Photos: Google Earth used to find new species
(12/22/2008) Scientists have used Google Earth to find a previously unknown trove of biological diversity in Mozambique, reports the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew. Scouring satellite images via Google Earth for potential conservation sites at elevations of 1600 meters or more, Julian Bayliss a locally-based conservationist, in 2005 spotted a 7,000-hectare tract of forest on Mount Mabu. The scientifically unexplored forest had previously only been known to villagers. Subsequent expeditions in October and November this year turned up hundreds of species of plants and animals, including some that are new to science.
Corn expansion is hurting ladybugs
(12/15/2008) Expansion of corn acreage to meet ethanol targets is reducing the ability of beneficial insects to control pests, a loss valued at $58 million in the four states studied (Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin), report researchers writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Insect intelligence: paper wasps display strong long-term memory
(12/01/2008) A recent study in Current Biology finds that paper wasps are capable of remembering rivals a week after initially meeting. As a highly social insect, the discovery proves that the paper wasps' social interactions are based on applied memory rather than simple instinct. The finding overturns many ideas about the intelligence of insects.
Invasive ant interferes with gecko's role in pollinating endangered plant
(11/28/2008) Invasive ants are destroying the symbiotic relationship between a colorful gecko and a critically endangered flower on the island of Mauritius, reports New Scientist citing research published by Dennis Hansen and Christine Müller in the journal Biotopica.
What is the world's longest insect?
(10/16/2008) The Natural History Museum of London has revealed the world's longest insect to be Phobaeticus chani, a stick insect from the rainforest of Sabah, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo.
Rainforest biodiversity at risk from global warming
(10/09/2008) Climbing temperatures may doom many tropical species to extinction if they are unable to migrate to higher elevations or cooler latitudes, report researchers writing in Science.
Scientists discover 120 million year-old ant in the Amazon rainforest
(09/17/2008) Scientists have discovered a previously unknown species of ant in the Amazon that may shed light on the evolution of ants. The species is believed to be the oldest-known ant at around 120 million years old. The discovery is presented this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Pollination worth $216 billion/yr for food production
(09/16/2008) Pollination services provided by insects are worth $216 billion (€153 billion) a year reports a new study published in Ecological Economics. The figure represents about 9.5 percent of the total value of world agricultural food production.
For Australian beetles bigger is better; while American beetles don't care about size
(09/03/2008) Researchers have discovered a dung beetle that may be evolving into separate species in a few decades rather than thousands or millions of years. Separated geographically, sub-populations of the species show large differences in the size of their genitalia and horns. Such distinctions could create new species in a short time, because beetles with largely different genitalia cannot successfully mate.
Researchers discover "artistic" moth in Panama
(07/29/2008) Researchers have discovered a new species of Bagworm Moth that wraps its eggs individually in "beautiful cases" fashioned from its golden abdominal hairs, according to a new paper published in the Annals of the Entomology Society of America. The behavior is unique among insects.
The end of migrations: wildlife's greatest spectacle is critically endangered
(07/28/2008) If we could turn back the clock about 200 years, one could watch as millions of whales swam along their migration routes. Around 150 years ago, one could witness bison filling the vast America prairie or a billion passenger pigeons blotting out the sky for days. Only a few decades back and a million saiga antelope could be seen crossing the plains of Asia.
Leaf-cutter ants test theories about the Amazon's biodiversity
(07/23/2008) No one knows for certain how many insect species reside in the Amazon. One oft-quoted estimate is 30 million, but the actual number could be significantly lower or higher than this. Either way, biologists have long wondered why the richness of insect diversity in the Americas' tropical forests is exponentially higher than temperate forests. Three popular hypotheses have emerged—the theory of refugia, the marine incursion hypothesis, and the riverine barrier hypothesis. To test these theories a group of scientists, headed by Dr. Scott Solomon, studied three species of leaf-cutter ant species from the Amazon.
Implementing a butterfly farm: Iwokrama reserve's latest sustainable initiative
(07/20/2008) Iwokrama, which lies in the heart of Guyana's rainforest, is known worldwide for its innovative approach to preserving tropical rainforests and creating livelihoods for local communities. Their focus has been to create programs that utilize the forest sustainably, allowing for a mutual benefit between the people and the forest itself. Currently, Iwokrama has a number of initiatives under its umbrella, including eco-tourism, sustainable forestry, on-going research projects, and training programs. Amid these bustling projects, a new one has emerged: butterfly farming.
