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Old 2020-07-27, 14:10   #1
Dr Sardonicus
 
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Default Insects

This thread is for posts about insects -- member of the class Insecta (or Hexapoda). For ease of reference, I give other classes of terrestrial arthropods in case someone wants to start a subtopic on any of them.

Observations of beauty or behavior; interesting, painful, or scary encounters; things insects do that seem incomprehensible, are the sort of things I'm after.

Non-insect "creepy crawlies" in the phylum Arthropoda include spiders and ticks (class Arachnida); millipedes (subphylum Myriapoda, class Diplopoda), centipedes (subphylum Myriapoda, class Chilopoda), and "pillbugs," (subphylum Crustacea, class Malacostraca).

Insects live in a very different world than we do. They have eyes, but they are not like our eyes. Most insects have large "compound eyes," consisting of many individual receptors, each seeing a very small sector. They do not see much detail. But if something in its field of vision switches from one small sector to another, that is immediately detected, which makes insects extremely good at detecting things moving in their vicinity. (Insects also usually have some simple eyes, or "ocelli.") Many insects also have tiny hairs on their bodies which can sway with the slightest movement of air, which is thereby detected. This is why flies can often evade an approaching flyswatter.

Many insects do not hear much if anything, but many feel vibrations through their feet. Plant-dwelling insects can thus be able to communicate by making vibrations which are conducted through the plant.

Insects have "decentralized" nervous systems, local functions being governed by clusters of nerve cells called "ganglia." An insect can be decapitated, and still crawl around, work its wings, and breathe, which they do through orifices ("spiracles") in their abdomens. A decapitated wasp can continue to sting.

Insects do not seem to feel much pain, or to react to trauma as we might expect. An insect feeding on a plant might well keep placidly munching away, even as it is itself literally being eaten alive from behind.

The first specific insects I will post on are two large solitary "digger wasps," the Eastern Cicada Killer (Sphecius speciosus) and the Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus).

Cicada Killers are among the largest of wasps. They are black with brown wings, and several large yellow markings on their abdomens. The males are territorial, and might buzz right in front of your face if you come too close to their territory, but they have no stingers. The females are larger, and have formidable stingers, but you would really have to work at it in order to get stung. They're only interested in finding a sunny location with well-drained soil (preferably near trees which harbor cicadas), digging their burrows (which can involve moving a hundred cubic inches (over 1600 cc's) of dirt), hunting down and paralyzing up to a dozen cicadas, laying an egg on each, and closing up the burrow. The helpless cicadas, which remain alive, insure a continued supply of fresh food for the wasp larvae.

As I was working on my future garden beds the other day, I noticed a hole and a pile of dirt next to one of the 2x4's I walk on when rain turns the dirt to mud. From diameter of the hole, I surmised I had a Cicada Killer in residence. And soon after, I actually saw it arrive at the burrow, bearing a cicada!

Cicada Killers often catch their prey on the wing. A successful hunt faces the female Cicada Killer with the task of getting her victim, which weighs two and a half times as much as she does, to her burrow. The choices are, (1) walk, dragging the load along the ground, and (2) gain some elevation, and aim for the burrow on a descending glide path. If it's a long distance, the wasp might climb, aim for the burrow, and and launch repeatedly. If she catches the cicada high enough in midair, and is close enough to the burrow, she might be able to make it directly.

The next day, I noticed another burrow, out in the open, about a foot away from the Cicada Killer's burrow. The new burrow was clearly the work of a Great Golden Digger Wasp, of which I had a goodly number in a front garden bed last year. Not as large as a Cicada Killer, but considerably longer and a bit wider than a paper wasp. They are black and orange, with dark wings and long orange legs. Wen landed, they frequently flick their wings. They sometimes visit flowers. Their prey is usually grasshoppers, katydids, and crickets. They aren't any more interested in us than Cicada Killers are. I saw my new resident land near its burrow (though without prey), and crawl in. I heard it buzzing its wings in the burrow. I'm not sure why it was doing that, but it sounded very similar to the sound bumblebees sometimes make while on flowers, when they buzz their wings without spreading them, which shakes pollen loose. Perhaps the wasp was increasing the diameter of its burrow. Perhaps it wasn't yet far enough along to begin stocking the larder.

