It’s Not Just About The Bugs . . . It’s About Us.



BOTY 2013 FINAL NOMINEES

Final Voting Results: The 2013-2014 BOTY (Bug of The Year) (INN Radio #96 1/17/14)

Here is the full radio broadcast announcing the winner of the BOTY and all the Special People Awards, too.  Enjoy!

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  • #1 Long-nosed Bee Fly (The 2013-2014 BOTY)

This nominee is a personal favorite of the team @ The INN for it is bodacious!  Long-nosed bee flies (Bombylius major)  stay low to the ground are highly territorial and are easy to track.   Unlike the majority of glyciphagous dipterans, the bee flies feed on pollen (from which they meet their protein requirements) . A similar trophic behavior occurs among the hoverflies, another important family of Diptera pollinators.  Watching these flies argue over a flower or a patch of plants is pure enjoyment for the whole family.  While the Bombyliidae include a large number of species in great variety, most species do not often appear in abundance, and for its size this is one of the most poorly known families of insects. There are at least 4,500 described species, and certainly thousands yet to be described.  So if you pay attention and plant the right flowers, you may be able to create a Citizen Science project that is a little Hollywood and a little Natural History Museum.  You might even discover a new species, and then you can name it whatever you want!

Category:  Practical, Compelling, Profound

  • #2: The Honeybee

The perrennial candidate for the BOTY, the Honey Bee is perhaps the most important insect to human civilization.  They represent in many ways a pinnacle of invertebrate evolution, as well as a complex and mystical interdependence with humans.  The bee has significance in almost every facet of our existence: ecological, economic, spiritual, historical, psychological, artistic, biomimetic and sociological.  Honeybees belong to the genus Apis, with 7 species worldwide.  There were no “true” honey bees in the Western Hemisphere until the 17th Century.  The embody an omnipresent contradiction in modern ecology: today, there are more honey bees on the planet than at any time in history.  However, the use of bees as agricultural tools has led to mismanagement and disrespect, as their commercial numbers have plummeted as much as 60%  in the past 20 years.

Category: All of the above

  • #3: Kirk Jellum’s Praying Mantis Sculpture from Burning Man

It was Kirk Jellum’s first art project. Now his 40-foot by 30-foot “Praying Mantis” will be part of a $350 million redevelopment project in downtown Las Vegas. An aerospace engineer-turned large-scale metal artist, Jellum designed and built the unusual vehicle that he and his wife took to Burning Man in August of 2010.  The “Praying Mantis” has a neck that can be raised 35 feet into the air and the antennae shoot 20-foot flames. The mantis has made appearances at several events. Recently, the one-of-a-kind creation caught the attention of Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh.   “Mantis” was never built with the intention of selling it, so they sold it for how much they put into it. It’s going to be the entry piece into a shipping container retail space.  Hsieh is taking shipping containers and tricking them out into a hipster-like retail space. When they sold it, there were a few tears shed. “It felt a bit like we were selling one of our children, but we didn’t have a problem with it,”  said the artist’s wife with a big laugh. “Mantis” led to Jellum’s next big creation. A wealthy investor saw the mantis and wanted his own vehicular bug, so Jellum built him “The Scorpion.” It started out as a 1993 Utah Department of Transportation boom truck. The contraption weighs about 15,000 pounds. It’s designed after an emperor female scorpion, just 150 times larger. It’s 53 feet long, 45 feet wide and 38 feet tall. The arms and legs of “The Scorpion” move, flames shoot out of its tail, and there’s computerized LED lighting and a very loud stereo. (I met the Scorpion at Burning Man 2011).

All in all, a splendid example of what is possible by the inspired ambassadors of The Insect Tribe.  (For the record, The Insect News Network learned of this art sculpture while traveling on Southwest Airlines).

