Tag Archives: Insects

Why Do Some Worker Insects Occasionally Kill Their Queen?

Why Do Some Worker Insects Occasionally Kill Their Queen?

Most people probably assume that worker insects cannot possibly commit matricide against their birth-giving queen leaders. Well, most people are wrong because it happens all the time. There are indeed some rare circumstances in which matricide, committed by the dead queen’s offspring, does indeed take place. But why?

Researchers at the University of California at Riverside have attempted to shed more light on the phenomenon of matricide among social insects. The researchers eventually determined that worker wasps will become much more likely to kill the queen of the colony if worker wasps find themselves sharing the colony with a large amount of their siblings. However, if the worker wasps are surrounded by a mix of half and full siblings, the worker wasps will avoid killing the queen. If a wasp is surrounded by other wasps that are composed of nearly identical genetic makeup, then the behavior of the worker wasps will be more predictable and more given to collective cooperation by virtue of their similar genetically predisposed behaviors.

The worker wasps are more likely to kill the queen if the worker wasps are able to sense that they have a substantial amount of egg-laying sisters present in the colony. The idea is for the sister-worker-wasps to bear the responsibility of egg laying for the colony instead of the queen. This preference on the part of the male wasp is due to the queen’s willingness to resort to destructive and violent behaviors, such as eating the eggs. Also, So, in other words, the worker-wasps will kill the queen in favor of the sister siblings laying the eggs for the colony since the eggs are safer with the sister than with the queen.

Why would the queen of the wasp colony consume her own eggs, what advantage would that bring to the queen and/or the colony?



Insect Colonies Share Brain Power

social insects

Scientists recently performed a study comparing the complexity of brain function in social insects as opposed to solitary insects. They found that unlike vertebrate species, which evolve to have increasingly complex brains the more complex the society becomes, social insects that share information among the members of the colony reduces their need for complex brain function and the complexity of their cognitive brain functioning actually decreased as the complexity of their societies increased.

In vertebrate animal societies as the social environment grows more complex over generations the cognitive abilities of the individuals in that society are forced to adapt and also become more complex. More complex social societies tend to have an increased amount of competition between their individuals. As individuals have to navigate more and more challenges such as conflict over resources, their cognitive abilities are forced to evolve in order to continually sharpen their intelligence so they can continue to survive in more and more complex societies.

However, in social insect species the colony tends to be made up of family groups, with the children staying to help their parents, and while there may be some conflict in these colonies, the survival of the group depends on their ability to work together as a cohesive unit. The more cooperative structures of social insect colonies end up affecting the evolution of the brain differently.

Researchers studied the brains of 29 related species of wasps from Costa Rica, Ecuador and Taiwan. They studied both solitary and social species that had varying colony sizes and structures. They found that the solitary species had evolved to have larger brain parts associated with complex cognition used for such things as spatial memory, associative learning, and multi-sensory integration. On the other hand, the social insect species had less complex cognitive function. The researchers believe that this is because social insect colony members are able to rely on group members, meaning they don’t have to invest as much energy in more complex individual cognitive functions. These social species evolved to survive cooperatively, utilizing such things as sharing information among colony members, which reduces the need for individual cognition.

Do you think humans could have evolved in this manner if we had more cooperative societies, or is that impossible due to our conscious brains? How might our humans society be different if our brains had evolved in the same way as our societies became more complex?

A Colorectal Surgeons Love for Odd Bugs

A prominent colorectal surgeon named Dr Francis Seow-Choen is already fascinated with bugs of the parasitic sort found in the human gastrointestinal system.  However, he grew up fascinating over other types of creep-crawlies–Stick and Leaf Insects.

The surgeon has just completed his fourth and most comprehensive book covering the vast species of these types of insects.  So comprehensive in fact that the doctor dedicated twenty years of his life to studying the species found in his book, and the book itself took three years to complete.  His book looks extensively at fifty-two different and new species of leaf and stick insects located in Borneo.  Even the director of Natural History Publications of Borneo has found the doctors book to be a major advancement in entomological science.

What makes the good doctors discoveries so unique to bug-science is that finding these particular species of bugs is incredibly dangerous as locating them for study normally involves spending several days and nights in the harsh south east Asian jungles.  Also, stick and bug insects are, as you would assume, very difficult to find in the wild, as these bugs are known for their evolutionarily advanced forms of camouflage.  The doctor has risked his life in the harsh and dangerous wilderness to indulge his love for these unique bugs, or, just maybe, he needs a break from examining people’s rectums, you make your own call.

Do you have a labor of love similar to this? What is it?

Why So Many Insects Are Named After Celebrities

Why So Many Insects Are Named After Celebrities

You may have already known that it is not difficult for entomologists to discover new species of insects.  Many insects that inhabit this planet have yet to be discovered and named.  And it turns out that whenever a new insect is discovered, which is quite often, scientists have a tendency to name the newly discovered insects after famous people.  Why is that?  Perhaps the scientists choose a celebrity whom they do not like, or the opposite.   Actually it is most often just a way to get the public interested in insects.

By naming a new species of insect after a celebrity, scientists increase the likelihood that certain fans of the celebrity will take an interest in insects.  And most often there exists no connection between the species found and the celebrity the species is named after.  When it comes to naming insects scientists can name them whatever they please.

For example, a species of insect recently discovered in California has been named after our current president Barack Obama.  The entomologist that discovered this species dedicated the bug to President Obama because of his funding of science.  Other examples include our previous president George W. Bush, Stephen Colbert and Darth Vader.

Do you know of any insects named after celebrities? What kind of insects are they and why are they named after that celebrity?