In a little shout out to the Bronx Zoo I wanted to draw your attention to some lovely gift ideas for those with hearts more inclined towards unique. No one want flowers anymore. Get your special someone a roach.
Do you like bugs? Of course you do. You’re awesome like that.
Do you like learning about the inevitability of death and possible critters that will eat your remains? Me too!
If you’re a fan of these things and more, check out my new biweekly podcast The Bugs, Blood, and Bones Podcast. Currently through podbean, iTunes, and Google Play.
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Well hello there. It has been QUITE a long time since I’ve graced these bloggy filled pages. For the record (in case you can’t read the little auto-date stamp thing) it is the evening of Tuesday, the 24th of January, 2017. It’s been quite a day for science. If you’re reading this in our Hunger Games-like future world, then this may seem quaint by comparison, but we science-types were rather taken aback by a series of announcements by the new president. Right now, there are scientists all across this country, terrified that they are going to lose funding for their research, they will have to lay off staff, and that their research will be silenced. That’s right. Taxpayer funded research will be kept from taxpayers.
Earlier in the day I saw a report that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) had received a gag order on all research, similar to the one the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Parks Service (NPS) had been given. That now doesn’t seem to be the case as far as the USDA is concerned. But this news is still troubling. It may very well come to fruition. Agriculture is an essential component of our society and is the primary revenue source in many states, including my own. As an entomologist, I know the absolute necessity of further investigations into arthropods. Whether it’s Zika, Lyme, Malaria, stored product pests, or the famous Monarch butterfly, this research is essential for the survival of our species. And our planet.
This post may not be very cohesive, as I am quite frustrated at the moment and a bit out of practice. I had hoped to be wrong about the next four years. I seriously did. I still want to be wrong. I want to see our economy improve. I want to see our planet safe and still able to support human life in fifty years. These things will not happen if science is denied and scientists silenced.
In response to these (and other) developments, a number of scientists on Reddit came up with an idea. That idea became a plan. And soon, that plan will become action. When Scientists March on Washington we will make our voices heard. Join the cause. Science is for everyone. Science is the future. Wiping off every mention of climate change will not make the reality of it go away.
Can’t make it? Want to do more? GREAT!!! Call your local representatives in your state legislatures. Then call the ones in DC. Be polite. Tell them your position. Do not be upset if you talk to a staffer. They WILL deliver your message. Make your voice heard. Use those first amendment rights.
Be loud. Be strong. And be heard.
**Here’s a cat…because the internet demands it.**
Yesterday I posted about my first close encounter (har har) with invertebrates on The X-Files. Ice (S1 E8) is a great episode that should be on everyone’s list of must see episodes. But season one isn’t done with us just yet. There is still some buggy goodness to be found in the spooky stories to be told. In fact, there are two episodes for me to elaborate upon…well, three but that last one doesn’t count…sort of.
The X-Files: Season 1: Episode 18: Miracle Man
Basic Premise: People died! Mulder & Scully to investigate! This time it’s a faith healing teen and his preacher dad in the middle of it. Was someone murdered? Who did it? Where’s the healer kid? WTF is going on!?!
This episode doesn’t really focus on bugs really, but they do play a small part. While in court, the room is swarmed with grasshoppers. There is a shot of the judge being swarmed by grasshoppers as well as a nice pile of crickets on his desk. Cut to the courtroom and its filled with some real and many CGI swarming grasshoppers. This is meant to serve as a representation of one of the 10 plagues of Egypt from the Old Testament. In fact the next scene is Mulder reading the passage to Scully. Surprise! She was raised Catholic and knows all about locusts and plagues. But did-ya-know that the grasshoppers that were swarming were the only ‘locusts’ in that courtroom? Crickets are not locusts. And for you Mid-Westerners out there, Cicadas are not locusts either.
The Science of the Episode: The insects themselves don’t play any real part in the underlying plot but they are instrumental in moving it along and ultimately solving the crime. The ultimate logic (again, avoiding too many spoilers) is the insects were lured into the courtroom for nefarious purposes. Not, as divine retribution as is initially believed. The items used to lure the critters in I doubt would do the trick, but the premise is solid. Given the right conditions they could have been coaxed in there. Good job writers!
