- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
But to entomologists, "The Beatles," means "The Beetles." You know, the ones with six legs and two antennae? A body comprised of a head, thorax, and abdomen?
We were delighted to see the National Public Radio (NPR) showcase insects on its Aug. 1st program, "Beetles Dominate As Scientists Discover New Animal Species."
"Beetles make up around 40% of all insect species ever described and around 25% of all animals," NPR teased. "Are there really that many different kinds of beetles, or do scientists have a strong pro-beetle bias?"
NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyd interviewed Rachel Smith, the undergraduate student at the University of Kansas who discovered 18 species of water beetles when she was handed 2000 specimens to sort.
Are there really more beetles (Order Coleoptera) than any other insects? Yes.
Greenfieldboyd interviewed Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and Nematology and professor of entomology at UC Davis, and UC Davis alumnus Andrew Forbes, now an associate professor at the University of Iowa. Kimsey specializes in the Order Hymenoptera (bees, wasps and sawflies) and Forbes specializes in parasitic wasps.
They both agreed that beetle outnumber all other insects on earth.
"Collecting beetles was a hobby in the 1800s," Forbes told Greenfieldboyce. "People would go out and collect as many beetles as they could and then, you know, get together and compare the size of their beetle collections."
"So you have to figure that for every species of beetle, there are probably at least one or two wasp parasites or parasitoids," Kimsey said.
Indeed, we live on the "Planet of Insects," as natural history expert Jules Howard says in his newly published Encylopedia of Insects (Wide Eyed Editions, with Illustrations by Miranda Zimmerman), aimed for children, but meant to enthrall all ages.
"If aliens were to visit our planet and make a list of all of Earth's animals, they would quickly see a pattern," Howard wrote. "Nearly every single one of this planet's creatures they would notice, are from one strange group that has six legs, three segments to their body, and often, a pair of wings. We call these organisms the insects. Because the insect group accounts for 90 percent of life forms on this plant, alien visitors would be correct in calling this Planet of Insects. Truly, this is an insect world. You and I just happen to live on it."
Howard wants to share his love of insects with his bug-o-pedia book. He wants to inspire you. "To come to know them. To know their names. To shout from the rooftops about how amazing they are."
His message is important. insects aren't "creepy crawlers" or something abominable, scary or freaky. This planet--the Planet of Insects--is theirs, as Howard says. "You and I just happen to live on it."
With The Beetles.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
That's way we were excited to see National Public Radio's Nell Greenfieldboyce generate a recent piece on "Bugs Abound: If You Think the Skies Are Crowded, You Have No Idea."
She touched on a newly published study in the journal Science, which found that more than 3 trillion migrating insects fly over south-central England each year.
More than 3 trillion!
Dingle, author of the popular textbook, Animal Migration: the Biology of Life on the Move (Oxford University Press), is one of the world's experts on animal migration. National Geographic featured Dingle in its cover story on Great Migrations in November 2010. LiveScience interviewed him for its November 2010 piece on Why Do Animals Migrate?
Dingle agrees that many migrating insects receive little attention. "Certain insects like locusts and the monarch butterfly, have gotten a great deal of attention," he told Greenfieldboyce. "But perhaps because of all that attention on these big charismatic insects, the huge migrations that occur in lots and lots of other insects, all the way down to tiny aphids, are certainly not as well known by the public, and may not even be as well known by scientists."
And scores of butterfly enthusiasts flock there, too, to admire, photograph and monitor them. It's good to see the increasing human population banding together to help save the declining monarch population.
As for the NPR piece, Greenfieldboyce gave a little press to one of the least publicized insects, the marmalade hoverfly, which she described as a "a small, insignificant-looking creature."
But don't consider the hoverfly "inconsequential." It's not only a long-range migrant that travels at great speeds and for hundreds of kilometers in a single flight, but it's a beneficial bug: it eats aphids and pollinates crops as well as wildflowers. It winters in the Mediterranean but returns to England in the spring.
Check out the paper in Science, "Mass Seasonal Bioflows of High-Flying Insect Migrants," for more information on migrating insects and you'll see why the NPR headlined its piece "Bugs Abound: If You Think the Skies Are Crowded, You Have No Idea."
The researchers' 10-year project of monitoring the migration of large and small insects over the southern United Kingdom yields incredible information. That's why we now know what they know--that 3 trillion of these migrating insects fly the friendly--and not so friendly skies--every year.
It's getting pretty crowded there.