White beetles reflecting light, new study

This video is called Super White Beetle Holds Secret To Whiter Paper And Computer Screens?

From New Scientist:

Beetles so bright, you gotta wear shades

16:33 15 August 2014 by Philippa Skett

What is whiter than white? These beetles, apparently – because their scales make them whiter than paper. No human technology can match their brilliance using such thin material.

The scales of the Cyphochilus and Lepidiota stigma beetles, which are native to South-East Asia, contain tight, complex networks of chitin filaments. Chitin is a substance with a similar molecular structure to cellulose, and it builds the cell walls of fungi and the shells of crustaceans as well as insect exoskeletons.

On their own, the chitin filaments reflect light poorly. But researchers at the University of Cambridge and the European Laboratory for Non-linear Spectroscopy in Florence, Italy, have found that the geometry of a filament network makes the whole thing reflect light extremely efficiently. It reflects light of all colours anisotropically, meaning that it bounces the light in one direction only. That makes the beetles’ scales appear bright white.

“These scales have a structure that is truly complex, since it gives rise to something that is more than the sum of its parts,” said team member Matteo Burresi of the Italian National Institute of Optics in Florence. “A randomly packed collection of its constituent elements by itself is not sufficient to achieve the degree of brightness that we observe.”

What sets the brilliant beetles apart from artificial reflectors, though, is that the scales are ultra-thin. Their individual chitin filaments are just a few thousandths of a millimetre thick, minimising weight and so reducing the energy the beetles need to fly. It may not be too long before these beetles are inspiring a host of new materials that will be whiter than white too.

Journal reference: Scientific Reports, DOI: 10.1038/srep06075.

Colourful Dutch beetles, new book

This video from North Dakota in the USA is called Thistle Tortoise Beetle (Chrysomelidae: Cassida rubiginosa) on leaf.

Dutch entomologist Jaap Winkelman has published a new book. It is available here.

The name of the book is De Nederlandse Goudhaantjes. The word goudhaantje in the title stands for two small bird species living in the Netherlands, goldcrest and firecrest (‘vuurgoudhaantje’).

However, Winkelman’s book is not about birds. As goudhaantje is also the name of a family of mainly colourful beetles, Chrysomelidae or leaf beetles. There are over 35,000 leaf beetle species, according to Wikipedia. About 38,000, according to Winkelman’s book. Of these, 59 species live, or have lived in earlier times, in the Netherlands.

With Winkelman’s book, people will be able to discover all Chrysomelidae of Belgium and the Netherlands.

This video is called Scarlet lily beetle (Lilioceris lilii); a leaf beetle species living in the Netherlands.

New Dutch beetle species discovery

This video from the USA is called A Red Palm Weevil in Virginia Beach.

On 28 July 2014, Dries Mulder found a beetle in Haaften in the Netherlands.

It turned out to be a red palm weevil. That species had never been seen in the Netherlands before.

George Harrison Beatle tree killed by beetles

This video from the USA says about itself:

L.A. Gently Weeps As George Harrison Tree Is Felled By Beetles

22 July 2014

A local official said on Tuesday that a tree planted in memorial to late Beatles guitarist George Harrison following his death in Los Angeles in 2001 has been killed by bark beetles amid California’s epic drought. The pine tree, which was dedicated with a plaque to Harrison at the head of a hiking trail in the city’s Griffith Park, was among a number of trees that have succumbed to the beetles this year. City Councilman, Tom LaBonge said he expects to see a new tree planted in remembrance of Harrison in the fall.

From the Los Angeles Times in the USA:

George Harrison Memorial Tree killed … by beetles; replanting due

By Randy Lewis

July 21, 2014

In the truth is stranger than fiction department, Los Angeles Councilman Tom LaBonge, whose district includes Griffith Park, told Pop & Hiss over the weekend that the pine tree planted in 2004 near Griffith Observatory in memory of George Harrison will be replanted shortly because the original tree died as the result of an insect infestation.

Yes, the George Harrison Tree was killed by beetles.

Except for the loss of tree life, Harrison likely would have been amused at the irony. He once said his biggest break in life was getting into the Beatles; his second biggest was getting out.

The sapling went in, unobtrusively, near the observatory with a small plaque at the base to commemorate the former Beatle, who died in 2001, because he spent his final days in Los Angeles and because he was an avid gardener for much of his adult life.

