In 2020, AP photographers captured a world in distress

Swarms of desert locusts fly into the air from crops in Katitika village in Kenya’s Kitui county on Jan. 24, 2020.
In the worst outbreak in a quarter-century, hundreds of millions of the insects swarmed into Kenya from Somalia and Ethiopia, destroying farmland and threatening an already vulnerable region.
(AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Source: In 2020, AP photographers captured a world in distress

Li’l Spiders on Planet Earth.

head-on-spider-4This is a small series of macro shots by photographer Jimmy Kong featuring little spiders staring directly at the camera.
See, they’re not so scary now, are they? The one creeping under your bed covers? That one, yes. I used to have a spider that lived in the corner of the ceiling above my shower.
I jokingly called him my roommate, we actually got along fine. Until the day he tried to touch me, then I bare-hand splattered his guts all over the wall. I still find legs in my shower caddy.
head-on-spider-8Keep going for a couple more, but be sure to check out Jimmy’s Flickr for a ton more spiders and insects staring directly at the camera.
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See more spiders via Cuties!: Lil’ Spiders Staring Directly At The Camera | Geekologie.

Turquoise-Tinted Tarantula Discovered in Sri Lanka.

 

Females of the species boast blue-hued legs, as well as an iridescent sheen on their outer shell and abdomen (Ranil Nanayakkara)
by Meilan Solly, smithsonian.com
Most members of the Chilobrachys spider genus have muted brown, black or grey coloring.
But Chilobrachys jonitriantisvansicklei—a newly described tarantula native to Sri Lanka—defies this trend. As a trio of researchers reports in the British Tarantula Society Journal, females of the species boast brilliant blue coloring on their legs and an iridescent sheen on their hard outer shells and abdomens.
“When we first spotted them I was in awe, lost for words,” lead author Ranil Nanayakkara of the University of Kelaniya tells National Geographic’s Nadia Drake.Nanayakkara and his colleagues discovered the unusually adorned arachnid in a section of Sri Lanka’s southwestern rainforest surrounded by tea and rubber plantations.
The spider, named after donor and conservationist Joni Triantis Van Sickle, measures around five inches long (Drake notes that it’s “big enough to comfortably hug a donut”) and is a speedy, aggressive predator that darts out from its underground burrow when hapless insects arrive on the scene.
Compared with their showier female counterparts, male members of the species are smaller and, according to Nanayakkara, “mossy brown in color.”
This the first new Chilobrachys species found in the South Asian country since the end of the 19th century.
Previously, Sri Lanka’s only Chilobrachys representative was a brown spider called C. nitelus. The researchers spent two years identifying physical differences between C. jonitriantisvansicklei and more than two dozen Chilobrachys species native to nearby India.
Based on this analysis, they determined that the turquoise-tinted tarantula was wholly unique.
Still, Robert Raven, principal curator of arachnids at Australia’s Queensland Museum, explains to Drake, “The possibility that the new one is [actually] one of the named Indian species will eventually need to be addressed,” likely through genetic sequencing aimed at confirming the spider’s singularity and gauging its population size.
Source: Turquoise-Tinted Tarantula Discovered in Sri Lanka | Smart News | Smithsonian

Dragonflies in my Backyard..

DSC00028-biss__880Article and Photos by Tiplea Remus
This is the series of cute dragonflies I found in my backyard.
I have been photographing them for several years. I know them by heart – their favorite places to be, what they like and how they fly.
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To capture the beauty and sweetness of these insects I used macro photography and natural surroundings.
They usually spend their time on colorful flowers, which make photographs playful and more cheerful.
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See more Images via Adorable Dragonflies Hiding In My Backyard | Bored Panda.

Monarch Butterflies travel by the Sun and Compass.

81092When monarch butterflies wing their way south to central Mexico each fall, they use the sun to ensure that they stay on course. But how they head in the right direction on cloudy days has been a mystery—until now.
It turns out they use Earth’s magnetic field as a kind of backup navigational system.
It’s not unusual for animals engaged in long-distance migrations, including sea turtles and birds, to use an internal magnetic compass to get to where they’re going. But whether monarch butterflies have a similar ability had previously been unclear:
Some studies had found weak evidence for a magnetic compass, while others found none at all.
A paper published in the journal Nature Communications finally puts the issue to rest: The famous black-and-orange butterflies do, in fact, pack a magnetic compass.
Light-sensitive molecules called cryptochromes can detect small changes in Earth’s magnetic field, says study co-author Steven Reppert, a neurobiologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.
And the cryptochromes in monarch butterflies need light on the UV-A side of the spectrum to operate.
Earth’s magnetic field lines radiate out from the South Pole, loop up around the Earth, and reenter the planet at the North Pole, Reppert says. That means there’s a gradient in the magnetic field from pole to equator.
When Reppert and colleagues put monarch butterflies in a flight simulator and manipulated the magnetic field and light levels, they found that the butterflies used changes in the magnetic field to orient themselves, rather than relying on the location of the North or South Pole.
“The dominant compass system [in monarch butterflies] is the sun compass,” says Reppert.
But their magnetic compass is a good backup system, since there are bound to be overcast skies on the way to their overwintering grounds.
Whether monarchs have a “magnetic map sense”—or the ability to know where they are in relation to their destination based on geomagnetic coordinates—remains to be seen.
“It’s a possibility which we’re about to explore,” Reppert says.
via Migrating Monarch Butterflies Use Magnetic Compass to Cut Through Clouds.

This Giant Weta Loves Carrots.