I haven't yet been privileged to see a Great Golden Digger Wasp bring in a victim, but their task can't be any easier than the Cicada Killer's.

Last fiddled with by Dr Sardonicus on 2020-07-27 at 14:14 Reason: Insert missing right paren
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Old 2020-07-27, 15:03   #2
bsquared
 
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I ran into this luna moth while camping last month. I'd never seen one this close up before.
It was pretty big - maybe 5 inches wingtip to wingtip.
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Old 2020-07-27, 16:28   #3
ixfd64
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I was very into insects as a kid and and am still somewhat interested in them. One thing on my bucket list is to visit the Essig Museum of Entomology at UC Berkeley some day. But it's a little tricky because they're only open to the public a few days a year.

Last fiddled with by ixfd64 on 2020-07-27 at 16:29
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Old 2020-07-27, 17:07   #4
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In one of the park close to my home contain "insect hostel' for ladybug, lone bee, carabid beetles and hoverflies.
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Old 2020-07-27, 19:10   #5
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Insects are good eating if they are prepared properly.

On my first trip to Brno, when SWMBO and I were flown out to meet the crew, we were taken to a rather good restaurant. As chance would have it, that week they had an insect tasting-menu of 7 courses. I was the only one willing to give it a try and I knew I´d be unlikely to get the chance again.

The locust omelette was basically omelette with tasteless crunchy bits. A deep-fried larva dish was absolutely delicious. The larvae, each about 5cm long and 3mm in diameter, tasted like a cross between shrimps and hazelnuts.
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Old 2020-07-27, 21:34   #6
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Ants form bridges of their bodies so that their youngsters can cross over obstacles including streams of water. Sometimes the elders are washed away in the process.

https://www.google.com/search?q=ants...ridge&tbm=isch

ETA:
A video of the process:
https://imgur.com/FDbIx3A

ETA II: What sort of communication would be required for such a communal behavior?
What would be the thought/instinct process/logic for such an achievement?
How would you program independent robots to know their required action without a central hub/program/brain to perform a communal task?

Last fiddled with by a1call on 2020-07-27 at 22:01
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Old 2020-07-27, 22:15   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xilman View Post
Insects are good eating if they are prepared properly.

On my first trip to Brno, when SWMBO and I were flown out to meet the crew, we were taken to a rather good restaurant. As chance would have it, that week they had an insect tasting-menu of 7 courses. I was the only one willing to give it a try and I knew I´d be unlikely to get the chance again.
I guess it didn't bug you.
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Old 2020-07-27, 22:53   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bsquared View Post
I ran into this luna moth while camping last month. I'd never seen one this close up before.
It was pretty big - maybe 5 inches wingtip to wingtip.
Nice shots! The Luna Moth is considered by many to be the loveliest moth in North America. I find it hard to argue with that. Its light green color and long tails are amazing. I hope to see one in the great outdoors some day.

The only one of the Saturniid moths ("giant silk moths") I have actually seen outdoors is the Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus), so named for the large eyespots on its hind wings. Its wings are mostly a light brown or tan color.

Another Saturniid, the Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia), is reputed to be the largest North American moth, wing span 5 to 7 inches -- though the captured specimens I have seen were 5 inches across at most.

The largest moth I have ever seen outdoors here in the lower 48 was larger than most Cecropia Moths, but was a visitor from well south of my locale. That was the Black Witch (Ascalapha odorata), whose wings are mostly dark brown, with a line and color pattern that reminded me of marbleized paper. I saw them in Colorado Springs on several occasions. They live and breed from Brazil north to Arizona and southern Texas, but adults sometimes migrate hundreds of miles further north, or get blown north by storms. It is, along with the Cecropia, reputed to be the largest moth in North America.

