Tom Turpin
Professor of
Purdue University


Download the audio files or subscribe to our podcast.


Check out these books by Tom Turpin:

Flies in the face of fashion

What's Buggin You Now?





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

Dear Miss Ladybug ladybug

Dear Miss Ladybug: We bed bugs have been getting a lot of negative press lately. I know humans don't like us sneaking out at night in search of a nice blood meal, but shouldn't we get a little love for being the insects that provided the name bug for the English language? Signed: Bugged Bug.


Dear Bugged: For sure, the term bug is based on the Welsh word for ghost that was used to describe your ancestors. But don't hold your breath waiting for humans to show appreciation for your kind. Sleep tight and don't let the…. Well, you know the rest of that story. Signed: Miss Ladybug.

Dear Miss Ladybug: What's the deal with that fuzzy black- and brown-banded woollyworm that I saw crawling around the other day? He was carrying a sign that said, "Severe Winter Ahead!" Is he protesting global warming or what? Signed: Just Curious.


Dear Curious: That woollyworm is Isia Isabella. Those woollybear caterpillars are thought by some to be prognosticators of winter severity. Wider black bands supposedly indicate severe winters. As it turns out, woollyworms are no better at predicting winter severity than ground hogs are at predicting arrival of spring. Neither can do the job. But I'll bet the woollyworm doesn't care about accuracy anymore than most sign-toting protestors. Signed: Miss Ladybug.

Dear Miss Ladybug: I'm a monarch butterfly and the other day a redwing blackbird looked at me and shouted, "You just make my craw wretch!" Should I be offended at such a crass remark? Signed: Miffed Monarch.

Dear Miffed: Well that is a true statement, but I would consider it a compliment. After all, you monarchs garner a chemical from your milkweed host plants that causes birds to vomit when they try to make a meal out of you. Your color pattern advertizes this fact to insect-eaters such as birds. For that you ought to be very happy. Next time just say, "I'm glad you noticed!" Signed Miss Ladybug.

Dear Miss Ladybug: I am a male honey bee and live in a colony with thousands of sisters and hundreds of brothers. All of us are sons and daughters of our mother, the queen. Last week some of our sisters started making fun of us boys. They taunted us by saying, "You boys don't have a father, but we girls do!" I think those girls are just making this up. Am I correct? Signed: Doubting Drone.

Dear Doubting: I know it is going to tough on your male ego, but your sisters are correct. In honey bee genetics female bees are the result of fertilized eggs and therefore have a father and a mother. On the other hand, honey bee males come from unfertilized eggs and therefore have a mother but no father. If it makes you feel better, you do have a grandfather - your mother's father. Signed: Miss Ladybug.

Dear Miss Ladybug: I am a giant water bug and live in an aquarium exhibit at a zoo. The other day some human visitors pointed at me and said, "Look, an electric-light bug!" I'm accustomed to having people point and ask, "What is that?" But where do you suppose the zoo visitors came up with such a name? Signed: Shocked at the Zoo.

Dear Shocked: You are a victim of a widespread human practice of giving common names to plants and animals. Common names vary from place to place and several such names exist for most creatures. So your name of giant water bug is based on the fact that you and your relatives are true bugs, are large and live in water. The name electric-light bug is based on the fact that some of your type insects leave the water and fly around electric-pole lights. I hope this illuminates the subject to your satisfaction. Signed Miss Ladybug.

Note to Miss Mosquito: If you really want to be liked, stop whining when you are around people. And cutting out the biting remarks might also help!


Writer: Tom Turpin
Editor: Olivia Maddox