Illumination - Fall 2011

Transcripts for Beauty and the Bug videos

Atlas Moth

This is the Atlas Moth, it's thought to be the largest moth in the world, although there are some that are similarly large. It is uncertain what it is named after. There are some hypothesis that it is named after, perhaps, the titan of Greek mythology, Atlas, or perhaps because of the map-like wing patterns. In Hong Kong, they have a different name for it; they call it the Snake's Head Moth. So if you look at the tops of the forewings you'll see the head of a snake. This wards off predators. In India, this species is cultivated for its silk, although the silk is kind of a brownish color, is wool-like but has a greater durability than the commercially-produced silk from the commercial silk worm.

Cecropia Moth

This is the Cecropia Moth, this is the largest moth we have in North America. It lives in the eastern United States and occurs as far west as the Rocky Mountains. It used to occur in much greater numbers and higher densities than we have today. The probable cause for the decline of this insect is that, years ago, a parasitic fly was brought into the United States and released deliberately to try and control Gypsy Moths. What they didn't realize was that this parasitic fly is not specialized on Gypsy Moths, but attacks a wide variety of moths including the Cecropia Moth. So, unfortunately, the Cecropia Moth numbers are declining because the parasitic fly is now here in the United States.

Cicada Killer

This is the Cicada Killer. It is a huge, solitary wasp common in eastern North America. These insects hunt for cicadas; actually, the females do the hunting. The way this works is very diabolical. The female digs out a burrow in the soil, about 10 to 12 inches deep. She'll fly out and hunt for a cicada, find it, then she stings it, but that only paralyzes it. She'll grab it and then, even though the cicada is double her weight, she'll fly back to her burrow carrying this huge cicada under her, land next to her burrow, take the live, paralyzed cicada, stuff it down into the burrow, and lay an egg on it. Then she seals it up with dirt and flies out to find another one. And she'll have this sequence of live, paralyzed cicadas in her burrow. The egg will hatch after two days. The larva of the Cicada Killer feeds on that live, paralyzed cicada, and after several weeks it will pupate.

Death's Head Moth

This is the Death's Head Moth. These insects live in Europe and Asia. They're known for their faint human-skull-shaped marking on their thorax, which you can see here. When these insects are bothered or disturbed, they emit a loud squeak. And, in fact, they use their squeak to their advantage because this insect, the adult moths, will enter beehives to steal honey. Well, you can imagine that most bees will try to attack it and remove it from the hive. However, the Death's Head Moth has a scent that mimics the bees' scent, and they also produce sound which mimics queen piping, which is a sound the queen makes to keep the colony calm and docile. So, the Death's Head Moth can then enter the bee colony, avoid being killed by the worker bees and steal the honey.

Rhinoceros or Elephant Beetle

This is Megasoma. Commonly called the Rhinoceros Beetle or the Elephant Beetle, it's very common in the neotropics, in southern North America and throughout much of South America and, in fact, its one of the largest beetles on the planet. The females have no horns, but the males all have large horns that they use when they combat each other for rights to be able to mate with the female. Males will battle each other, try to flip the other male over, to win those mating rights. The larger specimens can get up to five inches in length.

Periodical Cicada

This is Magicicada. It's a genus of cicadas unique to eastern North America. These are the 13- and 17-year periodical cicadas. Sometimes people call them locusts, but that's actually a misnomer because locusts are migratory grasshoppers. These insects spend most of their time underground as nymphs, feeding on tree roots, and they emerge synchronously. They are famous for these large, mass emergences in the summers. When they emerge, the males will aggregate in certain trees in what are referred to as "chorus centers" producing very loud calls that reach up to 100 decibels in volume. These cicadas have life cycles of 13 and 17 years. These are prime numbers, and by cycling at large prime numbers, cicadas minimize the number of coincidences with predators of shorter life cycles.

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