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Apr 21, 2018 28 tweets 8 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
So...for this week's #DeepDive, let's talk about some of the insect rescuing ideas that seem to go viral at this time every year.

A lot of these ideas are obviously well intentioned, but at best, have neutral effects.

Some of them are even harmful.
The first thing I'd like to bring up is this post by @BugEric, which discusses wing repair in Monarchs.

He hits a lot of the same points we'll be discussing today.…
In order to understand this post, first you need to understand how insect reproduction works...because it's not at all like humans.

A human can give birth to, maybe, 30 offspring over a lifetime?

Which is a crazy amount of babies.

Colorado Potato Beetle females do that daily.
Because we're mammals, most folks are familiar with reproduction on a mammal scale. Don't get me wrong...this totally makes sense.

However, insect reproduction is at another level.

Bugs literally pump as many babies into the world as they possibly can.

Mammals don't do that.
In general, reproductive strategies can be split into two categories which grade into each other.

R-selection: Pumping as many babies into the world as possible, with minimal investment

K-selection: Having fewer offspring, but higher investment in those offspring
Insects have a tendency to be R-selected, with a typical bug having about 300 babies over a lifetime. Some can lay as many as 10,000 eggs.

Some, like the tsetse, lay only 10 or so.
There are K-selected bugs, like the American Burying beetle, which are of major conservation concern. The American burying beetle works in pairs to bury dead animals and the females tend their babies for extended periods.

The @stlzoo works on these

(Note: The above is *NOT* an American burying beetle, but Twitter doesn't have a GIF of those yet)
So...let's talk about Monarch wing repair first.

In the late '80s, scientists tracked egg production in Monarchs after 1 (dotted line) or multiple matings (solid line).

They'll make 25-50 babies/day, depending on how many times they've mated.
It also depends on how old they are...older Monarchs will make fewer eggs. The youngest Monarchs are more capable reproducers.
Most of these eggs aren't going to survive to adulthood. Even though Monarchs are famous for their chemical defenses, there are a still a lot of things which eat them. Wasps, flies, even some birds aren't deterred by their defenses.

...but there are also parasites.
The parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, OE from here on out, can make it more difficult for Monarchs to fly. Most infected don't make the full migration, although they do lay eggs.

OE is passed on through the eggs.
So, if you see a Monarch with a torn's likely old and has already reproduced a few times. 30% of the Monarch population is already infected with OE, so by attaching a wing from a butterfly, you're risking infecting an uninfected individual. reattaching a broken wing to a Monarch, you're really not helping it.

1.) It's likely old, and has already reproduced a few times.
2.) There's a 50% chance it's a male (and there are plenty of males about)
3.) OE infection risk is 1 in 3., bees.

Bees are...weird. I'd argue they're generally K-strategists, since most social species reproduce in colonies.

However, the bees you're most likely to meet are workers. Reproductives, particularly new queens, are very rare

You don't need to worry about every bee
Bees typically pause during their foraging collections for two reasons:

1.) Grooming: They need to get the pollen off their hairs to fly well.

2.) Thermoregulation. Bees can get hot/cold, depending on the weather.
The bees you see outside tend to be workers, which are more or less treated as disposable by the colony. The oldest workers are the ones who take part in the foraging runs, which minimizes the risk to the colony.
Having a venomous stinger is awesome, but it's also useless against a huge number of predators...many of whom are practically invisible until they strike (or are moved by a photographer).
If you see a bee resting, it's probably not starving. Instead, it's probably resting and cleaning itself in preparation for a journey home.

It will happily take food, but it also probably doesn't *need* food.
Also, if you see a bumble bee raising one of it's leg...that's it's way of politely telling you to please go away.

Bees have threat displays which just so happen to look a lot like human congratulatory behavior.
The final thing we're going to be talking about today is the idea of setting out devices to feed honeybees specifically.

That's...not a great idea.
summed it up pretty well in an article for @WIRED...honeybees don't actually need our help because they're managed livestock.

Beekeepers will feed them, if need be.…
However, with honeybees, you need to worry about disease transmission.

If something causes workers to gather from different colonies, it's likely to spread diseases amongst the bees.

Those bees may also act to spread diseases among the native bee populatons.
So...what can you do to conserve insects, if working at the individual level doesn't work?

Well, insect conservation is done at the population level. For bug conservation to work, it's not every individual that's healthy populations.
A really great place to start is with the stuff @xercessociety has on their website.…

You can build a really nice pollinator garden for relatively cheap!
...but after setting the garden up, you need to maintain it.