Category: Practical, Compelling, Fun

  • #4: The Monarch Butterfly

Perhaps the most iconic butterfly in the world, our beloved Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is experiencing devastating declines in their populations.  Many reports from their migration routes suggest that numbers are down as high as 80% from previous years.  Their nesting grounds in Michoacan, Mexico have been reduced to only 1.5 acres of forest, down from a peak of over 50 acres in the mid-20th Century.  They are marvels of aerodynamics and physics, one of the few insects who can fly across the Atlantic (monarchs have populated no less that 10 overseas countries and islands).  One possible solution to slowing  their decline rests in our hands: farmers, developers and gardeners could stop using Round-Up and restore the milkweed population along their hedgerows. It took scientists 38 years to map their migration route, and we still don’t fully understand how genetically identical tribes of Monarchs take two complete routes across the continent.  Unless something is done the Monarch might not exist 38 years from now.

Category: Practical, Fun, Fascinating, Profound, Sublime

This magnificent creature is considered by many to be the most stunning Lepidopteran in the world.  Chrysiridia rhipheus is one of the few day flying moths, and pollinates Omphalea, a rare, poisonous plant native to Madagascar.  This moth is a splendid example of biomimetics: its coloration is created by photonic crystals.  The dark colors are created by pigment, which takes immense energy for such a small creature to make.  The bright colors are double prisms of refracted sunlight.  The colour originates from coherent scattering and interference of light by the microstructure of the ribbon-like scales covering the moth’s wings. One can imagine the stunning elegance of these moths in flight.   Native Malagasy people call it Adriandolo or Lolonandriana, from lolo for “spirit” or “butterfly” and adriana for “noble” or “king”, therefore meaning “noble butterfly”, “noble spirit”, “king butterfly” or “king spirit”.   The Malagasy people believe the soul of the dead or of ancestors appears in the form of a Lepidopteran, and thus to attack it is to attack the ancestors. Just imagine the psychedelic ballet of colors when these lovely animals deliver during their mating ritual.   They embody the sublime.

Category:  Practical, Compelling, Fun, Fascinating, Sublime

  • #6: The Ogre-Faced Spider

In addition to being an absolute hoot, this Arachnid is an excellent example of specilaized evolution.  The Deinopidae are masters of camouflage, blending perfectly in “twiggy” areas of shrubs and trees where other spiders aren’t often found.   Its huge eyes are so light-sensitive that it hides during the day, and creates a thin membrane to protect its eyes each night, among the most accurate in the invertebrate world.  The two large “goggle” eyes dwarf the remaining 6, which are virtually useless.   They are called “net-casting spiders” for good reason: In addition to its orb web, the ogre weaves multiple tiny webs and stores them for later.  When a prey stumbles into its lair, Deinopidae stretches the mini-web 2-3xs the original size and propels itself onto passing prey.   Ogres are also art-science fusionists -    they use fecal spots strewn throughout their silk as “bull’s eyes” to cast their web on unsuspecting prey.  Their name in Greek means, “terrible face” and, but considering how creepy cool they are, what’s not to love?

Category: Fun, Fascinating

  • #7: Elephant Hawk-Moth Caterpillar

The magnificent specimen is the larvae of an equally magnificent imago, Deilephila elpenor, known as the Elephant Hawk-moth (the adult is equally as impressive and might count as a second nominee!).    The caterpillar actually looks like an elephant trunk in its resting state, hence the name.  It rears its serpentine head (its distended abdomen) in a defensive posture.  This species possesses good night or scotopic vision.therefore has the cellular prerequisites for trichromatic colour vision, just like people.   But unlike people, they can fly over 10 mph.  The hawk-moths are major pollinators of flowers usually seen inthe twilight hours, after hummingbirds go to bed  (they are easily confused).  This species possesses good night or scotopic vision. Its eye includes two different kinds of ommatidium; each contains nine light sensitive cells, of which seven contain a pigment whose absorption spectrum peaks in the green part of the spectrum, but in one type the remaining two receptors have peak absorption in the blue and in the other type they have peak reception in the ultra violet. The moth therefore has the cellular prerequisites for trichromatic colour vision, just like people.  There it is again – that human-insect connection.