This was another great episode as it begins to build some in depth back story for Mulder (beyond basic exposition) and is more Law & Order-like, than Unsolved Mysteries. It actually feels more like an episode of Scooby Doo for grown ups with some elements of supernatural woo. But not too much. The elements of woo are minimal and can be explained logically within the framework of the episode. I love that about the first few seasons of the show. Overall, a good episode, not the greatest but I do enjoy it. It’s in my top 10 for the season.
The next episode to feature creepy crawlies has been one of my favorites of the whole series. I want to give it its own post so I’ll hold off on that until tomorrow. So I’m going to skip and make a brief mention about the fourth arthropod-related reference in season one.
Season 1 Episode 21: Tooms
I won’t go into the plot because it has nothing to do with bugs. Not one bit. It does have to do with a creepy Captain Fantastic-like man who eats human liver. No word on the inclusion of fava beans and a nice Chianti though.
So, where does the bug reference come into play? A nicely built up scene where Mulder sleeps on his couch while Tooms is slowly sneaking into his apartment. Why was Mulder on the couch? As far as we know he doesn’t acquire an actual bed until many seasons into the show…but I digress. This great scene, were we anxiously await to see if Mulder will wake up in time to thwart Tooms is juxtaposed by a scene from a classic science fiction film playing on the TV. That’s right. It’s the original The Fly.
That’s it. See you next season.
I’m a huge X-Files fan. Seriously. I devoured this show in all its cooky glory back in the day. I’ve long been planning a Netflix binge of the series but have been putting it off in order to be a productive adult. That’s all over! With news that the series will be brought back for a short stint I decided it’s time to revisit the entire show. And, whaddya know? There’s buggy stuff in it! I’ll post updates as I progress through the series because I KNOW you want to know all about those bugs. This has actually been pretty fun. For the most part, the show holds up. Although, I will admit I cringe now at some of the “science” but that is not restricted to this show by any means. And, for the most part, the cringe-worthy elements are less painful than on other shows (Bones, I’m looking at you).
I just finished season one and here is a summary of what I noticed. I may have missed some things because it didn’t occur to me that I should actually be documenting everything I saw…I know, I know. Bad scientist…
The X-Files: Season 1 – Episode 8: Ice
Basic Premise: People died! It was a multiple person, murder-suicide at a research station in Alaska! Holy crap! Whaddyagonnado? Send in Mulder & Scully of course! The episode itself was meant to be a “bottle episode” meaning a cheap, easy to film, self contained episode. You need to remember that this show wasn’t considered a guarantee for FOX. It was running alongside another experimental show (a personal favorite: The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.) and it wasn’t doing so well. The fact that this show got off the ground and succeeded was not expected. Every penny spent went up on screen. There wasn’t anything wasted in that first season.
Back to the episode…A small investigative team is sent to Alaska to uncover the truth of this event. While up there, they get attacked by a rabid dog, are exposed to weird ancient ice, and people get all pissy for the plot. And it works! As I rewatched this I found myself really glued to the screen. It was the first time I felt completely sucked in. The acting is great, the set, being cramped and restricted adds to the sense of anxiety and claustrophobia that the characters must be experiencing. As a 20-year old episode, it holds up quite well. Without giving away too many spoilers (because if you haven’t seen the show yet you need to go do that…right now. Go ahead, I’ll wait) there is a parasitic organism that has been transmitted to people/dog and is causing them to act strangely. “We are not ourselves” we are told early on. And that’s the point. Mind controlling parasites! This is classic science fiction and a well done piece of television history.
No, the microorganism in the episode isn’t an insect, nor is it an arthropod. But it’s an invertebrate, so I’m counting it.
The Science of the Episode: For the most part it works. Some cringe-y elements but not distractingly so. There are examples of parasitic organisms influencing behavior in similar ways. One example are parasitic flukes (Leucochloridium paradoxum) ingested by snails. Once the fluke enters the snail it alters the snails behavior, causing it to scoot to easily visible locations where its normally benign eyestalks begin to fluctuate. This movement of the eyestalks makes the snail easily visible to birds. The birds come along and eat the eyestalks and possibly the whole snail. (Zombie Snails on YouTube)
To be honest, Ice is one of my favorite episodes so far. As the season progressed I came upon another buggy-related episode that I remembered being a favorite, and it still is. I put this episode in my Top 5 for season one. Mulder also gets some great one liner’s in this episode.