Crazy insects

Adventure Ramblings

Most people are familiar with how the Black Widow spider eats the male after they’ve mated – for nutrition (or maybe just because she can). That’s how they get their name. Black Widows aren’t the only arthropods who do crazy stuff, however. Here’s a list of a few more cool insects:

1. Praying mantis
Why?
 Looks like a kung fu fighter. Catches hummingbirds. Female eats the head of the male as they mate. He keeps going anyway.

Martial artist. Martial artist.

2. Cockroach
How come?
Bite off its head and the body lives until it dies from starvation two weeks later.

Master of the universe. Master of the universe.

3. Walking stick
So what? Begins its life as an egg that looks like a seed, which fools ants to carry it into their nest. This “seed” is inedible, and when the walking stick hatches, it produces a pheromone that prevents the ants from attacking them. Once out…

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Are we learning anything here?

Adventure Ramblings

So are we learning anything this term, apart from how awesome Costa Rica is? The answer is yes, believe it or not. Biology and natural history is obviously a big part of what we’re doing, but lots of aha-moments also happen when we do stats.

Measuring bromeliads Measuring bromeliads

In Monteverde we studied phytotelmata, which are little pools of water that form between the leaves of the bromeliad plant. These tiny little pools, as small as a few ml, host whole ecosystems. Who knew.

Scopin' (photo by Ann Dunham) Scopin’ (photo by Ann Dunham)

Some phytotelmata have more species of tiny animals than others, and we wanted to figure out what determines how many species can live in these. We guessed larger pools could host more species, and that turned out to be true, but more species are also to be found in larger plants, plants nearer to other plants, etc, etc, etc. This is where…

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Flamboyant bees

Adventure Ramblings

Spectacular flowers call for spectacular bees. Euglossin bees pollinate orchids, and the level of specialization is high: an orchid is pollinated by only a few species of bee, and one species of bee pollinates only a few species of orchids. Put out a plastic bag with eucalyptus oil, and these guys come zooming as soon as the sun comes out.

Euglossin bee, on a leash. Euglossin bee, on a leash.

According to locals, there used to be a ton of these bees in Monteverde; nowadays they’re relatively hard to find. If euglossin bee species are gone, so are probably their favorite orchid species. Since the orchids grew high in the trees, no one may have ever even seen them before they disappeared.

The red string is part of an experiment investigating how much the bees can carry when they fly. Photo by Ann Dunham. The red string is part of an experiment investigating how much the bees can carry when they fly. Photo by Ann Dunham.

All euglossin bees we see out and about are male, and only the females sting… (photo by Ann Dunham) All euglossin bees we see out and about are male, and only the females…

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