Bug questions!
Hey bogs, there's a really awesome ants nest in my backyard and it brings me a lot of joy to watch the little guys go about their business. What kind of things is okay to leave out for them? I used to crumble crackers for them but I doubt it'll keep well for them over winter.

It could, really! They keep very dry conditions underground for storing food, so it’s unlikely to go bad if it’d also last a long time in a cupboard.

You could also try seeds and nuts!

So I often hear that spiders found in one's home will freeze to death if left outside overnight. This makes me wonder: Does this pose a significant problem to spiders who don't occupy homes? If so, how do they combat this, and where did the house spiders go before there were houses?

When arthropods get way too cold, they’ll usually find something like a plant or a tree or a rock to hide inside or under, but they’ll still get cold enough to stop moving until they warm up again. A lot of them can go into a static state and be perfectly fine when the ice passes!

What are those little black dots on mantis eyes? I see them in different positions and it makes it look like the mantis has pupils, but they have compound eyes, right?

They’re referred to as “pseudopupils” and are a trick of the light! They’re basically shadows caused by how light enters and leaves the compound eyes.

your mention of Cockroaches being predators of bedbugs in your cockroach article made me wonder, in a hypothetical situation, would cockroaches be something that could be used to control bedbug populations? Obviously there's a lot of reasons this would not work in the real world (since there's nothing that says they would eat only the bedbugs or that they wouldn't establish their own colonies), but how effective would they be at it if it was some sort of perfect world scenario?

It would probably be harder for bedbugs to establish themselves where there are already a great deal of cockroaches, especially if it’s just a couple adult bedbugs showing up at first. They could all get eaten before they mate and lay eggs.

Bedbugs reproduce fast, though, so it wouldn’t be reliable. Under natural conditions they would probably reach an equilibrium. Of course, take the roaches away and the bedbugs would be that much worse.

The prevailing hypothesis as to why bugs in the carboniferous got so big is that there was more oxygen back then. Are there any competing hypotheses that have evidentiary support?

Lack of insectivorous mammals is considered an equally important factor. It’s likely arthropods could have evolved more efficient respiratory mechanisms over time, but the biggest problem for them was really all the mammals who evolved to be so fast and active all the time. Big arthropods just weren’t flexible or reflexive enough to deal with them, especially when molting.



Another neat thing about cockroaches is that, despite what most people assume, they’ve only kept getting bigger over the eons, as far as we’ve seen.

Hundreds of modern, living cockroach species are two to three times the length of the largest carboniferous cockroach or roachoid fossils ever discovered. They were at their tiniest before the existence of dinosaurs.


Uh… yay?

I take it from this “uh…yay?” that despite following Rev you’re unaware that her and I love insects and keep cockroaches as pets.

This post is one of a few followups to the article I recently wrote about why cockroaches are beautiful, amazing and respectable animals.


Obviously much of what is often called "vermin" is pretty much neutral or even beneficial, but according to you, what would be the worst "vermin" one could have in their homes (in terms of arthropods) ?


My friend Sarge on Cracked wrote an article detailing the nightmare someone went through dealing with them…and they never succeeded, either. They had to move and leave behind their belongings.


So apparently the latest episode of Hannibal has a beehive being cultivated in a corpse. I'm not going to ask you to make an entire fanbase angry, so instead I'll go back to the story it reminded me of: Samson killing a lion and bees then nesting in the carcass and making honey. Obviously the Bible isn't the best source for science, but some of the whacked-out stuff has fascinating explanations (manna was probably locust dung, topically), so I'm curious as to your take on it.

Well, bees wouldn’t get anything special from being in a corpse, but they will build their hive wherever they can and will favor anything hollow for added safety. I think it would have to be a dry place, though; you could probably get them to colonize the inside of a nice mummified torso or something.

What can you tell us about the emotional lives of insects? Can they experience pleasure or even playful behaviour?

We don’t know if they can be playful and it seems unlikely they would need to be, but a capacity for painful and pleasurable sensations are much more basic than people think they are. Beneficial things feel good, harmful things feel bad - no simpler way for an organism to function.

I feel I have to contest the answer you gave to the botfly question, as far as all life forms surviving at the cost of others: I've thought long and hard about it, and earthworms have to be among the creatures with the highest karma rating on the planet. They subsist only on dead matter and better the environment rather than polluting it with their waste. The same could be said of maggots, of course, but earthworms even have the whole vegetarian angle going for them. (Heh. Angle. Worm.)

You’re right! Though I guess I was kinda thinking how scavengers still need something else to die, even if they didn’t directly cause it. They definitely include many of the most peaceful, gentle living things, though.