Sixty New Dragonfly Species Described from Africa

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The number of dragonfly species known in Africa has increased by almost 10%, from 700 to 760 species. The new species are described in the journal Odonatologica.

“The current emphasis on molecular research creates the impression that the undiscovered life is inconspicuous or hidden, but each of our new species is colorful and easy to identify,” said KD Dijkstra, one of the authors. “It’s a matter of going outside and knowing what you’re looking for.”

Some of the new species were given interesting names. For example, Umma gumma was named after the 1969 Pink Floyd album Ummagumma. Another, Notogomphus gorilla, is named after the Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei). Others are named after other entomologists who worked on dragonflies in Africa, and many are named after African rivers, parks, or provinces.

“Names introduce species to humanity,” Dijkstra said. “All awareness, conservation and research of nature starts with the question: which species is that?”

A New Genus of Plant Bug, Plus Four New Species from Australia

A new genus of plant bug and four new species have been discovered in Australia. The newly discovered insects, which belong to the family Miridae

Hundred-Million-Year-Old Beetle Provides Clues to the Past

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About 100 million years ago in present-day Myanmar, a tiny beetle flew into a coniferous tree and became engulfed in its resin. Over time, the resin fossilized into amber — with the beetle fully encased — resulting in one of the most spectacularly preserved ancient beetle specimens yet described.

“For a beetle taxonomist and for the entomological community as a whole, this is an exciting discovery,” said Michael Caterino, director of the Clemson University Arthropod Collection. “This is an extraordinary 99 million-year-old fossil in Burmese amber. We can see all the details of the external sculpturing of the wing covers and the head. We can see the mouth parts, which enable us to predict that this was a predator much like its modern relatives. And it has a lot of tantalizing characteristics that we hypothesized early members of this family had. But we no longer have to guess. Now we can confirm.”

The ancient insect is a member of a family of beetles called Histeridae, which still thrive today with more than 4,000 species. Caterino has co-authored a research article, published in the journal Zootaxa, about

New Soldier Beetle Named after Japanese Animated TV Series “Neon Genesis Evangelion”

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If you’re a fan of Japanese animation, you probably know about Neon Genesis Evangelion, a popular anime that has had a strong influence on Japanese popular culture.

Four new soldier beetles in the family Cantharidae and the genus Lycocerus have been discovered in Taiwan, and one of them is partially named after the TV series.

The name Lycocerus evangelium is celebratory, since “evangelium” means “good news” in Latin, because its discovery was good news for the team who identified it. But the specific epithet is also in memory of Neon Genesis Evangelion, according to Yun Hsiao, an ungraduate student from National Taiwan University.

He and Professor Ping-Shih Yang and Professor Chiun-Cheng Ko collaborated with a Japanese entomologist, Dr. Yûichi Okushima from Kurashiki Museum of Natural History. The team examined more than 400 specimens from museum collections and discovered the four species, which they have have described in the European Journal of Taxonomy.

The other three soldier beetles also belong to the genus Lycocerus, which is one of the most diverse genera in Asia.

Lycocerus yitingi is named after its collector, Mr. Yi-Ting Chung from Taiwan. Lycocerus kintaroi is named after its

Survey of Praying Mantises in Rwanda Uncovers Rich Diversity

A college student working at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History was lead author on the first formal survey of praying mantises in Rwanda, which revealed a 155 percent increase in praying mantis species diversity for the African country. Riley Tedrow, a Case Western Reserve University graduate student pursuing field research for the museum, participated in two surveys across four locations in Rwanda, including three national parks. The survey was published in the journal Zootaxa.

“This survey highlights a need for more thorough sampling of the insect fauna of Rwanda,” said Tedrow. “Undiscovered diversity is still out there — strange, wonderful, and fascinating creatures whose stories I want to tell. With greater levels of biodiversity recorded in this country, we can inform conservation decisions in these important African national parks.”

The survey added 28 new praying mantis species records to Rwanda. These add to the 18 previously recorded praying mantis species for the country. In addition, 20 new praying mantis species were recorded for the region, including neighboring Uganda and Burundi. Tedrow discovered and described one new species of praying mantis, Dystacta tigrifrutex (meaning “bush tiger mantis”), in 2014 from the insects collected. Research continues on the specimens already inventoried.