Category: Fun, Fascinating, Profound

  • #8: The Mirror Spider

Spiders of the genus Thwaitesia are  known as the sequined spider, mirror spider, or twin-peaked spiders.  These members of Theridiiadae family (cob weavers) are the closest thing in the spider world to a disco ball.  The abdomen of this spider is covered in silver, red, black and gold sequin like coloured patches. Under a microscope they pulsate with the spiders heart beat.  The sliver reflected tiles are apparently made of guanine (which happens to be one of the 4 primary nucleic acid that make up human DNA).   At rest, the plates expand to cover the entire abdomen.  When the spider is alarmed, it contacts the tiles into small rows along its heart line.  It is possible they communicate a something akin to a linguistic intent much the same way that other highly evolved invertebrates do (re: Cephalopooidea (octopi and cuttlefish).

Spiders of the genus Thwaitesia are  known as the sequined spider, mirror spider, or twin-peaked spiders.
These members of Theridiiadae family (cob weavers) are the closest thing in the spider world to a disco ball.  The abdomen of this spider is covered in silver, red, black and gold sequin like coloured patches. Under a microscope they pulsate with the spiders heart beat.
The sliver reflected tiles are apparently made of guanine (which happens to be one of the 4 primary nucleic acid that make up human DNA).   At rest, the plates expand to cover the entire abdomen.  When the spider is alarmed, it contacts the tiles into small rows along its heart line.  It is possible they communicate a something akin to a linguistic intent much the same way that other highly evolved invertebrates do (re: Cephalopooidea (octopi and cuttlefish).

Just imagine a future gathering of The Insect Tribe event where we hook one of these up to a DJ mixer.

(Note: I believe this photograph comes courtesy of Nicky Bay Photography).

Category: Fun, Fascinating, Profound

  • #9: Salt Marsh Tiger Beetles (in Love)

Cicindela nevadica  is a critically endangered species of tiger beetle endemic to the saline wetlands of northern Nebraska. adjacent to and immediately to the north of the city of Lincoln. It is a predatory insect, using its mandibles to catch other insects. The beetle is one of the rarest insects in North America.  Surveys showed that 194 adults existed in 2009, down from 777 a decade earlier.  This year only 98 adults were recorded.  The Obama administration this year protected a mere 1100 acres to help the species, down from a proposed 30,000 acres.   The SMTB is an indicator of a healthy marsh ecosystem.  Lose it and we lose one of the most remarkable organisms on the planet, and perhaps many more.

Around the world, tiger beetles are pivotal ecological stewards: their voracious appetites reduce pest species and fuel what is perhaps the fastest animal on Earth.  Some species can run at a speed of 9 km/h (5.6 mph), which, relative to its body length, is about 22 times the  speed of former Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson (the equivalent of a human running at 480 miles per hour (770 km/h)). Sometimes these amazing beings run so fast they make themselves dizzy. Its brain can’t process the landscape images and when the animal stops their brains slams into their exoskeleton.  This might be the case if you ever stumble upon a tiger beetle . . . stumbling upon you.

Sweet.

Category:  Practical, Compelling, Fascinating

  • #10: The Orchid Bee

Some of the great minds of our culture turned their attention to orchid bees, aka Euglossini tribe (they really are classified as a Tribe).  The head of different species of orchid bees fit with specific orchid flowers like an evolutionary lock-n-key.”Fertilisation of Orchids” is a book by English naturalist Charles Darwin published on 15 May 1862 under the full explanatory title:  On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. Darwin’s previous book, “On the Origin of Species”, had briefly mentioned evolutionary interactions between insects and the plants they fertilized, and this new idea was explored in detail in the latter book. Darwin tapped into the contemporary vogue for growing exotic orchids expound this ground-breaking interdependence between humans, flowers and these little bees.   The book was his first detailed demonstration of the power of natural selection, and explained how complex ecological relationships resulted in the coevolution of orchids and insects.  The connection is so profound that cinematography wizard Louie Schwartzberg, along with acting great Meryl Streep, dedicated an entire section of his landmark film “Wings of Life” to orchid bees. (We hosted him on the INN Salon, Radio Show #77 in 2013).

