Archive for the ‘Insects’ Category

Terrifying Insects Back From Edge of Extinction

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

There are a LOT of animals being saved from extinction…rhinos, cheetahs, snow leopards, etc,. Most of them are regal or furry or cute or just plain huggable.

The Weta Punga are not ANY of those things.

Weta Punga literally means “God of Ugly Things”.

Nailed it.

The Weta are squirrel-sized insects that can only be described as terrifying. But that’s not stopping a group of animal lovers from bringing the animal back from the edge of extinction. Once the weta flourished in and around the islands of New Zealand. Invasive and non-native species took care of that until only small numbers of the giant insect remained.

Researchers in Auckland began a breeding program to…uh…yay…bring back the populations of weta that once roamed the islands.

Between this year and last almost 400 of these creepers were released into the wild to bring back nightmares to anyone visiting the islands.

[ Auckland]

African Tick Smuggles Itself Into US Inside Scientist’s Nose!

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

Shel Silverstein once had a poem about a snail that lived in your nose and would bite your finger off.

Maybe he was inspired by something that’s been going on in Africa that nobody’s ever paid much attention to…until now…

A US pathobiological science professor returned home from an excursion to Africa. Three days later he discovered he’d picked up a small hitchhiker. That small hitchhiker was a tick. It had hitched a ride inside his nose!

After removing the tick using forceps, a mirror and a small torch, the tick was hustled off to Georgia where its DNA was sequenced revealing that this little world traveler might possibly be an entirely new species.

Tony Goldberg, the professor harboring this tiny nightmare in his nose, is now rethinking his theories about how chimps and humans exchange pathogens. Upon further research, reports and high resolution photos turned up these same ticks hiding in chimps’ noses as well.

In a statement we can all relate to, Goldberg says, “”When you first realize you have a tick up your nose, it takes a lot of willpower not to claw your face off.”

We couldn’t agree more…and we don’t even have ticks in our noses.

[Web Pro News]

Crappy Little Beetle Helps Develop True-Color Nightvision!

Friday, January 25th, 2013

For two decades Eric Warrant has literally had a pretty crappy job. As a student who specializes in optics at the University of Lund in Sweden, he has been passionately studying the last creature on earth that you’d think of when it came to helping Toyota develop a true-color night-vision system…

The dung beetle.

Dung beetles have an uncanny ability to see clearly and navigate in even the darkest environment. Toyota is interested in developing a night-vision navigation system that allows for an optimal, full-color image in those conditions, we all want to avoid a car accident in the dark and Eric Warrant likes spending time with dung beetles. Everybody wins!

Using dung beetles’ abilities as the launching point and inspiration for this idea, Toyota is developing, in the simplest explanation we can give you, an advanced algorithym system that teaches the camera to look at every pixel in a single frame of video, look at the surrounding pixels, any movement in adjacent pixels and basically milk as much image information from the collected data in real-time to create a perfect, true-color image from nothing but a seemingly black image.

The team originally assumed they would have to design a special processor chip to run the algorithm and this would go inside a digital video camera, Malm says. In fact, the processing unit of a conventional PC graphics card was powerful enough to do the job, and they have managed to fine tune the algorithm to analyse images from the camera’s three colour channels – red, green and blue – simultaneously in real time. Three years after starting the project, the team finally have a way of capturing full-colour moving images shot in what to human eyes is almost total darkness.

Exactly how this technology will eventually be used is anyone’s guess.

But when that tech finally saves lives in the dark?

We can all stand up and applaud a crazy dude and his obsession with a crappy little bug.

[New Scientist]

Possible New Spider Makes DIY Decoy Version of Itself!

Friday, December 28th, 2012

Spiders are a little creepy to most people, right?

Well that other percent that didn’t think they were creepy? You can come join the rest of us now.

You’re walking through the woods and notice an interesting looking spider in the middle of its web from a distance. You decide to go in for a closer look. You make that ‘quizzical dog face’ because it’s a pretty weird-looking spider.

As you get closer, something seems a little ‘off’ about the ‘interesting’ spider…which begins to throb and shake in the most un-spider-like movement you’ve ever seen.

That’s about the time when your fear meter begins to spike as you realize the ‘spider’ you’ve been staring at is actually comprised of dead insects, debris and leaves and is being puppeteered by the real spider hiding just out of sight.

The ‘decoy spider’ is being looked at to see whether or not it’s a new species of spider or, in a step leading to total nightmare material, if it’s an already known spider that’s taught itself this behavior.

While scientists continue to determine what’s going on with this horrifying development in the spider kingdom, we’ll just keep hoping that human flesh is completely unpleasant to their terrifying little tastebuds.


New York Banquet Features a Menu From The Temple of Doom!