Tedrow helped conduct

GMO multi-toxin crops continue to backfire as more insects become resistant to crop chemicals

Promises made by the biotechnology industry about the alleged robustness of its genetically modified (GM) crops are proving to be false, as research out of the University of Arizona (UA) uncovers a growing resistance by pests to even the most advanced crop chemical technologies in use today. Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the new study explains how multi-toxin GM crops are quickly losing their ability to fend off pests, which could lead to a complete GMO failure in the very near future if alternate interventions are not enacted.
The study evaluated specific GM crops like corn and cotton that have been infused with a genetic mutation involving the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), as well as several other toxins that grow inside the plant to target pests. This so-called “pyramid” strategy, which involves using multiple GM toxins to target the same pests, is said to have been designed for the purpose of thwarting pesticide and insecticide resistance by targeting pests with two or three different toxins all at once rather than just one at time.

But according to the UA report, insects and other pests are outsmarting this approach. After evaluating a series of laboratory experiments

Secret world of insects revealed in fascinating science photos from the Natural News Forensic Food Lab

When I’m working in the Natural News Forensic Food Lab, I like to put the equipment to use for much more than just food investigations. Recently, I gathered some insects and brought them to the lab to take a closer look. At 200X magnification, fascinating details emerge.
What you see below is a collection of photos (and a video) resulting from my “insect investigation” at the lab. You’ll see the tiny shingles that make up a butterfly wing and the structural support columns of a dragonfly wing.

Also check out the amazing grasshopper foot, the dragonfly head and the close-up of a scorpion’s stinger, showing the poison reservoir that’s pumped into the insect’s victims.

You’ll also see the stinger of a wasp, the claw arm of a scorpion and much more.

After checking out the photos, watch the video at the bottom of this article to see even more examples, including microscopic video of a tick, complete with its blood-siphoning “mouth” still in place.
Butterfly wing “shingles” come on all sorts of colors. In this photo, you can actually see the “transition” colors between yellow and black. How does the butterfly know to create shingles with transition colors? How does the DNA even

Pollinating insects disappear as GMOs proliferate: What will become of our food supply?

A pair of studies recently published in the journal Science raises fresh and dire warnings about the continued decline of crop-pollinating insects all over the world, and what this means for the future of the world’s food supply. Both studies highlight the fact that wild pollinators like bumblebees, butterflies, and beetles are basically disappearing, and that industrial agriculture, which includes genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), are a major factor causing this insect genocide.
The two studies are hardly groundbreaking, as at least half a dozen other studies published just in the last couple of years have arrived at similarly disturbing findings. They do, however, shed further light on how the situation has progressed throughout the decades, pointing to corporate monoculture practices, shrinking forests and wild lands, and general changes in physical landscapes as some of the primary culprits in promoting this ruinous trend.

In one of the studies, researchers from Montana State University (MSU) compared insect data collected in the late 1800s to similar data collected in the same test location in the 1970s. They then compiled current data from the same area to compare to both of these other two data sets, upon which they discovered that the number of unique wild

7th Annual Bug Eating Festival explodes from small gathering behind a barn to party taking over Austin’s most prestigious park

It started as a small gathering behind my barn” says Marjory Wildcraft, the founder of the 7th Annual Bug Eating Festival which will be held in Austin’s Zilker Park on June 21st starting at 7pm in the evening.
“It’s just crazy how many people are into it now.”

Wildcraft likens eating a cricket to riding a roller coaster. “At first you are saying no, no. no as the insect gets closer to your mouth. Then you actually eat it, and it tastes… sort of good. Then you get this rush of relief. It’s a ride,” said Wildcraft.

A love/hate relationship with eating insects.

Marjory Wildcraft is best known for her radio and television segments teaching people how to become free of supermarkets and drugstores. She is a leader in the transition and preparedness movements. In her video series Grow Your Own Groceries, Wildcraft shows people how to produce half of their own food in less than an hour per day.