The REAL reason this bees are on the Top 25: Male orchid bees have uniquely modified legs which are used to collect and store different volatile compounds (often esters) throughout their lives, The accumulated “fragrances” are evidently released by the males at their display sites in the forest understory, where matings are known to take place.

Ralph Lauren, eat your heart out.

Category:  Practical, Compelling, Profound

  • #11: The Himalayan Jumping Spider

Euophorys omnisuperstes, which means “standing above anything,” could be the Guiness record holder as the highest living permanent resident on Earth.  They live as high as 6700 meters (22,000 ft) at the top of the Himayalan mountains, eating mostly Collembola (springtails) and other bugs that are blown up the mountainside by wind.  The analysis of the jumping spider’s life cycle prompted the classification of a new ecosystem: the Alpine Aeolian Zone, aka “life brought on the wind.”Just to reiterate, this extremophile lives over 4 miles above sea level. It’s able to survive long periods without food, freezing temperatures (the region can be as cold as -60° C (-76° F), and a distinct lack of atmospheric pressure – and its a hunter!It belongs to the family Saliticidae, a favorite of the team at the INN. (Last year’s BOTY was a Salti, The Peacock jumping spider).   This family is also known as “the tigers of the insect world.”  I guess this one is a snow leopard.

Category: Fun, Fascinating, Profound

  • #12: The Oregon Yellow-Faced Bumble Bee

The tragedy that befell a parking lot in Oregon this year became an environmental rallying cry.  A group of errant and negligent landscapers sprayed the trees with a banned pesticide, killing over 300 nests of the Yellow-Faced Bumble Bee (Bombus vosnesenskii).  The result was the dramatic death of over 25,000 bees, as reported by the Xerces Society. It has become a ‘teachable moment,’ a pesticide poisoning incident providing a case study to the numerous calls for bans of neonicotinoids in the U.S. “Safari” is a neonicotinoid sold by Valent, a division of Syngenta. It is readily available in over 15 products for purchase by homeowners, ironically even at that very same store where the dead bees littered the parking lot. Luckily this species, now a “poster child” for the anti-pesticide movement,  is the most common bumble in Oregon.  It seems to benefit from urbanization since it does well in urban parks and gardens and thrives in some agricultural systems. It is often by far the most common bumblebee in such places and may exclude other species. It also occurs in more natural systems but is not as dominant in these. Most of the usual threats do not apply, for example this species is probably little affected by exotic diseases, apparently benefits from many forms of habitat conversion, e.g. urbanization and some forms of agriculture which seem to give it an advantage over related species.  So, as Yukon Cornelius once said, “Bumbles bounce.” Let’s hope Bumbles bounce back, too.

Category:  Practical, Compelling, Profound

  • #13: The Map Butterfly

Cyrestis thyodamas is part of a ubiquitous genus in Asia and Africa, and Europe, often referred to as “winged jewels.”  The lines that run vertically and horizontally create a grid of  squares, their wings form like parchment paper, hence their common name. Their larvae often eat the leaves and fruits of Ficus (fig) trees.  Males can often be seen imbibing mineralised moisture from damp soil. They are strongly attracted to urine and can sometimes be found imbibing at seepages around village houses.
(So, they are gorgeous, and a little gross).  They are brush-footed butterflies because the forelegs are small and hairy, looking like tiny brushes and are not used for walking.   A website designed to showcase virtual tours has been named after this creature.  Although its called The Common Map Butterfly, this jewel is anything but.

