Put on your Ear Guards, the Department of Incredible Insects just learned about an awesome and terrifying discovery recently made in China. This monstrous creature is a member of the Megaloptera order and may be the world’s largest aquatic insect.
The specimen seen here was discovered in a mountain in Chengdu in China’s Sichuan province. Its wingspan measures 8.3 inches (21 cm) and it features a savage pair of mandibles.
Bec Crew from Scientific American explains more:
"Just as this new find is so far pretty mysterious, members of Megaloptera are also fairly poorly known. As larvae, they spend all of their time in the water, only venturing out once it’s time to pupate and become adults. While they’re usually found in clean, clear streams, rivers, swamps, ponds and lakes, they’re also perfectly capable of sustaining themselves in muddy and polluted water, which makes them extra hard to spot."
Family Salticidae- The Jumping Spiders
The family Salticidae earned its common name, the jumping spiders, because of the ability of these spiders to leap long distances to tackle their prey. This is the largest of the spider families with about 5000 currently known species. Unlike many other spider species jumping spiders do not build elaborate webs to catch prey. Instead they use their excellent eyesight to find prey which they will then stalk until they are close enough to pounce. Many salticid spiders mimic insects in order to get close to their prey.
Mantisfly (Entanoneura sinica, Mantispidae, Neuroptera)
These extraordinary, seemingly prehistoric insects belong to the same order of insects as lacewings and owlflies. They get their name from their mantis-like appearance, as their spiny “raptorial” front legs are modified to catch small insect prey and are very similar to the front legs of mantids. The adults are predatory insects that are often nocturnal.
The larvae of the subfamily Mantispinae (to which this individual belongs) seek out female spiders or their egg sacs which they then enter; the scarabaeiform larvae then feed on the spider eggs, draining egg contents through a piercing/sucking tube formed by modified mandibles and maxillae, pupating in the egg sac.
First-instar mantispids use two strategies to locate spider eggs: larvae may burrow directly through the silk of egg sacs they find, or they may board and be carried by female spiders prior to sac production, entering the sac as it is being constructed.
(attracted to MV night light)
by Sinobug (itchydogimages) on Flickr.
Pu’er, Yunnan, China
See more Chinese insects and spiders on my Flickr site HERE……
© Josef Gelernter
There are several generations of Acherontia atropos per year, with continuous broods in Africa. In the northern parts of its range the species overwinters in the pupal stage. Eggs are laid singly under old leaves of Solanaceae: potato especially, but also Physalis and other nightshades. However it also has been recorded on members of the Verbenaceae, e.g. Lantana, and on members of the families Cannabaceae, Oleaceae, and others. The larvae are stout with a posterior horn, as is typical of larvae of the Sphingidae. Most sphingid larvae however, have fairly smooth posterior horns, possibly with a simple curve, either upward or downward. In contrast, Acherontia species and certain relatives bear a posterior horn embossed with round projections about the thicker part. The horn itself bends downwards near the base, but curls upwards towards the tip.
A bee extends its proboscis in response to flower scent. It’s part of the bee’s ‘memory test’ in experiments to determine if pesticides are harming them.
Video: Geraldine Wright.
The study is part of the Insect Pollinators Initiative, joint-funded by the BBSRC and other partners.
Meet The Predator That Becomes Blind When It Runs After Prey
The tiger beetle (Cicindela hudsoni) can run so fast that it blinds itself.
There are 2,600 species of these long-legged predatory insects, and the fastest can sprint at up to 5 miles per hour, covering 120 of its body lengths in a single second. For comparison, Usain Bolt covers just 5 body lengths per second. To match the beetle, he’d have to run at 480 miles per hour.
Tiger beetles use this incredible speed to run down both prey and mates. But as they sprint, their environment becomes a blur because their eyes simply can’t gather enough light to form an image. They have extremely sharp vision for insects, but when they’re running, the world smears into a featureless smudge. To compensate, the beetle has to stop to spot its prey again, before resuming the chase.
It seems like a bad evolutionary joke: a hunter that loses sight of its prey whenever it runs.
But tiger beetles don’t mind because… well… they are really, really fast.They can afford to stop in the middle of a chase because they are so ridiculously quick when they’re in motion. It’s like the aforementioned Bolt pausing at the 50-metre mark for a drink, and still winning.
Cole Gilbert at Cornell University discovered the tiger beetles’ staccato hunting style in 1998. Now, together with Daniel Zurek, he has worked out how they cope with another problem: obstacles.
At high speed, it’s hard enough to avoid incoming obstacles. But try doing it when your eyes can’t make out anything, much less small pebbles or sticks. A running tiger beetle is permanently in “collision mode”, says Zurek. “It’s like when I’m driving a car really fast and not wearing my glasses. When something hops in the road, I can’t stop in time.”
He discovered how they cope by watching an American species—the hairy-necked tiger beetle, Cicindela hirticollis. When it runs, it always keeps its antennae in the same fixed position: straight ahead, angled at a V, and held slightly above the ground. The antennae can move, but they never do while the beetle’s in motion.
The antennae are obstacle-detectors. If they hit an obstacle, their flexible tips bend back before springing forwards again. The beetle moves too fast to change course, but it can tip its body slightly upwards so that it skitters overthe obstacle rather than running headlong into it. It’s like a blind person holding two white canes (and wearing rocket skates).
“Because of their shape, the antennae can slip over the edge of an obstacle, which tells the beetles that there’s a top they can run over,” says Zurek. He saw how effective this is by filming tiger beetles running down a long track with a piece of wood in the middle. If their antennae were intact, they cleared the obstacle most of the time, even when Zurek painted over their eyes. But if he cut the antennae off, the beetles frequently face-planted into the wood.
This solution is not only effective, but cheap. The beetles could potentially deal with motion blur by evolving more sensitive eyes, but it takes a huge amount of energy to pay for an eye with good temporal resolution. They would also have to analyse that information, and their small brains probably don’t have the processing power. Fortunately, they don’t need anything that over-engineered. Their antennae provide them with all the collision-detection they need.
Zurek thinks that human engineers should take note. One of the first autonomous robots—Shakey—found its way around with some “bump detectors”. If they hit an obstacle, they bent, and Shakey would back up.
But modern robots rely on cameras. NASA’s Curiosity rover, for example, is currently trundling over Mars with the help of eight hazard avoidance cameras, or Hazcams. “As humans, we tend to think first and foremost from a visual standpoint,” he says. “Many really sophisticated robots rely on an array of cameras that analyse on the fly, which is very computationally intensive.” The tiger beetle’s solution would be simpler, and might help robots to move much faster than Curiosity’s leisurely pace.
PS: How does one catch an insect that moves so quickly? With great difficulty at first, but Zurek says, “It’s pretty fun once you get the hang of it,” he says. “You have to fool them by coming up behind them really slowly and then lowering yourself. I get them around 60 percent of the time.”