Marjory wanted to explore food possibilities beyond gardens and small livestock. “I knew that insects are eaten all over the world, are rich in minerals, and have those precious omega fatty acids we all need. But I just never could get myself to eat

United Nations: Eating insects is good for health, can create job opportunities

Would you like some strawberries with that stinkbug? How about a little quinoa with that cricket?
The United Nations has a list of edible bugs on Earth — over 1,900 to be exact — in a released report that they hope will generate less of a “yuck” factor and more of an interest in the flavorful variety of insects, many of which are loaded with protein and minerals. (1)

While eating insects is a common practice in many cultures, it has yet to be the go-to appetizer of choice for most of us dining with friends. In fact, the topic is enough to make some people develop a queasy stomach at the mere thought.

Still, the United Nations wants to increase awareness about the many benefits of eating the likes of termites, one of which is that such a diet can potentially make strides against world hunger. (2)

The argument that insect-eating is good for people and the environment

The report suggests not only that many edible insects pack a nutritional punch (small grasshoppers, for example, rank close to lean ground beef when it comes to protein content, but that consumption of them means less reliance on all that’s entailed in raising livestock for

Fungi pesticide offers non-toxic alternative to chemical pesticides

A patent for a pesticide made from mushrooms was granted in 2006. This pesticide is safe, nontoxic and can control over two-hundred thousand types of insects. Fungi are known to cause insect diseases and the use of spores from fungi has been known for over 100 years. Previous patents were granted as far back as 1992 for fungal ant killers and termite control. In 2014, pesticides were a $16 million dollar business. A fungi-based pesticide is safer to use, safer for the planet, and has no lasting effect on the plants or planet.

Current situation with insects and pesticides

Over 1 million types of insects populate our planet, but only 1 percent are harmful and considered to be “pests.” They are considered to be pests because they eat the foods we grow, or harm the livestock we need, or destroy our homes. The cost of the destruction caused by pests is high, as is the effects of chemical pesticides used to eradicate them. Many insects are now becoming resistant to pesticides. In addition, use of pesticides has been linked to causing many problems including human infertility, birth defects and the demise of the honeybee population. Pesticide use also harms natural insect predators,

Cooperative Control

Twenty days after a fateful bite from a parasitoid wasp (Dinocampus coccinellae), a pre-pupa emerges from the bitten lady beetle (Coleomegilla maculata) and spins a cocoon between the beetle’s six legs. Eventually, the beetle becomes immobile, twitching and shaking at irregular intervals, grasping the wasp cocoon as if its own life depended on it. To force C. maculata into bodyguard duty for its young, the wasp is aided by a virus—D. coccinellae paralysis virus, or DcPV—that partially paralyzes the lady beetle, according to a study published today (February 10) in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Viral mediation of host-parasite interactions are nothing new. However, this study was the first to find “that a virus is involved in the behavioral manipulation by another parasite,” said Nolwenn Dheilly of Stony Brook University in New York, who led the study.

Studying C. maculateD. coccinellae interactions in the lab, Dheilly and her colleagues found that the onset of beetle behavioral modification occurred long after the bite and oviposition by the wasp. Moreover, once adult wasps emerged from the beetle-protected cocoons, the beetles recovered from the paralysis, resumed feeding, and even went on to reproduce. To tease apart competing hypotheses on this transient, behavior-modifying viral infection,

Forgetful Bees Try New Flowers

Bumblebees, which visit numerous flowers daily to sip nectar as they spread pollen, may experience glitches in their long-term memories of which blooms yield the sweetest treats, according to researchers in the U.K. In a study published in Current Biology last week (February 26), Lars Chittka and Kathryn Hunt of Queen Mary University of London showed that buff-tailed bumblebees, Bombus terrestris, can sometimes merge memories of flower patterns such that they visit blossoms that combine colors and patterns of flowers that had previously been nectar-filled. “We suspect that memory merging may be as common in animal minds as in human minds, but no one has explored this in animals before, so to find it in bumblebees was exciting,” Chittka told Science News.

Chittka and Hunt trained bees to feed on a nectar-like substance they found within artificial flowers that were colored either yellow or with black and white rings. When the researchers tested bees that were presented yellow flowers before the black-and-white patterned ones, they found that, both in the short term and in the long term, the bees preferred the flower type that they had been exposed to last. But bees that were presented with the black-and-white flowers before the

Through a Spider’s Eyes

Gil Menda was bored. It was 2012, and his research on facial recognition in wasps was going nowhere. The Cornell University graduate student turned to his advisor, neurophysiologist Ron Hoy, as the professor was running out the door to teach a class. There were jumping spiders in the lab already, so Menda asked for permission to attempt the impossible: to tap into the central nervous system of an arachnid that was far more liable to depressurize and die than sit still for brain surgery. Hoy assented.