Category: Fun, Fascinating, Profound

  • #14: Magicicada

Magicicada is the official name of the periodical cicada, whose population boom across the eastern US made the biggest headline buzz of the year.    These are the only synchronized ciccada species in the world, with one brood at 13 years, the other at 17.   Magicicada are edible when cooked. They have historically been eaten by Native Americans, who would roast them in hot ovens, stirring them until they were well browned. In traditional Chinese medicine the molted skins of many species of Cicadas have been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis as well as other diseases.  The chorus created during mating exceeds 100 dB, which is the sound of a jack hammer.  Another cicada in Australia -  Cyclochila australasiae     – is one of the loudest creature on the planet, chirping at over 150 dB (which is roughly the sound of a jet plane taking off).  That’s a lot of very happy lovebugs.

Category: Fun, Fascinating, Profound

On now . . . the Nominees for the 2031-2014 BOTY (in no particular order).

  • #15: Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly

Sympetrum corruptum – what a great name.  If you can’t beat ‘em, corruptum.

This nominee belongs to one of the largest groups of dragonflies in the world. The skimmers or perchers and their relatives form the Libellulidae.  It is one of the grand ambassadors of the Microcosm, living in and around human settlements, keeping them free from many of the biting insects that would otherwise drive us bonkers.  The meadowhawk is very territorial, so if you ever see one resting on a reed, you can consider it a friendly neighbor. The Latin name for this genus, Sympetrum, means “with rock” and refers to their habit of basking on rocks to absorb heat early in the day.

I think this species is particularly splendid because of its artistic design, like a glass sculpture.  It look like a model airplane or a toy that some kid could play with.  I took this photo in the middle of a  dance party at the Earthdance Festival 2011 in Vallejo, CA, amid a swirling dance party and reggae music.

It turns out there was a major humanitarian operation named after this family of Odonatas.  Operation Dragonfly, in German Operation Libelle, was an evacuation operation of the German armed forces in the Albanian capital Tirana on March 14, 1997. Operation Libelle is known in Germany as the first time since WWII that German infantry soldiers fired shots in actual combat.

Worth of the nomination, fer sher.

Category:  Practical, Compelling, Profound

  •  #16: Green Lynx Spider

Peucetia viridans is an elegant and aggressive spider, for the most part harmless to people.  The species is primarily of interest for its usefulness in agricultural pest management, for example in cotton fields. The spiders have been observed to hunt several moth species and their larvae, including some of the most important crop pests, such as the bollworm moth (Heliothis zea), the cotton leafworm moth (Alabama agrillacea) and the cabbage looper moth. Peucetia viridans also is unusual among spiders in that females defending their egg purses will “spit” venom at intruders, including humans.  In other words, this little lynx is quite a saucy minx.   Take a close look at the image and search for others online – you will find this nominee to be bizarre, captivating and more than a little enticing.

Category: Practical, Compelling, Fascinating

  • #17: Bird-Dropping Spider

The common name for this master of camouflage is well-placed.  Celaenia excavata is “the bird-dropping spider,” and it stays motionless on its web during the day, only hunting for prey at night.  It hunts almost exclusively male moths by hanging  down from a single silk thread and releasing a pheromone which mimics the sex smells released by female moths.  (Its motto: Eat shit and die).  For some reason it also has the nickname in Australia of “Death’s Head Spider,”  as its markings can also resemble the shape of a skull.  One of the big reasons this spider was nominated is because it heralds the power of observation: no mater where you live, there are amazing wonders waiting to be discovered.  Sometimes it requires sensitive and thoughtful powers of observation – one of the traits that all good Ambassadors for the Insect Tribe embody. Evolutionists, have a ball trying to explain the mechanism of adaptation for this nominee!

