WASP 101: All you need to know

In the interest of promoting insect awareness, I present you with the following…

Learn it. Live it. Love it.

You’re welcome!



Noisy Sex Can Mean Death If Bats Are Listening!

This definitely falls into the “Yew just cain’t make this stuff up” category…

Bats Use the Sound of Copulating Flies as a Cue for Foraging

Yes, those intrepid geeks and nerdlings over at ScienceDaily.com have really come up with the goods this time!

Mating activities are a dangerous business because the attention to other important events in the surroundings is often reduced. Therefore the duration of copulation itself is usually very short. About 100 years ago researchers argued that copulating animals are at a higher risk of being discovered and, consequently, being eaten by a predator. Yet, surprisingly, there are only few observations that support this hypothesis. These examples comprise studies in water-living insects, such as amphipods and water striders, and also in land insects, as investigated in a recent study in Australian plague locusts that are at a higher risk of being eaten as mating pairs compared to single animals.

(A pair of Natterer’s bats. [Credit: © Stefan Greif/MPI for Ornithology])

Apart from decreased attention, a reduced flight response as well as an enhanced conspicuousness induces a higher risk for these winged lovers to be easy prey. Stefan Greif from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, and colleagues, have now provided experimental proof for this phenomenon. In a community of house flies and Natterer’s bats in a cowshed near Marburg, Germany, they analysed videotapes of the movements of almost 9000 flies. The researchers found that the flies rarely fly at night and mostly sit or run on the ceiling. Finding the flies by echolocation is nearly impossible for the bats as the faint insect echo is completely masked by the strong background echo which makes them virtually “invisible.”

(Natterer’s bats eavesdropping on loud fly sex!)

This scenario completely changes when the male flies find a suitable mating partner. The subsequent copulation is a noisy event because males then produce broadband buzzing sounds that can be heard by the bats. Around five per cent of the fly pairs that engage in copulation were attacked and mostly eaten by the bats (across four observation years, even 26 per cent of the observed copulating pairs were attacked).

(Honey? Do you have the feeling someone’s listening in on us??)

In order to provide evidence that it is really the sound that makes the flies detectable for the bats, the researchers mounted dead, noiseless fly pairs on the shed ceiling in a position they usually take during copulation. These exhibits provide a larger reflection area for echolocation of the bats compared to a single fly. However, they were never attacked by the bats. Only when the researchers played back the copulation sounds of the flies, did the bats try to attack the loudspeakers. Accordingly Stefan Greif summarizes the results of the study in a simplistic way: “sex kills.”



Lightning (WOW!)

How fast is lightning?

Lightning, in fact, moves not only too fast for humans to see, but so fast that humans can’t even tell which direction it is moving.

The above lightning stroke did not move too fast, however, for this extremely high time resolution video to resolve.

Tracking at an incredible 7,207 frames per second, actual time can be seen progressing at the video bottom.

The above lightning bolt starts with many simultaneously creating ionized channels branching out from an negatively charged pool of electrons and ions that has somehow been created by drafts and collisions in a rain cloud. About 0.015 seconds after appearing — which takes about 3 seconds in the above time-lapse video — one of the meandering charge leaders makes contact with a suddenly appearing positive spike moving up from the ground and an ionized channel of air is created that instantly acts like a wire. Immediately afterwards, this hot channel pulses with a tremendous amount of charges shooting back and forth between the cloud and the ground, creating a dangerous explosion that is later heard as thunder.

Much remains unknown about lightning, however, including details of the mechanism that separates charges.



Lightning Captured at 7,207 Images per Second 
Video Credit & Copyright: Tom A. WarnerZTResearchwww.weathervideoHD.TV

Creepy Girls (9): Curled or Packaged Girls


There is a kind of macabre style of photography where girls are seen either in fetal positions in odd places –  or worse, curled up, boxed and almost ‘packaged.’

There’s no sense of these girls somehow falling asleep in a bizarre setting. Rather, there is an over-riding feeling that these girls have been placed, however temporarily, in this position.

I get the uncomfortable feeling that the subjects of the photographs have been or are about to be disposed.

The bodies that once held the girls’ spirits are now shells to be discarded.

Clearly, it is not the girls themselves who are creepy… but rather where they are, how they are ‘discovered’ and under what circumstances.

Is this how serial killers view their victims? Do the girls somehow become twisted works of art in the mind of the psychopath or sociopath?

I remember watching the television series Dexter and thinking the same thing.

Many years ago, there was a movie called The Eyes of Laura Mars where death and art came together.

In many books and movies, deranged killers have the bodies of their victims arranged in a kind of tableau.

Whenever I am presented with such photos, my immediate reaction is actually more of a non-reaction.

Words escape me. I just stare, unable to express myself.

They are awful, terrible… and yet, it’s like driving by a horrific car crash.

You know you shouldn’t look. You know you shouldn’t have a sick curiosity about it.

And yet… you just can’t take your eyes away.