It was a problem that had vexed biologists for decades, says Paul Shamble, an arachnologist who was then a fellow Cornell graduate student. The jumping spider is unusual among arachnids, most of which have relatively poor vision compared to insects, even though arachnids have four pairs of eyes. While most spiders build webs and wait for their prey to come to them, the jumping spider stalks and pounces much like a cat, displaying remarkable visual acuity, despite having a brain no larger than a poppy seed.

By the time Hoy returned from teaching his class, Menda had succeeded in his efforts. Using an ultrathin metal wire, he’d gently poked a hole in the spider’s cuticle

NYC Rats Harbor Plague Fleas

A New York City rat in a flower boxWIKIMEDIA, DAVID SHANKBONEAny New Yorker knows that rats are an almost daily reality of living in the sprawling metropolis. But researchers have uncovered a secret harbored by the ubiquitous rodents; some of New York City’s rats have Oriental rat fleas (Xenopsylla cheopis), which are known to carry plague bacteria (Yersinia pestis) and other pathogens.

A team of entomologists, virologists, and immunologists trapped 133 Norway rats in Manhattan over a 10-month period and recorded the insects, arachnids, and pathogenic bacteria associated with the rodents. About 6,500 parasites were found on the rats, including several mite species, a louse species, and rat fleas. The team, led by investigators in New York, published its results this week (March 2) in the Journal of Medical Entomology. The researchers did find a few different bacterial species from genus Bartonella, which can cause disease in humans, but they detected neither the plague bacterium nor the bacteria that can cause murine typhus.

“If these rats carry fleas that could transmit the plague to people, then the pathogen itself is the only piece missing from the transmission cycle,” Cornell entomologist Matthew Frye, who led the work, said in a

Spider and Centipede Venom Remarkably Similar

Spiders and centipedes don’t have a whole lot in common, at least in terms of evolution. The eight-legged arachnids diverged from other arthropods, including insects, about 400 million years ago, developing structures, behaviors, and ecological niches all their own. But a team of researchers has found that at least some spider and centipede species share molecular architecture in their venom proteins thanks to convergent evolution. University of Queensland structural biologist Glenn King and his coauthors reported yesterday (June 11) in Structure that an insulin-like protein in the venom of hobo spiders (Eratigena agrestis) and some centipede species has a very similar molecular structure to the hormone from which both compounds evolved. Even though the genetic sequences of the toxins and the hormone are very different, similarity in the structure of the two pointed to a shared evolutionary history. “If you take the sequence of the spider toxin and you do a BLAST search, the hormone is so different now that you don’t pull it out,” King said in a statement. “But when we did a structural search and it pulled up the hormone, that’s what really surprised us—the sequence didn’t tell us where the toxins evolved from, but the structure

Hawkmoth Brains Slow During Dusk Meals

The experimental setup that Sponberg and his colleagues used to determine the hawkmoth’s secret to low-light visual acuityGEORGIA TECH, ROB FELTHawkmoths are expert hoverers. At dusk, they emerge to float, hummingbird-like, at flowers, into which they insert their long proboscises to sip sweet nectar. But how their tiny brains are able to accomplish this feat—the flowers upon which they dine are often swaying in the breeze—had been somewhat of a mystery. Now, a team has found that at least one species of hawkmoth, Manduca sexta, is slowing down its brain’s visual processing machinery, in a process akin to slowing the shutter speed on a camera, in order to more clearly see the dimly-lit flowers they are targeting. “You’re exposing the visual system to light for a longer period of time before they need to act on the information,” Georgia Tech biophysicist Simon Sponberg, lead author of a June 12 Science paper announcing the results, told The Christian Science Monitor. “You have many frames being taken sequentially and the frames get exposed to light for a longer period of time, but if you expose them to light for too long the frames get blurred together.”

