Honeybees on honey comb in hive
Honeybees on honey comb in hive

Bee colonies are beset by pathogens and parasites, which can in some cases severely reduce their productivity. Help may be at hand from a seemingly unlikely source: cannabis.

Honeybee immunity could be supported to supplementing their diet with hemp extract, according to new research from Poland. Bees fed with a mixture of the extract and sugar syrup displayed a range of beneficial immunological responses in the study.

There may be some disappointed readers at this point, as reality dawns that the researchers weren’t getting their experimental bees stoned — more like using their addiction to sugars to get other compounds…


Two dancing praying mantis
Two dancing praying mantis

We, the writers of Insects and That, spend a fair bit of time trawling academic papers, searching for something that could work as an accessible tale of insects, and/or human relationships with them.

It’s very rare that a paper is just sitting there, without any need for creative interpretation. But recently, there was one such work: a peer-reviewed paper analysing insect appearances in pop music videos.

Yes, that’s right: an academic went down a major YouTube hole (with the help of students on their course and social media followers) in pursuit a publication credit, as well as an enjoyable time…


Originally published in It Was All a Zine, June 2021

All the small towns of England. All the short walks into fields sown with seeds of doubt, primed to sprout. All the bodies buried amidst mossy soil and roots of trees engraved with the names of lovers not so much star-crossed as crossed by stone-clad proximity. All the murders of crows and real-life stuff, Crimewatch with no-one watching. Old Jimmy says he didn’t do it but get him drunk enough and he might just change his tune. His fourth wife says she saw nothing, the third says otherwise. All the…


Wildfire engulfs forest
Wildfire engulfs forest

There are a good number of insects that have the word ‘fire’ in their common name. But while fireflies and fire bugs are so-called for their colouration rather than a love of a burn-up, and fire ants for their formidable sting, fire beetles, aka fire chasing beetles, from the genus Melanophila, really deliver according to their moniker.

These coleopterans lay their eggs in the bark of burnt trees, drawn to their target by the infrared radiation of fires. …


Ants drinking puddle of water
Ants drinking puddle of water
Hydration is important when you’re doing another creature’s work. Photo: gamagapix from Pixabay

Ants: famously hardworking, loyal and abundant. Qualities that are good for the success of the giant family that constitutes a colony, but also looked upon fondly by those who would seek to exploit them. For all their collective smarts, ants are pretty prone to being fooled or cajoled into putting their efforts into assisting small creatures from outside their kin.

While the practice of myrmecophily literally means ‘ant love’, the reality of such life strategies can involve anything from getting ants to care for young, snacking on their food or simply using their nest for shelter whilst avoiding a defensive…


Clothes moth on surface
Clothes moth on surface
Not guilty? It looks a bit sheepish. Photo: Olaf Leillinger

Forensic entomology is not for the faint-hearted. While insect-related evidence has been known to be used in the odd civil case, for the most part, it’s about creating a narrative around human death, often in grisly circumstances, based on insect feeding and reproduction on, in and around cadavers.

It requires a certain sort of constitution, and its decidedly dark edge means it’s unlikely to be the inspiration for a hit crime series in itself, despite occasional appearances in the CSI: franchise, among others. Indeed, having originally pitched this story to a well-known publication, it was judged “too gruesome for our…


Scarab beetles mating
Scarab beetles mating
Let’s get it on. Photo: Bernard Dupont/ Wikimedia Commons

Insects would appear to be strong subscribers to the mantra of ‘fake it ’til you make it’, whether that’s non-threatening species evolving to share the colours or patterns of those that are, those that hoodwink other insects into sharing their brooding locations, or those that fake the aesthetics of their habitat to blend into the background. Whatever works for survival in a very busy part of the food chain, really.

In a minibeast world full of tricksters and dupes, perhaps the sneakiest of all are the male insects that circumvent the conventional channels of dominance to mate with eligible females…


Dragonfly in shadow
Dragonfly in shadow

The fact there are just so damn many insects can feel daunting — I imagine even to seasoned entomologists at times. But at risk of seeming like I’m quoting directly from a sunset motivational meme, with abundance comes great opportunity.

As just a small hint of such possibilities, a friend of mine who works in nature tourism, predominantly in the Balkans, brought to my attention the damselfly Pyrrhosoma elisabethae, roughly translated as flame-bodied Elizabeth but more commonly known as the Greek red damselfly.

They’d recently been in contact with a Odonata expert with particular interest in the species. One of…


OPEN PEN ISSUE TWENTY

Photo http://www.grungetextures.com/

It’s not all bad, we can still see the sky. That’s a plus.

Reds and greys everywhere. I like to imagine the collections of pigeon shit up top; the smell of it close up.

‘If You Can’t Wall Them, Wall Them’ was the slogan they went with, after considering ‘Everyone Likes a Wall-builder’ and others too tedious to list here. You can imagine.

The slogan might seem a bit much, but the spin around it was more ingenious; emphasising that walls aren’t just a fearful, pessimistic method of keeping out AN Other, but a cosy way…


Fruit fly on damaged raspberry
Fruit fly on damaged raspberry
Photo: Hannah Burrack, North Carolina State University, Bugwood.org

When a pest gets an abbreviation, you know it’s serious. Such is the case with Drosophila suzukii, spotted-wing drosophila, or more commonly-known, simply SWD.

It’s a name extremely familiar to growers of soft fruit, but no so much by the general population — aside from the time it enjoyed a tangential route into semi-public consciousness via a series of TikTok videos. These viral favourites saw people dunking strawberries into salt water, expressing surprise and disgust at the discovery that plants might have close relationships with insects.

From a human perspective, such closeness can have both positive and negative effects. Pollination…

Gary Hartley

Writer of different things. Come for the insects, stay for the odd literary works, or vice versa. @garyfromleeds https://medium.com/insectsandthat

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store