The innocuous-looking harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis, shown left) wields a biological weapon of mass destruction. Europe and North America imported the insects in the early 20th century to control pesky aphids. But the harlequin, native to Asia, began to flourish, crowding out the native seven-spotted ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata, shown inset). Scientists previously thought that the harlequin prospered because of an unusually strong antimicrobial immune system, which would protect it from disease in a foreign environment. But the beetle’s more potent secret is a fungal parasite, in the insect-afflicting Nosema genus, which lives in the beetle’s blood. The parasite doesn’t affect the harlequin but fatally overwhelms seven-spotted lady beetles within 2 weeks of infection, researchers report online today in Science. Ladybugs commonly eat the eggs of competing species, so when seven-spotted beetles feast on the harlequin’s parasite-laden eggs, the parasite strikes back. Researchers say that foreign invaders fare better when they bring along diseases that they’re already tolerant of, while other, closely related species (such as the seven-spotted ladybug) might not enjoy such conquistador-like success.
For decades, people have been mystified by thousands of bare, circular soil patches that dot arid western African landscapes with inexplicable geometric precision.
They’re known as fairy circles — and the fairies, says ecologist Norbert Juergens of Germany’s University of Hamburg, are termites engaged in an extraordinary, landscape-scale act of ecological engineering that sustains not only themselves but a rich web of grassland life.
This recently described moth (originally from Thailand in 2005) is called the Lygodium Spider Moth because it feeds on Lygodium species, an invasive Old World climbing fern, and has markings that look like a spider (possibly mimicry to protect it from predators).
This moth has risen to significance because of it’s appetite for the Lygodium ferns, which have developed as an invasive weed that threatens Florida’s wetlands, and hence it’s potential as a biological control agent.
While there are many stem-boring moths, S. aranea is the first to be identified among fern-feeders in Asia. The moth is unique in a number of ways. For one, its caterpillar form looks more like some beetle larvae. The moth has armored segments on its rear similar to those on beetles but unlike anything seen before in a moth. And the adult moth may mimic spiders, a characteristic that has led to its scientific name, “aranea,” as well as its unofficial moniker.
This discovery expands possibilities for biological control of the Old World climbing fern in the United States. The plant is not a pest in its native Australia, South and Southeast Asia, and Africa, perhaps because its enemies keep it in check there.
…is a small species of mantis that has adapted for desert life. It like other members of its genus is a light brown color with a short thorax and abdomen. Sadly this species is poorly researched and not much is known about their biology.
"sit and wait" behavior in dung beetles at the source of primate dung*
Dung beetles remove freshly deposited dung and eat it or use it to lay their eggs in dung “brood balls”. Dung removal results in a variety of important ecosystem functions including nutrient cycling, seed dispersal and control of pests and parasites. The Neotropics contain a large number of dung beetle species, even though Neotropical forests do not have abundant populations of large vertebrates to provide dung. As a result, Neotropical dung beetles have to compete intensely for dung, an ephemeral but irreplaceable resource. Scientists have discovered an unusual competition strategy in the Neotropical dung beetle Canthon aff. quadriguttatus (Olivier): they live attached to the tail or genital region of the primate species whose dung they use. By living on the monkeys, they are guaranteed quick access to their dung, to which they attach as it is being evacuated or immediately after. After consuming the dung, they climb back on the monkeys. From a distance, the presence of these beetle aggregations make the monkeys appear to have shiny objects around their tails.
Apoica Wasp nest Order: Hymenopteres. Apoica is a genus of eusocial paper wasps found throughout Central and South American tropics. These wasps are nocturnal, carrying out their foraging activities at night. They prefer to construct their nests, which have an open comb like many paper wasps, under large leaves, or in shrubs. During the day, wasps covering the comb fan their wings to cool the nest, keeping it at a suitable temperature for larval development. When attacking prey, Apoica release a drop of venom from their stings, which in turn attracts any nearby wasps to attack.
Plants and insects have co-evolved for millions and millions of years. We all know that bees, for example, help plants fertilize by transferring pollen from flower to flower, and in return, they get nectar from the plants.
According to an article online, when wasps lay their eggs inside figs but fail to pollinate the plant, the fig tree drops the larvally-inhabited fig to the ground, killing the larvae.
This may seem like an act of revenge on behalf of the fig tree, but is it really? The fig-wasp relationship initially evolved as a mutualistic one, providing services on both ends. The wasp obtains a suitable home for its larvae to grow and hatch from, and the fig tree gets pollinated.
If one end of the deal isn’t upheld, it is at a cost to the other party. The relationship reaches an imbalance as figs are energetically exploited as they house a parasite. To restore to imbalance and maintain the relationship, the figs simply dispose of a “selfish” wasp’s quite possibly “selfish” offspring.
For some plant species, dung beetles are crucial (and sometimes obligate) pollinators; this is the case for some decay-scented flowers belonging to the plant families Lowiaceae and Araceae (Nichols et al. 2008). One of the first scientific observations of dung beetle dependent pollination of a carrion-scented plant (Typhonium tribolatum, Araceae) by Gleghorn in India was cited in Arrow (1931); the dung beetles involved are Onthophagus tarandus and Caccobius diminituvus. In the Lebanon, it was reported by Gibernau et al. (2004) that the two dung beetles species O. ovatus and O. sellatus pollinate the dung/carrion-scented plant Arum dioscordis (Araceae) and Meeuse and Hatch (1960) observed beetle pollination in the plant genera Dracunculus and Sauromatum (Araceae). Four different carrion-feeding Onthophagus species (O. waterstradti, O. fujii, O. aurifex, O. vulpes) and two species of Paragymnopleurus (P. pauliani, P. striatus) were also found to be obligate pollinators of Orchidantha inquei, a Bornean carrion-scented member of the highly relictual plant family Lowiaceae (Sakai and Inoue 1999). This flower does not secret any nectar and the visiting beetles do not seem to receive any other reward. The beetles presumably follow the dung-like odour of the flower and then search the flowers for dung. Since the flower does not provide any reward in form of food or protection to the beetles, this form of pollinator attraction has been called “deceit pollination” (Sakai and Inoue 1999). *
Photo: The Dung Beetle Paragymnopleurus pauliani (Scarabaeidae) Visiting the Zygomorphic Flower of Orchidantha inouei (Lowiaceae) **
* : Scholtz, C. H., Davis, A. L. V. and Kryger, U., 2009, Evolutionary Biology and Conservation of Dung Beetles. Pensoft Publisher.
** : Sakai, S., Inoue, T., 1999. A new pollination system: Dung-beetle pollination discovered in Orchidantha inouei (Lowiaceae, Zingiberales) in Sarawak, Malaysia. American Journal of Botany 86, 56–61.