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Every year at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, the annual meeting of the Explorers’ Club takes place. One of the highlights of the event is the gala dinner and its infamous cocktail party which is like the more sophisticated and classy version of the dinner scene from Temple of Doom but with the same menu.

What’s the weirdest thing YOU’VE ever eaten? We’re curious to see just how weird the palettes of WeirdThings’ fans are.

[NatGeo YouTube Channel]

Soft, Creepy Worm-Like Robot Gets Hammered…Keeps Going!

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Robotics design is continually making all those creepy robot-takeover concepts part of our future reality. Check this thing out. It’s a ‘robot’ that imitates the actions of a worm but has the uncanny creepy factor of a maggot when you continue to watch it move. As soon as someone attaches some kind of weird syringe-probe thing? We’re done.

From MIT:

Earthworms creep along the ground by alternately squeezing and stretching muscles along the length of their bodies, inching forward with each wave of contractions. Snails and sea cucumbers also use this mechanism, called peristalsis, to get around, and our own gastrointestinal tracts operate by a similar action, squeezing muscles along the esophagus to push food to the stomach.
Now researchers at MIT, Harvard University and Seoul National University have engineered a soft autonomous robot that moves via peristalsis, crawling across surfaces by contracting segments of its body, much like an earthworm. The robot, made almost entirely of soft materials, is remarkably resilient: Even when stepped upon or bludgeoned with a hammer, the robot is able to inch away, unscathed.

Watch it again….it’s creepy little self gets stepped on and hit with a hammer! And it KEEPS GOING!


Southern California Infested with Brown Widows!

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

Since face-eating and bath-salting have finally jumped the shark, a new trend is beginning to emerge…

Only days ago we reported that the base of Mount St. Helens in Washington is swarming with tent caterpillars.

Insects are now climbing the list of things signaling the apocalypse might actually arrive just in time for Christmas.

The LA Times is reporting that the brown widow spider, not to be outdone by the caterpillars in Washington, have had a recent population explosion that guarantees people living in Southern California will be dealing with the less-poisonous cousin to the black widow on a more frequent basis.

Black widows generally hide in darker places like sheds, woodpiles and under porches. Usually they’re tucked away in places people instinctively don’t go. You can already guess where the next piece of information is going…the brown widow is much more extroverted than its deadlier relative.

Brown widows like to relax in peoples’ things outside. Outdoor patio furniture, plastic playground equipment, under the curled lip of a potted plant, your bbq, your ‘outside shoes’ and in drought-free landscaping. Fortunately out of 72 data sites used to get a better understanding of how big this population explosion is, none of the spiders were found in peoples’ homes.

Since 2003, when the brown widow first began appearing in California, the population has exploded compared to the black widows.

Bright-side? Brown widow spider bites generally hurt initially, burn for a little while and then? Really nothing happens. Carry on.

Down-side? These things like to cluster. Turning over a patio chair you’re sitting in to interrupt a small party of these spiders that dwarf their darker cousins in size? Nature’s way of going “Boo!” and making you paranoid about every nook and crannie in your immediate area.

[LA Times]

Squirming Mass of Caterpillars Cover Forest!

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

Mount St. Helens erupted almost 32 years ago. The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument area around the base of the volcano is monitored by the U.S. Forest-Service and its goal is to not interfere with the natural processes taking place in the area.

As a result the area that is in the middle of the blast zone looks like something out of the last few minutes of Kingdom of the Spiders when William Shatner’s characters awakes in the morning to find the entire town and beyond covered in layers of webs.

Billions of tent caterpillars have suddenly covered practically every tree, bush and branch along the Hummocks Trail near Coldwater lake in Toutle Valley, Washington.

An extreme population explosion has taken place this year and these things are EVERYWHERE!

Last year, the tent caterpillar population began to show signs of growing exponentially. While many insect species go through this whole boom-and-bust cycle from time-to-time, this year literally looks like the scene from some horror film.

Alder trees, a species of tree capable of growing in an environment where the original forest floor is now covered by over 100 feet of volcanic rock, look like they’re actually pulsating due to the thick masses of caterpillars swarming them for food.

Foresty professionals are not interested in interfering with the natural processes at work and are letting this strange new evolution of the area simply run its course.

Once the caterpillars break from their coccoons the sky will swarm with millions of cream-grey moths which will, in turn, feed local species of bats that’ve been struggling to find food sources as rich as this.

Until then the entire area is a pulsating, undulating mass of inch-long, furrry caterpillars that, while they’re causing no harm, are a site that would freak anyone out if they stumbled upon it in the woods.


Mother Nature Creates Giger-Inspired Wasp!

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Let’s imagine Mother Nature wanted to create a wasp to remind us that she’s still very much in charge of things. Let’s say she’s been looking at a lot of HR Giger’s work for inspiration. Now let’s say that she’s already finished it and released it into the wild.

