Going to a really macabre candy store-except instead of sweets there are tapeworms

If you’re not reading everything that Ed Young writes, you’re missing out.

And he’s once again hit it out of the park with this great post about America’s Largest Collection of Parasites (although when my coauthor Kim Lackey and I cleaned our the parasitology lab a few years ago, it could have been in the running).

These jars of wonder/parasites are kept in my favorite of the Smithsonians, the Natural History Museum. Read all about Ed’s exploration of this TREASURE trove of awesome here.

And remember, Parasitism really is the sincerest form of flattery.lead_960.jpg

 

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Birds Beware: Of the Praying Mantis?

“Tom Vaughan, a photographer then living in Colorado’s Mancos Valley, kept a hummingbird feeder outside his house. One morning, he stepped through the portico door and noticed a black-chinned hummingbird dangling from the side of the red plastic feeder like a stray Christmas ornament.

At first, Mr. Vaughan thought he knew what was going on. “I’d previously seen a hummingbird in a state of torpor,” he said, “when it was hanging straight down by its feet, regenerating its batteries, before dropping down and flying off.”

On closer inspection, Mr. Vaughan saw that the hummingbird was hanging not by its feet but by its head. And forget about jumping its batteries: the bird was in the grip of a three-inch-long green praying mantis.

The mantis was clinging with its back legs to the rim of the feeder, holding its feathered catch in its powerful, seemingly reverent front legs, and methodically chewing through the hummingbird’s skull to get at the nutritious brain tissue within.

“It was staring at me as it fed,” Mr. Vaughan said. “Of course, I took a picture of it.” Startled by the clicking shutter, the mantis dropped its partially decapitated meal, crawled under the feeder — and began menacing two hummingbirds on the other side.”

Curious? Read more here. It’s disturbing. You’ve been warned.

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Tree-Eating Beetles March Northward, Lured by Milder Winters

For lovers of the stately pine forests of the Northeast, sightings of a destructive tree-eating beetle in recent years have been nothing short of alarming.

Now, new research from climatologists at Columbia University confirms what ecologists feared: Warmer winters mean the southern pine beetle is here to stay, and is set to march ever northward as temperatures rise.

Historically, the tiny beetles, which starve evergreens to death, were largely unheard-of north of Delaware. The Northeast’s cold winters killed off any intruders.

The winters are no longer cold enough.

Want to know more? Read about it here!

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Sea Stars Are More Brutal Than They Look

Ever look into a tide pool and become filled with the wonder of sea stars? Think they look so peaceful, chilling in their cute little pool, watching the world go by…

THINK AGAIN! These monsters are aggressive af, and one of the most brutal predators of the shore.

Want to know more? Read about it here!

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Breeding a better bee

One problem with honey bees is that we move them around so much. Specifically half of the bees in the US go to California during a critical 22 day period to pollinate the almond orchards.

This means that most bees are best adapted to survive in the California, which means that the PNW bees don’t really thrive in their colder than optimal environment.

Well one bee keeper is taking it upon himself to stop honey production and focus on making queens that are best suited for the Washington and PNW environment! Read about it here.

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All the trees will die, and so will you

The title of this post is not my own, but it kind of has a point. Not “everything dies” but rather, a lot more apocalyptic.

A brown-black beetle (the polyphagous shot hole borer) breeds inside trees. It drills networks of tunnels, which then get infected by a fungus it carries to feed it’s young. Eventually the tree dies, the beetle moves on and the whole cycle starts again.

This would be a cute horror story, if the beetle wasn’t on track to kill 26.8 million trees across Southern California. Which is going to directly link to the death of humans. Interested? Find out why here.

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Save the (Wild) Bees

The domesticated honey bee dominates headlines as beekeepers struggle to stop mass die-offs. But they are not the only pollinators out there, and not the only bees that are declining.

“The needs of wild bees are so different that, as some experts say, raising honeybees to save pollinators is like raising chickens to help birds.”

Want to know more? Read about it here.

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