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Analysis and Comment (27)

Where the rainforest meets the plantation: there are probably a lot more insects. Ryan Woo for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)

Palm oil plantations are bad for wildlife great and small: study

Palm oil plantations have an overall negative impact on biodiversity, according to research released this week. The study, published in Nature Communications, found palm oil plantations are home to fewer…
A male Onthophagus vacca, the species of dung beetle being released this week in Western Australia. CSIRO

French beetles flown in to clean up Australia’s cattle dung

The average cow drops between 10 and 12 dung pads (also known as “pats”) every day and just one of those cow pads can produce up to 3,000 flies in a fortnight. With more than 28 million cattle in Australia…
Good news, entomologists! Tiny insects, such as this Australian weevil, can be scanned and viewed in full colour and 3D from anywhere in the world. John Tann/Flickr

A big tick for entomologists: new 3D colour scans of insects

Observation is a cornerstone of science – we learn much about the universe and how it works just by looking at it. But observation can be a huge challenge. It’s easy to forget that human eyes allow us…
A queen bee tended by her workers … but take away her pheromones and they start to act strangely. Flickr/KrisFricke

Smells like queen spirit: royal pheromones in insect colonies

Much like people, insect colonies like to know if her majesty is at home. In the ants, bees, wasps and termites (the “big four” of the social insect world), the queen has long been suspected of using special…
The Holy Grail of myrmecology: the Dinosaur Ant. Ajay Narendra

Australian endangered species: Dinosaur Ant

The Dinosaur Ant (Nothomyrmecia macrops) is so-called because it is a “living fossil”. It is arguably one of the closest living examples of what some of the earliest true ants might have been like, both…
Vesk’s Plant-louse lives only on a single species of wattle. Melinda Moir

Australian endangered species: Vesk’s Plant-louse

Vesk’s Plant-louse (Acizzia veski) was discovered in 2007 within the Stirling Range National Park, a biodiversity hotspot of southwestern Australia. It is not a true “louse” but is a species of Hemiptera…
A couple of these and a nice chianti. Severin Tchibozo

Insects are key for food security in a growing world

Protein is a shrinking part of the diets of humans and animals. The deficiency is spreading rapidly across the world, but is particularly pronounced in Africa, even though many sources of protein can be…
Not cute, but crucial. Alvesgaspar

Wasps deserve to be loved

Recently a newspaper asked its readers to propose species that were, ecologically speaking, “useless”, such that their loss would not have any great knock-on effect on other species or biological cycles…
World-renowned naturalist and film-maker Sir David Attenborough visits Melbourne Zoo to meet the miraculous Phasmid, or Lord Howe Island Stick Insect. JOE CASTRO/AAPIMAGE

Slimy, scaly and forgotten: we need to fund our invertebrates

In Australia, the “cute and cuddlies” receive the vast amount of publicity and conservation management dollars. Little is left for the small, scaly and slimy species that many consider just plain creepy…
The metallic-coloured Schayer’s Grasshopper from Tasmania. David Rentz

Australian endangered species: Schayer’s Grasshopper

There are some 700 known species of grasshopper in Australia. But, fewer than half have been described. This is creating an information gap, and some species have fallen in. Schayer’s Grasshopper (Schayera…
Insects constitute a source of higher quality protein for humans than we can obtain from plants. BBC World News

Icky insects are actually tasty treats that are good for you

In the early 1980s, I was a member of a team of nutritionists who analysed bush food samples sent by “The Bush Tucker Man” (Major Les Hiddins) from northern Australia to the Defence Nutrition laboratory…
This female Territory Imitator probably shouldn’t be on the IUCN’s Red List. But very little is known about this obscure group of insects. David Rentz

Australian endangered species: Katydids

Consider the katydids. Katydids are related to grasshoppers and crickets. They are generally long-legged, have long antennae and are nocturnal. The majority are herbivores but some are carnivorous. Several…
Not all mosquito repellents are equal. Flickr/sachman75

Aussies vs mozzies: a user’s guide to repellents

Mosquito-borne disease is a serious concern, with millions of people worldwide impacted by pathogens spread by these blood-sucking insects. In Australia, there are more than 5,000 cases of human illness…
Who made this mess, and why? David Midgley

Unravelling the mystery of eucalypt scribbles

Some natural phenomena are so familiar to us that they feature in our lives and culture, yet we know precious little about them. Sometimes we don’t even know how little we know. Take the subject of our…
Invertebrates can seem alien and “other”, but the world can’t get by without them. Thomas Shahan

Ignoring invertebrate conservation is simply spineless

Invertebrates are all around us – crawling, squirming and buzzing about their business. From forests canopies to ocean depths, they form about 80% of the known species on Earth. By virtue of their sheer…
Goodnight, sleep tight? Not if these critters have anything to do with it. Lynn Friedman

VIDEO: bed bugs at London 2012

In a co-production between SBS World News Australia and The Conversation, University of Sydney’s Cameron Webb explains why bed bugs will almost certainly bite at the London Olympics. It’s creepy. Enjoy…
Bed bugs are among the souvenirs you could bring home from a trip to the London Olympics. Armed Forces Pest Management Board

Will bugs bite at the London Olympics?

Travelling to the London Olympics? What do you expect to bring back? Some amazing sporting memories? A medal? How about some bed bug bites, or, worse still, a few bugs to kick off an infestation at home…
Biting insects cause allergic reactions because of their saliva, while stinging insects inject venom when they bite. Emilio Floris/Wikimedia Commons

Taking the ouch and itch out of insect bites

Mosquitoes, biting midges, bedbugs, ticks and fleas will make a meal of us given the opportunity. And it isn’t the pain or annoyance of the bite but our bodies' reactions that often cause greater problems…
What’s in a name? A whole lot of booty, and some Latin, as it happens. asterix611

Beyoncé is a fly … but why?

Late last week CSIRO announced that a new species of horse fly had been named after pop diva Beyoncé’s bottom. The story generated a real buzz across traditional and social media both in Australia and…
GM crops are used in Australia to thwart pests such as the Cotton Bollworm (which also destroys corn). AAP/University of Melbourne

Will superbugs overwhelm insect-resistant GM crops?

A recent report in the Wall Street Journal spoke of rootworms in the US state of Iowa that had evolved resistance to a strain of genetically modified (GM) corn developed especially to thwart those rootworms…
Flesh-flies frequently give birth to maggots on corpses of human and other animals. sankax

Forensic entomology: the time of death is everything

FORENSICS AUSTRALIA – Insects are everywhere. Their ubiquitous nature, and the fact they represent the largest biomass of animals on the earth, means there are hardly any terrestrial niches – except when…

Research and News (3)

Research Briefs (16)

Cicada wings that kill bacteria

Cicada wings have been discovered to be the first natural surface to kill bacteria through their structure. Researches at…

Insects drive rapid plant evolution

Evolutionary change is occurring rapidly around us, every day, as insects impose natural selection pressures on plants. Using…

Hormones determine insect metamorphoses

Pulses of steroid hormones are responsible for differentiating an insect’s lifecycle metamorphoses, researchers at Washington…

Modified fungus targets fire ants

A fungus normally used for killing insects has been modified by scientists at the University of Florida to specifically kill…