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Posts Tagged ‘entomology

“There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away”*…

 

BQR-Vol.-1-No.-12-1916-Bookworm

 

Nor indeed, to transport pests, it seems…

In Micrographia, a “study of the Minute Bodies made by the Magnifying Glass”, London, MDCLXVII, one of the earliest publications issued under the authority of the newly-formed Royal Society, Robert Hooke described in Observation LII the “small silver-colour’d Book-worm”, “which upon the removal of Books and Papers in the Summer, is often observed very nimbly to scud, and pack away to some lurking cranny”. The third figure of the 33rd scheme pictures a monster so formidable-looking that Blades (Enemies of Books, 1896) may be forgiven the suggestion that Hooke “evolved both engraving and description from his inner consciousness”… [source]

Hooke

Bookworm (Fig. 3, top) in Hooke’s Micrographia

But as later observation confirmed, Hooke was on the money…  Sir William Osler, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford and one of the board of trustees of the Bodleian Library — called the Curators — of the Library reported in the first Volume of the Bodleian’s Quarterly Record

‘In October 1915 I received from a Paris bookseller, M. Lucien Gougy, three volumes of the Histoire abregie de la derniere persecution de Port-Royal. Edition Royale, MDCCL.’ In one of the volumes Osler found a living book-worm, of species Anobium hirtum, ‘not a native of England, but met with occasionally in the centre and south of France.’

In true scientific fashion, Osler arranged for a portrait of the larva [the image at the top of this post] to be made by Horace Knight, natural history illustrator of the British Museum. Knight sent the picture in September 1916, apologising that he had ‘been waiting in hopes the larva would pupate, but it has not even commenced to make a case…’.

Bookworms and the Bodleian: “The Bodleian Quarterly Record, Vol. I (1914-16); and Osler’s ‘Illustrations of the book-worm’.”

* Emily Dickinson

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As we devour books, we might recall that it was on this date in 1890 that Alfred Harmsworth published the first edition of Comic Cuts, the first British weekly comic paper.  A savvy publicist, Harmsworth relentlessly advertised the then-amazing fact that his paper was only a halfpenny an issue.  Indeed in his manifesto in the first issue he wrote:

How is it possible for any one to provide an illustrated paper… for a halfpenny? Well, it is possible to do it, but that is all. I feel sure that the public will appreciate the fact that they are getting full value for their money, and will therefore buy the paper in immense numbers weekly.

And indeed his comic book was published from 1890 to 1953, lasting for 3006 issues– during which time it inspired the birth of an industry, as other publishers began to emulate him,  producing rival comic magazines.

 

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito”*…

 

Deep into the Dog Days of Summer, readers are likely struggling to beat the heat… and thinking defensively about those predatory pests-of-the-season, mosquitoes (or as Bill Gate’s calls the species, “the deadliest animal in the world“).  The little-bitty buzzers just keep on coming…  And perhaps most frustratingly, they seem to bother some of us much more than others.

Smithsonian runs down the surprisingly long list of reasons in “Why Do Mosquitoes Bite Some People More Than Others?”  (Spoiler alert:  while 85% of them are genetic, beer makes one a more attractive morsel to the little bloodsuckers.)  Happily, there is a prospect of some relief.

* Dalia Lama XIV

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As we splash on the DEET, we might recall that it was on this date in 1254 that the first known court case involving chess and violence was heard in Essex, England.  It dealt with a chess player who stabbed his opponent to death after losing.  But while this was the of relatively few such incidents to make it into the criminal justice system, chess violence was apparently pretty wide-spread– common enough to move French King Louis IX to ban chess.  And indeed, such violence continues to this day.

“The King is dead”

source

 

Written by LW

August 16, 2014 at 1:01 am

“The Creator, if He exists, has an inordinate fondness for beetles”…

 

J. B. S. Haldane was moved to utter the quote that gives this post its title by his observation that there are more types of beetles than any other form of insect, and more insects than any other kind of animal. Cataloguing beetles, then, is a formidable challenge… But not too daunting for Dr. Udo Schmidt of Selbitz, in Germany.  Dr. Schmidt has photographed and catalogued thousands of them– which readers can find here.

