JANUARY
2008

 

 

 

By
Tom Turpin
 
Professor of
Entomology
Purdue University

 

 

 

 

 

01-24-08

Advice Column for Insects Would Have Plenty of Dicey Material

Ann Landers and her twin sister Abigail "Dear Abby" Van Buren were well known for their newspaper advice columns. Such columns, and now numerous TV and radio programs, share human-relationship problems with the rest of the world.

Humans are not the only animals that have relationship problems. In fact, conflict between individuals seems to exist throughout nature, including the world of insects. But what if insects turned to advice gurus to air their differences? I can imagine that it might go somewhat like this.

Dear Miss Ladybug: I think the father of my children might be having an affair. The other evening, I detected the odor of a strange pheromone on his antennae. What should I do? Signed: Monogamous Cecropia

Dear Monogamous: You are probably correct. Pheromones are chemicals used by many female moths to attract a mate. Cecropia moth females mate once in their life. Males of many moths, including Cecropias, will mate several times. Because you and he will only live for six or seven days, I wouldn't make a big issue of it. You'll both be dead soon! Signed: Miss Ladybug

Dear Miss Ladybug: I am a single mother and am concerned about a few of my 357 children. Some of them it seems are making meals out of their brothers and sisters. Signed: Mother Mantid

Dear Mother: Sibling rivalry is always to be expected among kids, even if a father is present in the home. Be patient; your kids will soon prefer other types of insects as food items. Besides, predators will eat most of your offspring before they reach adulthood anyway. Signed: Miss Ladybug.

Dear Miss Ladybug: My wife and I had just completed making a wonderful ball of cow manure and were excavating a hole in the ground to bury it, when the ball was stolen. I think it was one of our neighbors. Should I call the police or invite the neighbors to appear on Judge Judy's program? Signed: Dung Beetle.

Dear Dung: Unfortunately, this sort of thing happens often in Dung Beetle communities. It is standard procedure for one dung beetle to steal and bury the dung ball constructed by other dung beetles. Return the favor. Next time you get a chance steal the neighbor's dung ball, bury it before they catch you. Signed: Miss Ladybug.

Dear Miss Ladybug: I am a well-adjusted male giant water bug who is so humiliated that I could die! The other day I was swimming around minding my own business when some female water bug grabbed me, held me down and glued eggs on my back. She was not my wife, and now my spouse is asking questions. What am I to do? Signed: Blushing Bug.

Dear Blushing: You'll get no sympathy from me buster! After all, we women have been carrying eggs since time immemorial. It's about time some of you males get the less-than-pleasurable job of being pregnant.

Dear Miss Ladybug: Last fall, a group of us Monarch butterflies were headed south toward our wintering site in the mountains of Mexico. We got lost somewhere in Arkansas and none of the male monarchs were willing to stop and ask directions. We somehow managed to find the wintering site but were two weeks late getting there. I am worried about the return trip this spring. How can we convince the men to ask directions? Signed: Meandering Monarch

Dear Meandering: You're out of luck. Men just don't ask directions. Grab those Y-chromosome-afflicted individuals by the proboscis and lead them!

Dear Miss Ladybug: Two of my moth friends and I went out the other night to cruise around some lights. We had a few sips of fermented plant sap before flying toward a bug zapper, and one of my friends got zapped. Should we sue the manufacturer of the zapper? Signed: Moth to the Flame

Dear Moth: Night-flying lepidopterans like you have been flying to the flame for eons with disastrous results. Have you ever heard of personal responsibility? You'll need an unscrupulous personal-injury lawyer to take this case!

Send your questions to "Dear Miss Ladybug," but don't expect any reasonable advice!

 

Writer: Tom Turpin
Editor: Olivia Maddox