They are considered nocturnal, but I saw them flying around during the day. They are so large that when I first caught sight of one flying around the crown of a tree, I thought it was a bird! But its wing beats and flight speed were way too slow. So I knew it was a giant moth, and the only one I could find in a Field Guide that matched what I saw was the Black Witch. An entomologist with the Cooperative Extension confirmed their presence in the area by the fact that someone in a nearby locale had brought in a specimen, which he had identified.

I also saw one while on vacation in Hawaii. Apparently they are native there too. I was at a gas station at night, and the thing flew by, then landed on the concrete near the pumps! I was able to capture it by grasping its wing tips, so got a good look at it before letting it go. It had a wing span of at least 6 inches.
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Old 2020-07-27, 23:05   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by a1call View Post
How would you program independent robots to know their required action without a central hub/program/brain to perform a communal task?
A block chain comes close to insect communal processing but it still needs a central server:


Quote:
A blockchain is a decentralized, distributed, and oftentimes public, digital ledger consisting of records called blocks that is used to record transactions across many computers so that any involved block cannot be altered retroactively, without the alteration of all subsequent blocks.[1][18] This allows the participants to verify and audit transactions independently and relatively inexpensively.[19] A blockchain database is managed autonomously using a peer-to-peer network and a distributed timestamping server. They are authenticated by mass collaboration powered by collective self-interests.[20] Such a design facilitates robust workflow where participants' uncertainty regarding data security is marginal. The use of a blockchain removes the characteristic of infinite reproducibility from a digital asset. It confirms that each unit of value was transferred only once, solving the long-standing problem of double spending. A blockchain has been described as a value-exchange protocol.[21] A blockchain can maintain title rights because, when properly set up to detail the exchange agreement, it provides a record that compels offer and acceptance.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockchain

Similar behavior can be observed in schools of fish as well as flocks of migrating birds who take rotating leads which facilitates the flight of the followers.
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Old 2020-07-27, 23:42   #10
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When I moved into my current house, I noticed several bumble bees hanging around the roof over my deck. Upon closer examination, I noticed they weren't bumble bees but carpenter bees. I watched in fascination as they tunneled into wood. I got a magnifying glass to observe their drilling in detail and it is amazing ! Their heads vibrate at an incredible rate with their mandibles open Their bodies vibrate also but not as much as their heads. They make an audible buzz as they burrow and the sawdust flies off.

As an aside, I was reading some articles about seriously declining insect populations around the world. The 2 "usuals" are cited; loss of habitat & climate change.
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Old 2020-07-27, 23:51   #11
Dr Sardonicus
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xilman View Post
Insects are good eating if they are prepared properly.
Super! I had failed to imagine encounters of the culinary kind!



When I was a little tyke, my mom got some novelty insect fare at a downtown Chicago store (I think it was Stop and Shop). I remember there were chocolate-covered ants and chocolate-covered caterpillars. I think I ate some of the chocolate-covered ants. We gave some to a neighbor, who had his wife eat some chocolate-covered ants before telling her what she had just eaten.

I have heard of crickets being used as an ingredient in various recipes. One was called something like "Chocolate chirpy chip cookies."

When large broods of periodical cicadas emerge, there are usually news reports showing people cooking them up.

My mom watched the TV series Lonesome Dove (based on the novel). She liked describing some of the characters, one of whom was a new cook on IIRC a cattle drive. He would not ride on the back of an animal, and as he walked along he dragged a sack behind him. As suppertime approached on his first day on the trail, he prepared the sack's contents -- grasshoppers -- for dinner!

With the uncertainties in the food supply these days, perhaps insects will gain status here in the good ol' USA as a regular article of diet, rather than merely an occasional novelty.
Quote:
A deep-fried larva dish was absolutely delicious. The larvae, each about 5cm long and 3mm in diameter, tasted like a cross between shrimps and hazelnuts.
If they were beetle larvae, I hope you said, "Good grub!"

Last fiddled with by Dr Sardonicus on 2020-07-27 at 23:53 Reason: Left out most of a sentence!
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