(Dr. Schmidt, something of a taxonomical overachiever, has also photographed and collected thousands of mollusks.)

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As we wonder where we left that roach, we might recall that it was on this date in 1871 that the American Museum of Natural History opened to the public in New York City. Organized into a series of exhibits, the Museum’s collection–which had ben gathered from the time of the Museum’s founding in 1869– went on view for the first time in the Central Park Arsenal, the Museum’s original home, on the eastern side of Central Park. The cornerstone of the Museum’s first building was laid in Manhattan Square (79th Street and Central Park West), the Museum’s current location, in 1874; but it is obscured from view by the many Museum buildings in the complex that today occupy most of the Square.

 source

 

 

“Then turn not pale, beloved snail, but come and join the dance”*…

 

Florida is, famously, a “Stand Your Ground” state.  That ground is getting steadily dicier…

First spotted on the peninsula in 2011, Giant African Land Snails (Achatina achatina, AKA “giant Ghana snail” and “giant tiger land snail”) have taken hold in The Sunshine State, and are causing massive agricultural and social problems. Hugely destructive to crops, the creatures themselves are dangerous, in that they are able to gnaw through stucco and plastics, will eat almost any organic material, and have shells hard enough to pop tires on the freeway (and become shrapnel when run over by lawnmowers).  Believed to have migrated from Caribbean islands, over a thousand are caught each week in Miami-Dade County; and their numbers are growing as more come out of hibernation.  Oh, and they also carry a form of rat lungworm which can cause meningitis in humans, although no human cases have been reported as yet.

[TotH to Slashdot; photo sourced here]

* Lewis Carroll, “The Mock Turtle’s Song” (AKA “Lobster Quadrille”) in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

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As we watch our steps, we might send send creepy crawly birthday greetings to Sir Vincent Brian Wigglesworth FRS; he was born on this date in 1899.  Perhaps the most exquisitely-appropriately named entomologist of all time, Wigglesworth pioneered in the study of insect physiology; indeed, his Insect Physiology (1934) is often considered the foundation for this branch of entomology.  Wigglesworth’s demonstration of the complexity of individual insects and their dynamic relationships with their environments paved the way for using insects – instead of mice or other laboratory animals – for some fundamental investigation of animal physiology and function.

 source

 

Written by LW

April 17, 2013 at 1:01 am

Oh, the Ig-Nobility of it all…

 

Thanks to two of this year’s winners, the Wasabi Silent Fire Alarm (Chemistry Prize)…

…and Vilnius’ young Mayor’s novel solution to parking problems (Peace Prize)…

…this year’s Ig Nobel Awards have happily gotten rather more attention than usual.  But lest one miss the full range of achievement celebrated, one should visit the complete list of 2011 winners, where one will find less-widely reported, but equally-educational winners like:

BIOLOGY PRIZE: Darryl Gwynne (of CANADA and AUSTRALIA and the UK and the USA) and David Rentz (of AUSTRALIA and the USA) for discovering that a certain kind of beetle mates with a certain kind of Australian beer bottle

REFERENCE: “Beetles on the Bottle: Male Buprestids Mistake Stubbies for Females (Coleoptera),” D.T. Gwynne, and D.C.F. Rentz, Journal of the Australian Entomological Society, vol. 22, , no. 1, 1983, pp. 79-80

REFERENCE: “Beetles on the Bottle,” D.T. Gwynne and D.C.F. Rentz, Antenna: Proceedings (A) of the Royal Entomological Society London, vol. 8, no. 3, 1984, pp. 116-7.

 

As we cue up those old episodes of Mr. Wizard, we might recall that it was on this date in 1866 that J. Osterhoudt patented the tin can with a key opener (“Method of Opening Tin Cans,” U.S. Patent No. 58,554).  An ancestor of the “pop top” and “pull tab,” the “key” was used to roll a thin top from a can. The approach survives to this day, notably with canned meat products.

source

 

Written by LW

October 2, 2011 at 1:01 am

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