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But! No longer will this little corner of the internet languish in a state of shameful neglect! I mean, come on I spent like a whole hour making that banner image at the top of the page!
So, without further ado, I resume posting starting now.
For those that didn't know, I moved across the country to begin a PhD in Entomology, with a focus in evolution and development. I previously had a lot of experience with invertebrate zoology, worms in particular, and so I had to start at the very beginning in a few places. In short, to paraphrase my department chair, WSU entomology needed to "make me into an entomologist".
|A visual representation of my current state as an entomologist. Image copyright Paul Franklin|
Thanks to this period of intensive learning about insects, I am finding lots of really cool insects that I didn't know existed until now! Thus, this post shall serve as an inaugural voyage of a (hopefully) weekly feature where I write a little bit about whatever insect I am currently obsessed with this week. My friends in the department should chuckle at that line, because I usually subject them to unceasing rants about how TOTALLY RAD this new insect is....and most of them already knew about it so they just roll their eyes and give me a pat on the head...
ANYWAY ON TO THE FIRST OF MANY (i hope)
This week's insect obsession is the Blister Beetle. Thanks to an offhand comment during my ecology class about their defense capabilities coupled with my obsession with beetles in general, I took a look at what the google machine had to say about them.
As it turns out, completely by chance, the last few weeks have been "blister beetle" days from a few other science-bloggers.
Ted MacRae over at Beetles in the Bush posted two gorgeous pictures of Meloidid beetles from Idaho, along with a brief bit about identification.
|Copyright Ted MacRae, 2011|
So, now I have mentioned two things that interest me about this beetle family- their defensive ability and their reproductive interactions with other insects.
The first one is probably my favorite, simply because I am really obsessed with the Alien franchise. Blister beetles contain in their hemolymph (essentially their "blood") a chemical called cantharidin.This chemical is extremely toxic and is caustic enough to cause the skin to blister (hence the name of the beetle family).
|Yeah, it essentially has acid for blood|
Meloidid beetles excrete this chemical when agitated through a defensive mechanism known as "reflex bleeding", in which the insect secretes some of the toxic blood through membranes in their leg joints, or between cuticular plates.
|It looks something like this! Copyright Alex Wild|
|Truth is apparently sometimes the same as fiction|
|Holy shit, it even looks like the thing from Alien|
|Kinda like this, yeah|
And you think you had a rough childhood!
TL;DR- Blister beetles have caustic blood and their larvae will eat your babies*
*if you are a digger bee