Sponberg and his colleagues

Eleven New Digger Wasp Species Discovered in Australia

After being mostly neglected for more than a hundred years, a group of digger wasps from Australia has been given a major overhaul in terms of species descriptions and identification methods. This approach has led to an almost 50% rise in the number of recognized species of these wasps on the continent. The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

Members of the wasp genus Sphex can be found in almost every area of the world (in the U.S. they go by names like “great golden diggers” or “great black wasps”), and two researchers from the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, Thorleif Dörfel and Dr. Michael Ohl, have now reexamined the species diversity of Sphex in Australia.

More than a century has passed since the last revision of this group in the Down Under. Using pinned, dried individuals from museum collections all over the world, Dörfel and Ohl inspected more than 900 specimens and recorded the morphological characters that they deemed most useful for species differentiation.

The genus Sphex has a very different lifestyle from the one that most people think about when they hear the word “wasp.” These wasps are solitary, and each female constructs a separate, subterranean nest for

Two New Species of Door Head Ants Found in Kenya and the Ivory Coast

Most ant species have only two castes: reproductives and workers. Reproductives help to sustain the colony by laying eggs, while workers forage for food, care for the young, and defend the colony.

However, the workers of some ants are solely responsible for defense, and they are often considered to be a subcaste known as soldiers. Soldier ants are usually larger and more muscular than the workers, and they often have specialized mandibles or other body parts to help them fight.

One group known as “door head” ants have soldiers whose heads are shaped like saucers, or concave shields, which they cover with camouflaging layers of debris. They use these peculiar features to block the entrances of their nests against intruders, such as other predatory ants or invertebrates. While the shape of their heads allows them to perfectly fit into the nest entrance, they also have special armor that shields their vulnerable eyes, antennae, and mouthparts.

Ants with these door head features are known as phragmotic ants. Recently, two new species were retrieved from sifted leaf-litter collected in rainforests in Western Kenya and the Ivory Coast. Both species are described in the journal ZooKeys.

Previously, some phragmotic and non-phragmotic ants from this area were thought

Four New Fungus Gnat Species Found in Northern Scandinavia

Four new fungus gnat species have been described in a paper published in Biodiversity Data Journal. The species were collected from mires and old-growth forests of Finnish Lapland between 2012 and 2014.

“These four species are really interesting because they are rather distant to other known members of the genus Boletina,” said Dr. Jukka Salmela, one of the co-authors. “I am also confident that these species are very rare and may be dependent on old-growth forests or small water bodies such as springs and wetlands.”

About 1,000 fungus gnat species are known to occur in the Scandinavian Peninsula, representing about 83% of the continent’s total. Furthermore, undescribed fly species are continuously being discovered from North Europe.

“I must admit that it was a pleasure to give names to these species,” said Dr. Salmela.

The names of the new species all reflect northern nature in one way or another. Boletina valteri is named after Professor Valter Keltikangas, a forest researcher who made very demanding and physically tough field excursions to Finnish Lapland in the 1920s and the 1930s.

Boletina kullervoi derives from “Kalevala,” a Finnish national epic. It tells the story of an orphan named Kullervo who eventually kills his foster father and commits suicide. The

New Sand Fly Species Discovered in Brazil

In an attempt to better understand the taxonomy of a group of sand flies, researchers in Brazil examined specimens in museum collections. After detailed morphometric and morphological analyses of three different flies in the genus Psathyromyia, they found that the specimens were originally misidentified and that they were actually an undescribed species.

The new species, Psathyromyia baratai, is described in the Journal of Medical Entomology. The species name pays homage to Professor José Maria Soares Barata of the Public Health School of the University of São Paulo for his important contribution to medical entomology, mainly through his teaching and research into the Triatominae.

“This species has previously been identified as Pa. shannoni or Pa. abonnenci due to the similarity of their spermathecae and male genitalia,” said Dr. Eunice Galati, a co-author of the paper. “However, during the preparation of the master’s dissertation of my student Priscila Bassan Sábio, who undertook a revision of the species related to Pa. shannoni, it was seen that Pa. baratai differed from both species in the coloring of their thorax and some characteristics of the male genitalia.”

The new species belongs to a species complex called the Shannoni complex. Within this complex, there have been issues with species