World’s Tiniest Fly May Decapitate Ants, Live in Their Heads

Just when you thought parasitic insects couldn’t get more gross…

The entomology geeks and nerdlings over at LiveScience.com give us more fodder for our nightmares!

In a recent article, LiveScience staff writer Jennifer Welsh reports that a new fly discovered in Thailand is the world’s smallest. It is five times smaller than a fruit fly and tinier than a grain of salt (0.4 millimeters) in length — half the size of the smallest “no see-ums.” [1]

(Just how small is it the world’s smallest fly? I am glad you asked!)

It probably also feeds on tiny ants, likely decapitating them and using their head casings as its home.

“It’s so small you can barely see it with the naked eye on a microscope slide. It’s smaller than a flake of pepper,” said Brian Brown, of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, who identified the fly as a new species. “The housefly looks like a Godzilla fly beside it.”

The tiny finding is detailed in the July 2012 issue of the journal Annals of the Entomological Society of America.

Picked up by the Thailand Inventory Group for Entomological Research in Kaeng Krachan National Park, the tiny fly is the first of its kind discovered in Asia. The researchers named the new fly Euryplatea nanaknihali.

(Euryplatea nanaknihali, left; decapitated ant, lower right)

The flies lay their eggs in the body of the ant; the eggs develop and migrate to the ant’s head where they feed on the huge muscles used to open and close the ant’s mouthparts. They eventually devour the ant’s brain as well, causing it to wander aimlessly for two weeks. The head then falls off after the fly larva dissolve the membrane that keeps it attached.

The fly then takes up residence in the decapitated ant head for another two weeks, before hatching out as a full-grown adult.

I don’t know about you but I have enough nightmare material to last me the whole weekend!



[1] While this is the world’s smallest fly, it is by no means the world’s smallest insect. That title belongs a species of fairy wasp, coming in at 0.14 millimeters in length, about the size of a human egg cell

Dress for the body you have… not the body you want! (Part 2 – Men)

I recently posted a blog article about some young teenage girls and their unfortunate habit of dressing for a body type other than their own.

Today I get to take a swing at the guys.

I’d like to set my sights on an equally repellent aspect that some men have, namely decking themselves out in a way that causes right-thinking members of society to want to claw their eyes out.

(Friends don’t let friends wear mullets!)

Young or old, middle class or poor, there is something about a guy who seems to be completely oblivious as to what he really looks like.

They can’t possibly leave the house knowing that they look the way they do!

(John Daly’s golf pants make me want to scream)

And no normal self-respecting woman I know would ever let their guy leave the house looking like that!

And yet… there they are, infesting the aisles of the local Walmarts!

Each and every one of these clowns left the house thinking they look gooood!

They soooo don’t!

(Oh, COME ON!!)

So guys… for the love of all that’s good and decent in the world…

Stop it.



Dress for the body you have… not the body you want!

Important fashion tip for my damsels in distress [1]...

Dress for the body you have… not the body you want.

Ladies [2], I cannot over-state the importance of this little aphorism.

You may think you look scorchingly hot in that skimpy, sexy little outfit you squeezed into this morning. But unless you are anything other than slender… dare I say ‘willowy’… you (and perhaps a road crew) aren’t going to pull it off.

Be realistic. And I am not saying that anyone other than fashion models deserve to dress well. Heaven forfend.

BUT… if you are trying to dress like the runway models at New York Fashion Week and you kinda don’t look like them to start off with… you might want to lower your expectations just a titch.

Sadly, however, the young ladies with whom I usually deal do not aspire to haute couture. Far from it. From where I sit, it seems that some of them are in a fashion ‘race to the bottom.’

I’m not sure when ‘skanky’ became a ‘serious’ fashion choice but for heaven’s sake girls… knock it off. [3]

Yes, we all know you recently discovered that you have both the drive and the equipment. Congratulations. You’re right up there with… Every Other Girl.

As Spiderman said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Put another way, ‘your body is a temple… not an amusement park.’

Dress appropriately.

And that includes dressing realistically. If you are tall, slender, perfectly proportioned with a pretty face and a great smile, ignore everything I just said. This article is not directed at you.

For the 99.9% of you who are not blessed with such award-winning genes, work with what you have… not what you wish you had.

You’ll look and feel so much better. And right-thinking members of society will thank you.



[1] As many of you know, I am a criminal defence lawyer in my ‘other’ (i.e. non-blogging, non-writing) life. As such, I am exposed to all manner of fashion disasters and couture tragedies. Usually I hold my tongue. Sometimes, I simply must speak out!

[2] Trust me… guys have this problem as well. More so in a later blog article!

[3] The entire subject of ‘slutty clothing’ will also be dealt with in another blog article. Girls who choose to dress modestly often get smart-ass remarks from the skankily-dressed set. An Orthodox Jewish high school girl I know was once asked why she dressed like someone just died. As Wednesday Addams would reply, “Wait.”