That horrifying looking thing pictured above is actually real….and it’s called a couple of equally terrifying things; “King of Wasps”, “Horror Wasp” and “Warrior Wasp”. It’s also one more piece of evidence that suggests Mother Nature is getting ready to maybe shake off all the helpless human beings that keep putting up strip malls.

Discovered only as recently as 2011 by Lynn Kimsey of UC Davis in California, the wasp has been dubbed Garuda, the name of a mythical figure that is part-human, part eagle. Garuda is not the biggest known wasp in the world (that award goes to another wasp commonly referred to a the ‘Tarantula Hawk’) but it is the most intimidating-looking wasp out there.

Kimsey discovered the wasp in the Mekongga Mountains of Indonesia and says that they weren’t very common.

That’s great news. We’re sure TSA’s meticulous searches (read that with oozing sarcasm, folks) found any that might’ve stowed away in her luggage, right?

[New Scientist]

Crap! Nature Evolves Wasp with Scorpion Tail

Monday, June 4th, 2012

During an early WeirdThings podcast, Brian and Justin were put into one of Andrew’s scenarios involving ‘flying’ snakes in Russia. Neither of them were happy with the idea of snakes launching themselves from trees onto their prey.

Here’s another frightening evolutionary mash-up that was probably fun in a comic book or horror story. In real life? Total fun-suck.

Meet Mecoptera, a tiny nightmare combination of a wasp-like fly with the tail of a scorpion.

Commonly referred to as a ‘scorpionfly’, Mecoptera isn’t a threat…yet. The male’s tale resembles a scorpion’s stinger but is only used for mating purposes…for right now. If you had seen one in the wild and had no idea what the thing was? You’d probably just assume that it was what it looked like, steer clear of the thing and walk briskly away knowing that nature’s working on a game plan to take back the planet.

While Mecoptera looks menacing, it’s not harmful to us squishy humans.

Let’s just hope that nature decides to keep it that way.

New Order Of Insects Discovered

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Scientists have announced the discovery of an entire new order of insects that has recently been excavated in South America dating from the Lower Cretaceous period, between 146 and 100 million years ago.  Both adults and larval stages of the fossilized insects were found and they have been named Coxoplectoptera.

“They are believed to be a type of mayfly that is now extinct, but their appearance is perplexing as the adult wing shape is more like that of a dragonfly while the legs resemble those of a praying mantis.

Meanwhile, the larva looks like a freshwater shrimp with large antennae and multiple legs, and probably lived as ambush predators in river beds, partly buried in the mud.”

[The Epoch Times]


Solar Powered Hornets!

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
Scientists have recently discovered that the exoskeleton of the oriental hornet (Vespa orientalis) contains special structures that trap sunlight and convert it to energy. Using an atomic force microscope they discovered that the yellow band on the abdomen was structurally different than the rest of their body.

This is made from a series of oval-shaped protrusions, each containing a pinhole-sized depression. Each protrusion is just 50nm tall and interlocks with another…Essentially, say the researchers, they stop light being reflected off the hornet’s body. Instead the light is trapped, and harvested for energy.

[TreeHugger via Gizmodo]

Assassin Bug Uses Aggressive Mimicry To Catch Spiders

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

A species of assassin bug, Stenolemus bituberus, sneaks onto spiders’ webs and pretends to be prey, then captures and eats the spider when it comes to investigate. It was noted that on occasion the ploy of the assassin bug failed and it ended up being a meal for the spider regardless.

“The assassin bug slowly approaches the spider on its web, using its forelegs to pluck the silk threads in a manner that simulates the vibrations of a fly struggling after being caught. Wignall studied the behavior of the bugs, and found that the response of the spider to the predator was the same as its response to when a vinegar fly or aphid was caught in the web.”


Amber-Trapped Insect Deposit Discovered

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Newly discovered 50 million year old amber deposits in northwest India have revealed more than 700 insect species representing 55 families of insects inside. Included in the findings so far are many social insects such as bees, termites, and ants. Scientists will compare these insects to thier modern cousins to try and obtain a better understanding of their evolution. Or perhaps they will just try to pull out DNA and start a theme park.


An Ant’s Frat Initiation

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Start off your week with this video of an ant trying to chug a massive raindrop. He’s going to feel that in the morning!

South Korean Spiders Invade Guam

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

A ship from South Korea was refused port when thousands of large spiders were discovered throughout the ship’s cargo.

The local Department of Agriculture deemed the arachnids “too numerous to destroy or contain.” Officials  are unsure of why the spiders are on board, or even what species they are.

Considering the cargo was meant to build housing for U.S. military contractors it’s safe to say that “War On Ugly-Wugly Creepy Crawlies” is imminent.

[Stars and Stripes]