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The Giant Weta, photo by Mark Moffett/Corbis
You know that scene in the newish King Kong where those folks get eaten alive in a pit of giant insects? It’s a damn character assassination, through and through.
The huge cricket-like bugs among them are based on the giant weta, the heaviest reliably reported insect on Earth, at 2.5 ounces.
And really, the movie bugs could have been even bigger for all I care—it’s that their crummy attitude is all wrong. Giant weta, for their monstrous size, are actually quite sweet.
Not like cuddly sweet, though you’re welcome to try, but sweet nonetheless.
They demand an apology. Or else…they’ll…just kinda just sit there and eat carrots.
Weta are New Zealand’s most iconic bugs, around 70 known species that range from the big ones like the giant weta to other smaller varieties: the “tree,” “tusked,” “ground,” and “cave” weta, all equally excellent in their own unique ways.
They all differ in size and features, but all are products of the strange evolutionary history of New Zealand, an island that’s enjoyed relative isolation. That is, until humans arrived and started making a mess of things.
via Absurd Creature of the Week: This Bug Is Big as a Gerbil. Fortunately It Loves Carrots | WIRED.

Steampunk Animal and Insect Sculptures by Igor Verniy.

igor-1by Christopher Jobson.
Steampunk Animal and Insect Sculptures by Igor Verniy steampunk sculpture assemblage animals
From heaps of scrap metal, old bike chains, and silverware, sculptor Igor Verniy creates birds, butterflies, and other unusual creations.
Many of his steampunk and cyberpunk sculptures are made to be fully articulated, with dozens of moving or adjustable parts enabling each piece to be posed in several lifelike positions.
These are some of my favourite pieces but you can see more over on his VK and Facebook pages.
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See more wonderful sculptures via Steampunk Animal and Insect Sculptures by Igor Verniy | Colossal.

The Egyptian Giant Wind Scorpion.

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Despite some media reports, these arachnids are not half the size of a full-grown man. They are big though, reaching about 6 six inches (15 centimeters) in length.
Photograph by Michael & Patricia Fogden/Corbis
Camel spiders became an Internet sensation during the Iraq war of 2003, when rumours of their bloodthirsty nature began to circulate online.
Many tales were accompanied with photos purporting to show spiders half the size of a human.
For many years, Middle Eastern rumors have painted camel spiders as large, venomous predators, as fast as a running human, with a voracious appetite for large mammals. The myths are untrue.
These creatures do not actually eat camels’ stomachs or sleeping soldiers, and they are not so large—but the real camel spider is still an amazing predator.
The camel spider’s history of misinformation begins with a misidentification. Camel spiders are not even spiders.
Like spiders, they are members of the class Arachnida, but they are actually solpugids.
Camel spiders, also called wind scorpions and Egyptian giant solpugids (SAHL-pyoo-jids), are only about 6 inches (15 centimeters) long.
Photos that purport to show creatures six times that size have misleading perspective—the spider is invariably placed in the foreground where the lens makes it appear much bigger than its actual size.
True, they are fast, but only compared to other arachnids. Their top speed is estimated at 10 miles (16 kilometers) per hour.
Camel spiders are not deadly to humans (though their bite is painful), but they are vicious predators that can visit death upon insects, rodents, lizards, and small birds.
These hardy desert dwellers boast large, powerful jaws, which can be up to one-third of their body length. They use them to seize their victims and turn them to pulp with a chopping or sawing motion.
Camel spiders are not venomous, but they do utilize digestive fluids to liquefy their victims’ flesh, making it easy to suck the remains into their
via Egyptian Giant Solpugids (Camel Spiders), Egyptian Giant Solpugid (Camel Spider) –  National Geographic.

The Remarkable Dragonfly.

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The sight of a dragonfly is one of the more remarkable that nature has to offer.
The Ark In Space, with the help of some astounding macrophotography, takes a look at the life cycle of the dragonfly as well as its remarkable and unusual physiology.
Image Credit: Photograph by MrClean1982
via Dragonfly Delight – Amazing Macrophotography ~ Kuriositas.

Where are all the Christmas beetles?

Do you remember when hordes of large, brightly coloured scarab beetles used to descend on Aussie summertime gatherings like mobile festive decorations?
by John Pickrell
Image credit: Stuart_Cox/Shutterstock
Christmas beetles were said to be so numerous 100 years ago in the Sydney region that they could be found floating in the harbour in huge numbers at this time of year.
These iridescent insects were known to swarm in such quantities that the boughs of eucalypt trees would regularly bend under their weight.
Once common in summertime – particularly at night around streetlights or as visitors at barbecues in eastern Australia – these large and often colourful scarab beetles comprise 36 different species, nearly all of which are endemic to Australia. They’re all in the genus Anoplognathus, with the common names of some species including king, queen, and campfire beetle, washerwoman and furry tailed prince.
But you may have noticed that they are less common than they used to be, with these metallic pink, brown, green and gold insects likely to be experiencing similar declines in numbers that are blighting other insects worldwide, particularly in urban areas. According to Australian Museum experts, the evidence for declines in New South Wales is anecdotal but compelling.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, increasing human population numbers and habitat loss are implicated as the most likely causes for declines.
Sydney’s human population grew from just over 4 million in 2011 to more than 5 million in 2018.
Meanwhile, Cumberland Plain woodland in Western Sydney – once rich with eucalypts that adult Christmas beetles feed on – now covers less than 10 per cent of its original area.
Climate change is likely to be another factor in declines, experts say. Christmas beetle larvae usually pupate into adults from about November or December and the adult stage only lives for a few weeks, during which time they must mate and lay eggs. Unusually dry spring weather can delay development of pupae into adults until the following year, which can mean fewer beetles around in a given year.
Insect populations have been declining worldwide, with some studies suggesting the problem is significant.
While some think of Christmas beetles – named for their yuletide arrival and festive bauble-like appearance – as pests, many will cast their minds nostalgically back to their youth and lament this pretty little creature’s decline.
Source: Ghosts of Christmases past: where are all the Christmas beetles?