Beetle and fly quarrel on flower, video

This is a video about a spotted longhorn beetle and a common flesh fly quarreling on a goldenrod flower.

Henk Lammers in Hupsel village in the Netherlands made the video.

New beetle species discovery in Russian cave

A drawing of the freshly discovered Duvalius abyssimus speciesSinc - José Antonio Peñas

From Science, Space & Robots:

New Beetle Species Discovered in World’s Deepest Cave

A new species of beetle has been discovered in the Krubera cave in Russia’s Western Caucasus. The Krubera cave is the world’s deepest cave at 2,140 meters deep. It is the only cave in the world known to have a depth of over 2,000 meters. The beetle was discovered by researchers from two Spanish universities.

The hypogean ground beetle has been given the name Duvalius abyssimus. The beetles do have eyes unlike many insects specialized for cave-only life. Both a male and a female specimen were collected.

Vicente M. Ortuno, from the University of Alcala, says in the announcement, “The new species of cave beetle is called Duvalius abyssimus. We only have two specimens, a male and a female. Although they were captured in the world’s deepest cave, they were not found at the deepest point.”

A research paper on the cave beetle was published here in Zootaxa.

July 2, 2014

See also here.

Fireflies in the USA

This video from the USa is called Fireflies in Pennsylvania.

From eNature Blog in the USA:

Why Do Fireflies Flash Their Lights At Us?

Posted on Thursday, June 19, 2014 by eNature

I was kayaking on the Potomac River yesterday evening and saw my first fireflies of the season in the foliage along the river bank.

It had been a great paddle with lots of osprey fishing, barn swallows enjoying insects overhead, leaping bass making huge splashes, and even an encounter with a slightly confused beaver.

But the fireflies were the most unexpected sighting.

There were only a few, but they’re a sure sign that spring is moving on into summer..

And now that summer is here (at least unoffically) many of us will be encountering fireflies in our yards and gardens.

Despite their small size and preference for dark places, fireflies deservedly receive a lot of attention when summer arrives. And there’s a lot more going on than many of us realize…

A Tale of Lust And Death

Their remarkable green and yellow flashing lights have a hypnotic effect on people. Children in particular are drawn to fireflies. But the same throbbing glow that attracts youngsters often leads male fireflies to their deaths.

In warm-weather months, especially where open meadows and forests coexist, the adult male fireflies of most species set out on mating flights in the evening hours. The females, meanwhile, await their mates in the foliage, blinking seductively. The task for each male is to find an unmated female of its own species.

It’s critical that the female be unmated because in many firefly species the females change through internal chemistry into man-eaters once they successfully mate. Thereafter they use their blinks to attract meals. Some females even imitate the idiosyncratic blinking patterns of other species in an effort to attract as many unsuspecting males as possible.

It’s a fly-eat-fly world out there!

Have you seen any fireflies yet? Or any other summer creatures?

We always enjoy hearing your stories.

Click here to read more about one of our most common species of firefly.

Stag beetles become electronic tag beetles

This video is called Stag beetle fight.

Daily De Gelderlander in the Netherlands reports, on 10 June 2014, that about twenty stag beetles of Sint-Jansberg nature reserve in Dutch Limburg province, and Reichswald forest in Germany bordering on it, will be provided with electronic tags.

The tags don’t harm the insects. After fourteen days, they will fall off, providing biologists with data about these beetles‘ lives.

Probably because of the mild spring weather, stag beetles in this area are active now about a week earlier than usually.

See also here.

Diving beetle mating, new research

This video says about itself:

Spotted Diving Beetles, Victoria Bug Zoo, March 2013

Spotted diving beetles, also known as sunburst diving beetles, sometimes carry their own oxygen supply in air bubbles when they dive. Their bright yellow spots also supposedly warn other animals that they taste bad. Their natural habitat is in fresh water pools around Mexico and the southwestern US.

From the BBC:

11 June 2014 Last updated at 02:05 GMT

Diving beetle‘s sticky underwater mating secret

By Victoria Gill
Science reporter, BBC News

Scientists in Taiwan have revealed how a diving beetle hangs on to its mate underwater.

The micro-scale study revealed how bristles on male beetles’ legs attach to females.

Tiny suckers on these bristles stick to the females’ bodies.

As well as shedding light on evolution at the very tiny scale, understanding this could inspire the design of devices for underwater attachment in engineering.

The results are published in the Royal Society journal Interface.

