Sonic deception: stealth moths

Forget stealth military jets. Moths were there first. But rather than dodging enemy radar, they’re playing a different deadly game: trying to hide from bat sonar. Because moths and bats are both nocturnal, much of moth evolution has been driven by the need not to get eaten by bats. Over millions of years, they’ve developed … Continue reading Sonic deception: stealth moths

Is this a new Silent Spring?

Entomologists have united to take stock of growing warnings about an “insect apocalypse” in a special feature published in the journal PNAS. These teeny little critters, some of which have been around for about 475 million years, provide vital ecosystem services yet have received relatively little attention compared to other animals as the Earth faces … Continue reading Is this a new Silent Spring?

How leaf cutter ants domesticated crops

Over tens of millions of years, fungus-farming ants have learned how to cultivate their crops to ensure a stable food supply, seemingly navigating challenges that human farmers still grapple with. “Ants have managed to retain a farming lifestyle across 60 million years of climate change and leafcutter ants appear able to grow a single cultivar … Continue reading How leaf cutter ants domesticated crops

Cosmos Q&A: Driving an insect-led recovery

A lot of people never get past an aversion to insects, and for the sake of humanity, it would be better if they did. Insects are critical to the success of many natural systems – think plant pollinators – but remain poorly understood; it’s thought that up to three-quarters of the world’s insect species remain … Continue reading Cosmos Q&A: Driving an insect-led recovery

Food to save Madagascar’s future

A new approach to an age-old practice is helping to fight malnutrition in Madagascar – and may have the added benefit of protecting the island nation’s imperilled primates and forests they call home. As a young boy, Julian Jean Donehil would often go out searching for insects. Always the tastiest, Donehil tells me, are rhinoceros … Continue reading Food to save Madagascar’s future

Shield bugs trick to avoid predators

New research has revealed for the first time that shield bugs use a variety of colours throughout their lives to avoid predators. Shield bugs are often bright, colourful insects that use colours to warn of their distastefulness to predators. The paper, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that it is … Continue reading Shield bugs trick to avoid predators

‘Spiderlab’ films some free-flying specimens

If you’ve watched a butterfly fluttering around your garden, you’ll know that flying insects have evolved efficient strategies for navigating around their natural environments. Yet it’s these traits that make studying them in an experimental setting difficult. They’re generally very small, and they fly and manoeuvre at relatively high speeds. Studies have, until now, been … Continue reading ‘Spiderlab’ films some free-flying specimens

‘Insect apocalypse’ not so clear-cut

Love them or hate them, recent reports of an “insect apocalypse” sounded alarm bells around the world as conservationists warned of dire repercussions for people and ecosystems. But a wide-scoping meta-analysis of 166 long-term surveys across 1676 global sites shows the decline has considerable nuances – with some arthropods (insects and spiders) in free fall … Continue reading ‘Insect apocalypse’ not so clear-cut

Prehistoric flies trapped in amber

There’s bad days, and then there’s this. Around 41 million years ago, two prehistoric flies on the southern tip of Gondwana were happily mating away when they found themselves in a sticky situation. Unfortunately for the amorous pair of long-legged flies (Dolichopodidae), they found themselves stuck in the resin of a tree while getting frisky, … Continue reading Prehistoric flies trapped in amber

Turtle ant soldiers use their heads

Turtle ant soldiers (Cephalotes) are tree-dwelling insects with strangely oversized heads, which they use to block the entrances of their nests, essentially acting as living doors. Not all heads are shaped alike: some turtle ant soldiers have ones that resemble manhole covers and perfectly sealed tunnel entrances. Others have square heads, which they assemble into … Continue reading Turtle ant soldiers use their heads