FEBRUARY
2010

 

By
Tom Turpin
 
Professor of
Entomology
Purdue University

 

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02-25-10

Download the audio of On Six Legs: MP3, WMV.

Dear Miss Ladybug


Dear Miss Ladybug: My husband and I went out to eat the other day to celebrate our two-week anniversary. We left our family of little maggots with a babysitter and flew from our home at 433 Garbage Can Lane into a city park in search of a picnic that we could crash. We found a nice banana cream pie sitting on a picnic basket where some of our friends from Dead Possum Drive were already dining. Immediately after landing in the pie, my husband started rubbing his front legs together mumbling, "What a feast! What a feast!" Not only that, but he then rubbed his eyes with his feet and yelled, "Last proboscis in is a rotten egg!" I was so embarrassed that I could have regurgitated on the spot. Should I apologize to our friends? Signed: Distraught House Fly Wife

Dear Distraught: Lighten up, fly girl! Surely you recognize that as a house fly you taste with the tarsae of your feet and need to keep those taste buds clean. It is just part of house fly biology, and I'll bet your friends didn't even notice! They were probably too busy sponging up that banana cream pie, using their proboscis of course. Signed: Miss Ladybug

Dear Miss Ladybug: I am a winter stonefly. We stoneflies live in the water as immature insects. Those of us called winter stoneflies become adults and emerge from the water from January to March, even in northern climates. We adults live in the space between the ice and the water. Yesterday the ice began to break up and a batch of my friends said, "Hey, let's take a walk on the snow." I admit the walk was fun -- you know, the warm sun and all -- but don't you think it is silly for insects to be walking around on the snow in February? Signed: Concerned Snow Walker

Dear Concerned: In general, it is unusual for insects to be found walking on the snow. After all, we are cold-blooded creatures that don't function well in low temperatures. However, some of you stoneflies take advantage of a sunny winter day to traipse about on the snow. Think of it this way: If there is ever an animal Winter Olympics, the stoneflies, like yourself, are sure to make the insect team. Signed: Miss Ladybug.

Dear Miss Ladybug: I am a moth that recently emerged from my cocoon. After my wings dried, I was admiring myself in a full-length mirror when all of a sudden I noticed these two owl eyes looking at me. I nearly fainted! Then, after gathering my wits I saw that those eyes are really part of the scale pattern on my back wings. Is there any way to get those ghastly eyes removed from my wings? Signed: Two Eyes Too Many

Dear Two Eyes: Instead of wanting to get those two owl-like peepers removed from your wings you should thank your lucky stars that they are there. You are a type of moth known as an owlet moth, because of those wing markings. Such fake eyes help protect you from predatory birds. Just as happened to you, the sight of those eyes suggests the presence of an owl and creates a startle response. That, young moth, might just keep you from being eaten by a bird someday, and that is a good thing! So be proud of those fake eyes and consider yourself lucky to have them. Signed: Miss Ladybug

Dear Miss Ladybug: I am a butterfly. Why is it that we are called butterflies when we have nothing to do with butter? Signed: No Butter

Dear No Butter: As it turns out many of our names are based on some word that humans used to describe us in the distant past. In my case, we ladybugs were associated with prayers offered in the church to the Virgin Mary, or Our Lady. When we showed up in the flax fields of ancient England we were dubbed, "Our Lady's Bug." In your case the first butterflies appeared in the spring, a time also known as the butter season so you were called "flies of the butter season" or butterflies. Of course, the fact that some of the earliest butterflies of the season are yellow might have also contributed to the association with butter. Hope that makes you feel butter -- err, better! Signed: Miss Ladybug

To Down in the Dumps: Remember that Archy the cockroach once quipped, "There is always something to be thankful for . . I grow more and more cheerful that nobody ever got the notion of using cockroaches for bait!"

 

 

Writer: Tom Turpin
Editor: Olivia Maddox