Category: Fun, Fascinating, Profound

  • #18: Ant-Mimick Treehopper

Membracidae are treehoppers and thorn bugs.  While many of the Membracid hoppers mimic plants (leaves, thorns, sticks, etc.) this species (Cyphonia clavata) is crazy cool because it lives among Cephalotes ants in central America, an aggressive species.  When two of them meet face-to-face they look like two ants touching antennae.  They can even mimick the smell of the ant colony.  Membracids are exceptional examples of mutualism: two organisms of different species exist in a relationship in which each individual benefits.   Some treehoppers have mutualism with wasps and even geckos, offering honeydew in return for protection.  Many consider them to be the most exquisitely designed creatures in the world. Google the family and we promise you see the most mind-blowing array of morphology in the natural world.  In the past few years, treehoppers in South America have also been found to have a complex society which uses a distinct language to indicate fear, fun and reproductive frenzy.

These are nominated to inspire all the artists and jewelry makers in the Insect Tribe.

Category: Fun, Fascinating, Profound

  • #19: The Yellow-Faced Soldier Fly

Besides being a gorgeous creature (I think their body design would make a great sports team uniform), the yellow-headed soldier fly (genus Stratiomyidae) is hugely important for the recycling of nutrients. They limit bacteria and pestilent flies in composting sites, and their larvae can remove toxins and heavy metals from soil.  Although they resemble wasps and buzz loudly, they are quite docile and don’t bite or sting.  In fact, the adults have no mouth parts.  They are very easy to catch and relocate when they get inside a house, as they do not avoid being picked up, they are sanitary, and they do not bite or sting.  Larvae of many species of this genus are highly efficient in converting proteins, containing up to 42% of protein, and a lot of calcium and amino acids. As they can be bred in a shoebox, soldier flies are an essential future food for pets, livestock, and yes . . . humans.

Category: Practical, Fun, Fascinating, Profound

Considered one of the most troublesome invasive species in the western US, the GSOB has destroyed entire acres of a tree emblematic of the western US – the mighty oak.  Agrilus auroguttatus is a potent and mysterious pest but is really a prime example of the biocomplexity of the 21st Century.  Including human behaviors into environmental models is the key to biocomplexity.  Some estimates put the number of oak trees killed by the GSOB at over 80,000 in the region of the San Diego, CA.  This jewel beetle represents a startling case of invasive species: similar species are found in central America and Mexico and Arizona. but the species in SoCal is the only one to infest oak trees with such potency.  Whether its spread is the result of climate change or – more likely – the introduction of infested firewood is not yet determined.  This bug made headlines acorss southern Cal and the West because widespread oak mortality can have severe implications to the environment and human safety.

Category:  Practical, Compelling, Profound

  • #21: Asian Citrus Psyllid

This slow and diminutive creature embodies the latest saga of invasive species, which, according to author Charles Mann (“1491″, “1493″) is emblematic of the “Homogenocene”: the epoch of life when Homo sapiens has moved biological life around the planet at an unprecedented rate.  Having arrived in the US in late 1990s from China, this leafhopper (Diaphorina citri) is the vector for citrus greening disease, aka Huanlongbing.  Although the industry in Florida has been in decline for 15 years, this year ACS caused the most damage to date, with losses estimated as high as $4.5 billion and over 8,000 jobs.   The most shocking news is that D. citri can fly from plantation to plantation.  It has leap-frogged across the central part of the country and was found in California in 2013, further threatening the 3rd largest citrus industry in the world.   Here’s the crux of this nomination: the emerging theory of biocomplexity – which incorporates human behavior into ecological models – suggests that monoculture creates an imbalanced ecosystem, one that creates the conditions ripe for an invasive pest like D. citri to thrive.  What can we do about it?