Pine beetles attack Canada, boosting GHG emissions
(07/10/2008) The mountain pine beetle, a small tree-devouring insect, has deforested an area of British Columbia the size of Louisiana — over 130,000 square kilometers. The 5 millimeter insect is a perfect tree-destroying machine. The beetles bore through the tree's bark to reach the phloem of the tree, which contains the tree's organic nutrients. The beetles then feed on these nutrients and lay their eggs. The trees defend themselves by secreting extra resin, but the beetles are often able to combat this by releasing a blue fungi. In about two weeks time, the tree turns a tell-tale red and essentially starves to death. The mountain pine beetles move on.
Colorful insects help search for anti-cancer drugs
(07/07/2008) Brightly-colored beetles or caterpillars feeding on a tropical plant may signal the presence of chemical compounds active against cancer and parasitic diseases, report researchers writing in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. The discovery could help speed drug discovery.
Dung beetles persist in long-term forest fragments but may suffer from hunting of large animals
(06/09/2008) Dung beetles bury animal dung to use as their own food and to provide food for their young. This group of beetles is especially prevalent in tropical rainforests. Their burying behvaior incidentally contributes to ecosystem functioning and health by the removal of waste, control of dung-breeding pests, soil fertilization and aeration, and the secondary burial of intact seeds found in mammal feces. Because of their important roles in ecosystems, it is important to know how they are affected by habitat change, in this case, habitat fragmentation.
Insect diversity in the tropics greater than previously believed
(05/15/2008) The tropics are more biodiverse than previously believed, report researchers writing in the journal Science.
Bats protect crops from insects
(04/04/2008) Bats eat as many insects at night as birds do during the day, according to research published in the journal Science.
Bats eat as many insects as birds
(04/03/2008) Bats eat as many insects at night as birds do during the day, according to research published in the journal Science.
Ants first farmed well before humans
(03/24/2008) Ants began farming some 50 million years ago, far before the first humans developed agriculture, reports a new study based on DNA analysis of the "evolutionary tree" of fungus-growing ants.
DEET repellent works by blocking human odor from mosquitoes
(03/13/2008) DEET, a potent insect repellent, works by blocking the aroma of human sweat, report researchers writing in the journal Science. The discovery could lead to the development of new repellents that have fewer health risks.
Photos: Caterpillar transforms from mimicking bird droppings to a leaf
(02/21/2008) Scientists have discovered the hormone that enables swallowtail caterpillars to morph from mimicking bird droppings to the bright color form that matches the leaves upon which they feed. The research is published in Science.
Global warming to increase insect attacks on plants
(02/11/2008) Global warming will increase attacks on plant leaves by insects, reports a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
To reproduce, parasite transforms ant into juicy red berry
(01/17/2008) Scientists have discovered a parasite that transforms the appearance of its host, an ant, into that of a juicy red berry that birds are more likely to eat and disperse into new habitats, reports an article published in The American Naturalist. It is the first example of fruit mimicry caused by a parasite, say the researchers who discovered the parasite, a nematode or roundworm found in the canopy of tropical forests ranging from Central America to the lowland Amazon.
Disappearance of elephants, giraffes causes ecological chain reaction
(01/10/2008) The disappearance of elephants, giraffes and other grazing animals from the eastern African savanna could send ecological ripple effects all the way to the savanna's ants and the acacia trees they inhabit, warns a new study published in the journal Science.
Butterfly tricks ants into caring for its young
(01/03/2008) A species of butterfly in Denmark foolds ants into raising their larvae, reports research published in the journal Science.
Beetle droppings help forests recover from fire
(12/04/2007) Armed with a pair of tweezers and a handful of beetle droppings, University of Alberta forestry graduate Tyler Cobb has discovered why the bug-sized dung is so important to areas ravaged by fire.
Termites may produce cleaner biofuels
(11/23/2007) Termites may be the key to greener, more effective biofuels, report scientists writing in the November 22 edition of the journal Nature.
Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4