Milkweed is notorious for spreading monarch parasites, if not maintained.…
You can also build bee nesting sites, which will give bees places to lay their eggs and make new bees.…
Of course, none of this should be interpreted to say that these emotional reactions are the contrary, they're good because it means that you care.

However, at the same time, there are things you can do that are a bit more helpful and more worthy of your time.

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More from @BugQuestions

Aug 26, 2018
Yeah, we get pictures/videos of this occasionally.

Ants don't really do 'funerals'; even the dead in their own colonies are put into a garbage dump rather unceremoniously.

There's a handful of possibilities for this behavior...
1.) They may be attempting to bury it, especially if it's on a hard surface.

Lots of ants bury large food items to protect it from scavengers, other ants, and to absorb liquid which comes out from the prey.
2.) The critter happened to fall into the colony's trash pile.

Ants put waste (dead ants, poop, shedskins, etc) into a large pile called a 'midden pile' which functions just like our landfills.

If something ended up in that pile, they could be moving stuff out of the way.
Read 4 tweets
Aug 25, 2018
I think this problem hits at the heart of the issue when it comes to Eckbom's, because it's often not about infestations.

This deserves it's own thread to describe how complicated this problem is, and how poorly understood it is.
So...first, I believe that these people are accurately describing their perceptions of medical issues.

Urban IPM Extension people can go through samples to find insects, inspect homes for infestations (bed bugs, fleas, etc), get someone to do skin scrapings for Scabies, etc.
However, after that, they need to be passed onto a doctor.

Often times, attempts at self-treatment can cause skin irritation. Pesticide poisoning can also cause crawling sensations.

Brain tumors, autoimmune diseases, even cold weather can do this as well.
Read 4 tweets
Aug 25, 2018
Scientists make their living using their brains to interpret data.

So what happens when that organ breaks, and a respected researcher becomes mentally ill?

In this week's second #DeepDive, let's explore the case of Jay Traver.

CW: Mental illness
Jay Traver was one of the early entomological pioneers. Her career centered mainly around aquatic insects, specifically mayflies.

Most of her work-which is still cited to this day-revolved around describing the lifecycles of mayflies.
In 1951, Traver published a paper where she claimed to have experienced an infestation by a mite called Dermatophagoides scheremetewskyi.

This is a mite which lives in homes, and although it causes allergic reactions, it was known at the time to not be parasitic.
Read 15 tweets
Aug 24, 2018
A new meme going around FB claims the WoodLouse Spider is a "deadly new species" wrecking havoc in the Southern US

It's a completely harmless spider, but it still has a neat story to tell.

For the first of this week's two #DeepDives, let's explore the biology of Dysdera crocata
So, for the first tweet in this series, let's put these rumors to rest with data.

There's a lot of verified bites from D. crocata in the medical literature-which is rare. One person allowed themselves to be purposely bitten multiple times.

No deaths; everyone was just fine.
D. crocata gets it's name-the woodlouse spider-from it's food.

They live in dark, moist, areas and are adapted to feeding on sow bugs...sometimes called rollie-pollies.

They use those huge mandibles to foil the isopod's defensive rolling.

Read 8 tweets
Aug 21, 2018
It is with a heavy heart that we announce that one of our colleagues, Vazrick Nazari, has been arrested for possession of child pornography.

We cannot tolerate exposing our followers to this sort of person, and have blocked him from our feed.…
We did consult him for help with moth IDs here on Twitter, and although there's no way we could have known he was doing this, we still feel the need to apologize for exposing our readers to-and let's just put it as bluntly as possible-an alleged child predator.
We try to be careful about who we consult, and let into our conversations.

Unfortunately, it's not always possible to know what's going on behind the scenes.

Needless to say, we will not be requesting any more assistance from this person.
Read 4 tweets
Aug 18, 2018
With Glyphosate being in the news due to a recent court ruling, let's take this opportunity to explore the history of pest control in this week's #DeepDive.

It's a huge and complex topic, so the best we can do is a brief overview.
It's not really known when humans started using pesticides.

The first agricultural societies began about 10,000 BCE, with several independent shifts around the world from relatively nomadic lifestyles to those tending crops.
The first records of pesticides being used is in Sumeria, where they used elemental sulfur to control crop pests.

This is largely an accident of geography; Sulfur deposits are abundant in a stretch between Mosul and Fatha...which allowed easy access.
Read 27 tweets

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