Tom Turpin
Professor of
Purdue University


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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

Dear Miss Ladybug: I'm a female Australian stick insect and my stubby little wings are absolutely useless. I mean what good are wings if you can't use them to fly? To make matters worse, my husband has wings as long as his body, and he flutters all over the place. I don't think this is fair, do you? Signed: Stubby Wings.

Dear Stubby: You are a victim of sexual dimorphism in the insect world. That means that the physical attributes of male and female animals, including insects, differ beyond the obvious sexual structures. In the case of some of you stick insects, males have wings and females have very small wings or no wings at all. But thank your lucky stars that your husband has wings, because male stick insects use the ability to fly to find mates. That's how your husband found you. I hope you consider that a good thing! Signed: Miss Ladybug.

Dear Miss Ladybug: I am a female aphid and have 39 sisters. My mother says that my sisters and I don't have a father. I really can't believe such a thing is possible. Do you think our mother is lying to us about a father? Signed: Doubting Annie Aphid.

Dear Doubting Annie: There is no way to know for sure if your mother is telling the truth, but she probably is. You see, many aphids give birth to offspring without mating. Biologically that is known as parthenogenesis. By cutting out "the middle man" in the reproductive process, aphids can build up populations very rapidly. That is because aphid daughters like you and your daughters and granddaughters will reproduce in the same way. At least you won't have to worry about the old dating game! Signed: Miss Ladybug.

Dear Miss Ladybug: The kids in school always call me old four eyes, and I don't even wear glasses. What's up with that? Signed: Gertrude Gyrinid.

Dear Gerty: That's because it is true. Insects of your kind - the Gyrinidae - are whirligig beetles that swim in erratic patterns on the surface of the water. Because of where you live, it is necessary to see up into the air and down into the water so you can detect predators from above or below. Therefore you do have four eyes: two looking up and two looking down. For you, four eyes are better than two any old day. So tell the kids you can see twice as well as they can! Signed: Miss Ladybug.

Dear Miss Ladybug: My mother Lucy Lacewing does something I don't understand. She attaches the eggs that will hatch into my brothers and sisters on a slender stalk that holds them above the surface of the leaf. Why does she do that? Signed: Wondering About My Mother.

Dear Wondering: It's true that most kids wonder about things that their parents do. In this case your mother has you and your siblings' best interests in mind. That is because lacewing larvae are predators on insects, including their brothers and sisters. So placing eggs on a stalk keeps them from being eaten by a brother or sister before they hatch. Your mother is just trying to give her kids a fighting chance when it comes to the ultimate in sibling rivalry! Signed: Miss Ladybug.

Dear Miss Ladybug: I'm a male firefly who was cruising around the other night blinking my light and looking for love. Suddenly a female firefly was repeating my flashing pattern - I blink three times - from the leaf of a plant. I landed and was brutally attached by that woman. I managed to escape but now I am afraid to go seeking my true love. What should I do? Signed: Call Me Lucky.

Dear Lucky: Lucky indeed. You were the victim of the so-called "femme fatale" of the firefly world. Female fireflies of this predatory species mimic the flashing pattern of males of other species, and when the male lands he becomes a meal, not a mate! Just remember that all is fair in love and war. Signed: Miss Ladybug.

Note to Danny Dung Beetle: Don't complain about the taste of your food. Just be thankful you have something to eat, and please don't talk with your mouth full!


Writer: Tom Turpin
Editor: Olivia Maddox