Tagged With insects

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Burying beetles (Nicrophorus) are hard to miss. The insects aren't big, but most species are painted with vibrant, orange blotches on a glossy black background. According to new research, walking around dressed in their Halloween best may have an important function. The coloration may be "aposematic," bright and conspicuous to sternly warn other animals of the wearer's unsuitability as a meal. So, what is it about the burying beetle that makes it noxious to would-be predators?

Anal secretions. That's right, butt juice.

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Below the tangle of vines and branches of the East Malaysian rainforest, a small contingent of ants scuttles frenetically along the shaded leaf litter. But these are no mere picnic pests — these are Myrmoteras trap-jaw ants, fearsome predators armed with long, spiky, widely-agape mandibles — and they are on the hunt. Suddenly, an insect-like springtail comes into the view of a trap-jaw's compound eye. With a quick rush from the ant, it's all over, and the springtail is pitifully pinned in the ant's prickly jaws.

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When taking high-resolution 3D scans of insects, scientists typically have to kill their test subjects, which isn't always ideal. By taking advantage of an insect's ability to survive oxygen-poor conditions, scientists have now used carbon dioxide to keep bugs in a state of suspended animation for upwards of seven hours at a time — and with no apparent side effects.

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Like a baseball player running to make a catch, dragonflies are also capable of predicting the trajectory of a moving object, typically its next meal. New research is revealing the mechanisms behind this complex cognitive task, which was once thought to be exclusive to mammals. It's hoped that these insights will lead to innovations in robot vision.

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Praying mantises are among the most frightening insects on the planet, equipped with powerful front legs which they use to snatch unwary insects, spiders, and even the odd amphibian or reptile. But as new research reveals, praying mantises are also proficient at capturing birds — which they do more often than we thought.

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As species, we have little in common with bees, fruit flies and beetles. Bugs are so alien to us that it's hard to know how exactly they experience the world. Do they feel pain? Do they experience pleasure? What is sex like for them? Do they enjoy it in any way — physical or otherwise?

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The smaller a drone gets, the more places it can be easily flown. But while many researchers have been trying to tackle the monumental challenge of building drones that look and behave like tiny insects, a new approach has engineers giving Mother Nature's existing creations drone-like upgrades.

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The common ladybird is easily recognised by its signature red and black spotted shell. But when researchers at the University of Tokyo used a creative trick to make its carapace transparent, it revealed insect wing secrets that could impact development of robotics, satellite antennas and microscopic medical instruments — perhaps even a re-imagining of the folding mechanism of your umbrella.

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Based on the popular Disney film The Lion King, I assume identifying lion royalty is fairly easy. After all, an elder baboon, Rafiki, presented the young lion prince Simba to the entirety of the animal kingdom from atop Pride Rock during some ceremony yet-to-be-observed by humans. But how do the ants know who's going to be their next monarch?

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You might not know this, but we're in the midst of an insect shape-studying renaissance. MicroCT technology — basically a lab version of the CAT scanners found at hospitals — is increasingly allowing scientists to produce detailed three-dimensional images without destroying samples. So naturally, if we're scanning everything, we might as well scan grasshopper genitalia mid-bang.

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We all know the bloodcurdling sound of a bloodsucking mosquito that has made its way into our general vicinity. It's a distinct buzz that immediately gets your attention. A team of researchers has finally cracked exactly how mosquito's fly and according to their findings, its flight "is generated in a manner unlike any previously described for a flying animal."

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It's no secret that bees have been having a really rough time: Just yesterday, the rusty-patched bumble became the first bee in the continental United States officially listed under the Endangered Species Act. But that's the tip of the iceberg for our buzzy little friends, who unlike their arsehole cousins — wasps — only want to pollinate plants with their fuzzy little bodies. Sadly, the best bees, honey bees (Apis mellifera L.), are dealing with yet another threat to their existence, while wasps just sit back and watch the world burn.

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Researchers at Vanderbilt University have found a secondary set of odour sensors on female malarial mosquitoes that appear to be specifically tuned to sniff out humans. While admittedly disturbing, the discovery could lead to new ways of combating malarial mosquitoes and the dreaded disease they carry.