The team, led by Dr Kai-Jung Chi from National Chung Hsing University in Taiwan, directly measured the gripping force of the “attachment devices” on the leg bristles of two diving beetle species.

Microscopic images reveal that one of the species they studied – a more primitive insect – has a spatula-like attachment.

The other has evolved circular suckers on the end of each leg bristle, which look like a microscopic plungers.

While these tiny plungers created a stronger attachment, the more primitive bristles had some sticky, aquatic secrets.

Tiny channels between the hairs in the more primitive beetle appear to produce a sort of glue.

And, as grisly as it may sound, the fact that these bristles form a weaker attachment and can move around on the female’s body more freely means that the male beetle is able to “resist the female’s erratic swimming movements”, which she may employ to dislodge an unwanted suitor.

The researchers conclude that their mechanical experiments show that the “later-evolved suction-cup-shaped circular” bristles give male diving beetles a mating advantage.

And all of this detailed insight into aquatic copulation may inspire a future “underwater Velcro“.

Elephants and beetles in South Africa

This video from South Africa is called Addo Elephant National Park – The Experience.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

The beetles that saved the world

Friday 30th May 2014

PETER FROST unravels the ecological travails of the elephants’ symbiotic companions in Addo National Park

Let you introduce you to my young friend William, he might only be 10 but he has a smart head on his shoulders.

When I taught a lesson for his class at the village school on our local 1923 Braunston canal boat strike William came out tops with his knowledge of both the strike and the labour movement in general.

Our last conversation, however, was about Darwinism, evolution and related themes. William was puzzled. He learnt most about the subject not at school but from TV programmes but he didn’t fully grasp the complicated idea of natural selection.

Although the science intrigued him, he got really interested when I mentioned elephant poo and the curious, very threatened species that lives in and on it.

I told William that few years ago I was invited to South Africa to help the new ANC Ministry of Tourism attract visitors to that beautiful country.

Among the places I visited was Addo Elephant Park in Nelson Mandela Bay.

Addo is the third-largest national park in South Africa with spectacular wildlife including 600 wild elephants that have very small or even no tusks.

Over the years this made them less attractive to poachers who tended to hunt down the bigger tuskers. The result was that small tusked animals become dominant.

This isn’t natural selection but selection by illegal slaughter. Today poaching is much better controlled and elephant numbers in Addo are growing nicely.

Creationists will tell you that God designed all the creatures just 6,000 years ago and I suppose if you stretch your credibility you can just about imagine the old bearded geezer dreaming up the magnificent African elephant.

What I find much more difficult is imagining her or him designing the Addo flightless dung beetle, Circellium bacchus. This fist-sized beetle is found in Addo and a very few other locations.

This video is called Circellium bacchus, Flightless Dung Beetle.

These dung beetles have adapted to feed on the droppings of very large animals, mostly elephants.

They eat fresh dung where it drops or roll it into a ball and bury it for later. Up to 16,000 beetles will be recycling a single steaming dung pile.

From the dung the female builds a brood ball several times larger than herself. She rolls it away using her powerful hind legs. Beetles are the world’s strongest insects. Size for size our female can pull equivalent of six double decker buses. She navigates using sun, moon and even the Milky Way.

As she rolls her precious dung ball away the male follows dutifully behind. At a suitable spot, she buries both the ball and him. They mate underground and she lays a single egg inside the ball.

She will stay with it until the egg hatches. The larva feeds on the dung from inside, spending three months as a pupa before it emerges as an immature adult.

These huge and heavy Addo flightless dung beetles have only vestigial wings and have lost the ability to fly. They walk from one poo pile to the next feeding and collecting the dung they need for the brood balls.

Like all other dung beetles, and there are over 1,600 species worldwide, they evolved to match the lifestyle of a particular species and their dung. Without these beetles the earth would be knee deep in the sweet and sticky dung — these beetles are therefore ecologically essential.

In Addo today beetles face a new threat — from car drivers.

Strangely there is something really tempting about driving over or through a two foot high, still steaming pile of pachyderm poo. Worse, Addo elephants, it seems, favour roads as the number one place for “number twos.”

Some really insensitive drivers have even been aiming for the hard working female as she pushes her sizeable brood ball across the highway.

Now the park rangers have signs and fines to protect the beetles from mindless drivers and gradually these amazing creatures are being brought back from the brink.

William tells me he is glad about that. Smart lad that William.

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