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12 news posts in Insects


07 Mar 2023

Wings, not webs: Certain bugs are the winners of urbanization, impacting cities’ insect diversity

By Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: Dr Marion Chatelain. Occurrence and abundance of the ‘cucumber green spider’ decreased along the rural-urban gradient. Urban spread goes hand in hand with wildlife habitat loss and fragmentation. This impacts all animals, down to the smallest. Scientists found that the level of urbanization impacts arthropod abundance, richness, and diversity, factors which likely alter the foraging behavior of bigger animals. Cities are bursting with life, both human and animal. The smallest of them, insects, spiders, and ants are easily overseen, but their presence – or absence – in cities has wide-reaching effects. Scientists in Austria have published a study in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, which found a correlation between the presence of arthropods – invertebrate animals with an exoskeleton; among them are bees, insects, and spiders – and level of urbanization. “We show that richness and diversity of arthropods on trees and bushes decreases along the rural-urban gradient,” said first author Dr Marion Chatelain, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. “More specifically, we show that urbanization disfavors wingless groups, particularly so on trees. Indeed, web spiders and springtails are less likely to be found in the city, where, on the […]

Featured news

27 Sep 2022

Sugary poo could be used to lure destructive plant pests to their doom

By K.E.D. Coan, science writer Aggregation of spotted lanternflies, Lycorma delicatula. Image credit: Jana Shea / Spotted lanternflies send signals with their honeydew excretions, shows a new study. Scientists are researching how this damaging invasive species communicates in order to better manage the pest problem. This research provides knowledge of how these insects find each other, as well as the first evidence to show that these signals appear sex-specific. Spotted lanternflies communicate through their smelly excretions, called honeydew, reports a new study in Frontiers in Insect Science. This invasive species has been impacting crops in the northeastern US, but little is known about how these insects locate each other for reproduction or feeding. According to this latest research, the insects’ honeydew emits several airborne chemicals that attract other lanternflies. Surprisingly, these effects are sex-specific, which may be the first known case of such signals in insects known as planthoppers. “This research is important because the first step to managing any pest is to understand their biology and behavior,” said Dr Miriam Cooperband of the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Plant Protection and Quarantine Division (USDA APHIS PPQ) in the US. “As we learn […]

Life sciences

05 Aug 2016

Butterflies use differences in leaf shape to distinguish between plants

The preference of Heliconius butterflies for certain leaf shapes is innate, but can be reversed through learning, says a study in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. These results support a decades-old theory for explaining the evolution of the exceptional diversity of leaf shapes in passionflowers. The tropical butterfly Heliconius eratodistinguishes between shapes, and uses them as a cue for choosing the plants on which to feed and lay eggs, shows new research by scientists from the University of Cambridge and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. The butterfly has an innate preference for passionflowers with particular leaf shapes, but can learn to overcome this preference in favor of other shapes, especially those that are the most abundant in the local flora. These preferences can promote the evolution of plant biodiversity. Heliconius erato, the red passionflower butterfly, is a large (5 to 8 cm wingspan), white-red-black butterfly that occurs throughout Central America and tropical South America. Females lay their eggs on passionflowers (Passiflora), a genus of tropical vines with extreme variation in leaf shape, both between and within species. For example, related species can have triangular, elongated, elliptic, lobed, or spear-shaped leaves, while even on the same plant leaf shape may vary […]

<p>アオスジアゲハPhoto courtesy Kazuo Unno </p>

Life sciences

28 Mar 2016

Fifteen shades of photoreceptor in a butterfly’s eye

  When researchers studied the eyes of Common Bluebottles, a species of swallowtail butterfly from Australasia, they were in for a surprise. These butterflies have large eyes and use their blue-green iridescent wings for visual communication – evidence that their vision must be excellent. Even so, no-one expected to find that Common Bluebottles (Graphium sarpedon) have at least 15 different classes of “photoreceptors” — light-detecting cells comparable to the rods and cones in the human eye. Previously, no insect was known to have more than nine. “We have studied color vision in many insects for many years, and we knew that the number of photoreceptors varies greatly from species to species. But this discovery of 15 classes in one eye was really stunning,” says Kentaro Arikawa, Professor of Biology at Sokendai (the Graduate University for Advanced Studies), Hayama, Japan and lead author of the study. Have multiple classes of photoreceptors is indispensable for seeing color. Each class is stimulated by light of some wavelengths, and less or not at all by other wavelengths. By comparing information received from the different photoreceptor classes, the brain is able to distinguish colors. Through physiological, anatomical and molecular experiments, Arikawa and colleagues were able […]