Category: Practical, Compelling, Profound

  • #22: Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Halyomorpha halys, better known as The BMSB, (you know you’ve made it when your known by an acronym), is considered one of the most calamitous invasive species of the decade.   Accidentally introduced in a shipping crate from China,  they have adapted to climate change in the US to increase to 6 generations per year.   They are ominvorous eating everything from soy beans, tomatoes and corn but have a preference for fruit.   The invader caused catastrophic damage in most mid-Atlantic states, with some growers of sweet corn, peppers, tomatoes, apples, and peaches reporting total losses that year. The hardest part is that they resemble native species, are oblivious to pesticides (they suck fruit juice) and only recently some predators have been shown eating them.   It has now spread to 40 US states and has grown in population by over 60% in the last two years. The stink bug has rocked the news media world because of its name and its smell.  The big question remains: will we find a natural way to control the spread of this odious nominee?

Category: Fun, Fascinating, Profound

  • #23: Tisza River Flower


The River Tisza runs through Ukraine, Hungary, Romania and Serbia, and is home to Palingenia longicauda Europe’s largest mayfly,  measuring up to 12 centimeters.  These creatures belong to one the most ancient group of insect,  Ephemeroptera), existing on the Earth for hundreds of millions of years. The order Empeheraoptera displays fantastic population explosions around the world.   Every spring the Tizas  bursts into life with the hatching of the adult maylfies, known as “Tizsa Flowers.”
The miracle of perfect biological timing occurs every year in the middle of June, coinciding with the adequate Moon phase, water quality and temperature. The process begins at the Lower-Tisza and repeats every day at sunset between 6 and 8 o’clock p.m. for two weeks, drawing slowly to the source.  This is an act when more dozen of males simultaneously go after a single female (they are the evolutionary opposite of the Mormon cricket).   When copulating they form a flower of wings – a “flower of Tisza.”  The phenomenon is named “The Blooming of The Tisza”.  After reproduction, the males die. The females begin their bridal-flight, traveling 2-3 kilometers against the watercourse to place their eggs, which are driven back with perfect timing by Tisza to the same place where their parents first saw the light of day. The eggs drift to the bottom of the river, hatch into larvae and dig themselves to the river bed 7-8 mm deep, where they develop three years long.

Alas, it is all for love.

Category:  Fun, Fascinating, Profound, Sublime

  • #24: Robobees

A fascinating and somewhat ominous creation of human technology, the Robobee was created in the Harvard Labaratory to assist with search and rescue, and – ominously – spying,  then – ultimately – artificial pollination.   The design is an ingenious adoption of the principles of Japanese Origami paper art combined with micro-manufacturing.  To achieve flight the researchers created artificial muscles that beat at 120 times per second.  (A real honey bee beats at 230 x /sec).  At 1.3 inches (3 cm) it is the smallest robot ever created to mimic insects.  Of course this sort of bio-inspired design has unforeseen ramifications.  Some parts of the world (for instance,  Maoxian county of Sichuan, China) are so toxified with chemicals that no native pollinators exists.  Humans must pollinate apple orchards by hand.  The Robobee could be a solution for the loss of ecological services provided by insects.  They might also be enable a negligent industry to ignore the warning signs of species extinction.  Since we are firmly probiotic at the INN, we think these robobees should stay out of the fields until we do everything we can to protect the living creatures already there.

Category:  Practical, Compelling, Profound

Perhaps the second top news story of the year from the Microcosm, these genetically modified Aedes egypti continue perplex the brains of H. sapiens.  Created by English firm Oxitec, the GMMs live pass along a birth defect that kills their progeny (the wrigglers can’t synthesize tetracycline).   Only the  males are altered, but purportedly pose no risk because they do not bite or transmit diseases.   The company released 3.3 million GM males into the Cayman Islands.  Results were successful but highly criticized in the science community.   The company reported a 96% suppression of the infected mosquitoes in Brazil during a 6-month trial in 2013.   When Key West, Florida had another dengue outbreak, plans were made to introduce the GMOsquitoes in the US.  As you can imagine the outcry was enormous.  Expect this to be the first of many controversies to come.  Yes, people, we are ever-closer to living Jurassic Park.

Category: Practical, Compelling, Profound

 

 

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