Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Bee!!!


In my previous article on Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in honeybees, I summarized recent advances in our understanding of this malady which has arisen in recent years, leading to major declines in honeybee colonies throughout North America. The current consensus is that CCD is caused by a synergistic combination of internal (diseases, parasites) and extrinsic […]

Parasite Gene Makes Caterpillars Do its Bidding

Gypsy moth catepiller on leaf

The first solid genetic proof of an extended phenotype, a concept postulated by Richard Dawkins in 1982, has just been reported by Kelli Hoover and colleagues at Pennsylvania State University (PSU) in University Park, as well as from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service in Delaware, Ohio. These researchers have identified a viral gene that induces […]

Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Bugs of War

assassin bug

Throughout history, insects have frequently played a direct role in human events, especially during times of war.  The Egyptian general Horembeb of the XII Egyptian Dynasty was almost bested in his battles with the Hittites because of a plague that was so severe that the battle ceased and his troops fled into the mountains and […]

Where Have All The Bees Gone?

Honey bee populations are decreasing due to a number of factors. Image by Annie Cavanagh

In the past 5 years, much attention has been devoted to the topic of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a mysterious ailment that first appeared in 2006, affecting European honeybee colonies in the United States and Europe.  This disorder manifests as a sudden sharp decline (30-90%) in the number of worker bees in the colony as […]

Endosymbiosis in Aphids: Nutrients from Symbiotic Bacteria Help Greenfly Survive on Plant Sap


The humble aphid may appear unremarkable, but it is cleverly adapted to its plant-sucking way of life. Symbiotic bacteria greatly increase the ability of plant lice, also known as greenflies, to grow and reproduce, causing annoyance to gardeners and damage to crops worldwide. Plant Sap Provides Insufficient Nutrients In general, aphids disregard the flowers, fruits […]

The Red Velvet Ant Stings like a Wasp

Red Velvet Ant.  Dasymutilla vesta. By Sally Anne Lewis

  The red velvet ant is, in fact, a wasp.  Although the female is wingless and looks very much like an exotic ant, there is one obvious difference.  The antennae of ants is jointed, or elbowed and velvet ants have straight, or at most curved, antennae.  The two are closely related, sharing many other features, […]