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Individual differences |
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Cultural Entomology (CE) is an interdisciplinary academic discipline forming a consilience between the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities, and the emerging third branch of insect studies. Its purpose is to explore the parallels, connections and influence of insects and other arthropods on human populations, and vice versa. CE is as much an examination of human culture as it is about the scientific study of insects.
CE is rooted in anthropology and natural history, with over sixty fields of endeavor that fall under the field of study (as originally defined by the first issue of Cultural Entomology Digest in June, 1993). Because of the vast scope of CE, this entry is designed to cite a minimum of two examples under each category.
The field invites both a full empirical investigation of the microcosm, and the subjective expression of an individual's unique sentient experience. Empirical evidence (the record of one's direct observations or experiences) can be analyzed quantitatively or qualitatively. It not only promotes the content of knowledge regarding insects and their coexistence with human society, it also reveals the context of how human beings express the relationship.
The unique attribute of Cultural Entomology—as an interdisciplinary study rather than a "hard" science—is that it offers a platform for a subjective, interpretive portrayal of the microcosm of insects, spiders and other arthropods. The expression has a rich history of in fine art, literature, entertainment, and philosophy, and is unmatched by any other group of animals on the planet.
CE explores the quantitative, experimental science of Entomology as well as the qualitative analysis of the Arts and Humanities. It is an essential reflection of how people view insects and other invertebrates. Cultural entomology studies the reasons, beliefs, and symbolism behind the inclusion of insects within all facets of the humanities. Insects have and do play an important role in the arts, philosophy, psychology, and religions of almost every culture; therefore, a holistic study of this diverse wealth of references provides much insight into our current attitudes towards insects and nature in general.
CE allows for the elucidation of abstract, diverse or otherwise inaccessible scientific concepts and makes them digestible for scientist and non-scientists alike. As a fusion discipline, CE is an effective tool for education and public outreach, displaying principles of the natural sciences in creative formats. A central purpose of CE is to provide a platform to explore the diametric that humans hold towards insects: fear/love, revulsion/affinity, interdependence/competition, misinformation/appreciation, animosity/admiration, etc.
For the sciences, insects have a tremendous impact on human health, economics, social and behavioral studies. Since funding for research projects can be greatly influenced by public opinions, Cultural Entomology can be an important component of effective research development. As such, a broader education of the full importance of insects will positively affect economic and environmental policies in the modern era.
- Aesthetic: Primary interest in the physical attractiveness and symbolic appeal of invertebrates
- Humanistic: Primary orientation one of strong emotional affection for invertebrate animals
- Moralistic: Primary concern for the right and wrong treatment of invertebrates, with strong ethical opposition to presumed cruelty towards invertebrate animals.
- Naturalistic: Primary interest in direct outdoor recreational contact and enjoyment of invertebrates.
- Dominionistic: Primary interest in the mastery and control of invertebrates.
- Ecologisitc: Primary concern for interrelationships among invertebrates and other species, as well as between invertebrates and natural habitats.
- Negativistic: Primary orientation a fear, dislike or indifference towards invertebrates.
- Utilitarian: Primary interest in the practical value of invertebrates or the subordination of invertebrates for the material benefit of humans
- Scientific: Primary interest in the physical attributes, taxonomic classification and biological functioning of invertebrates.
In addition to this analysis, there are other studies that attempt to place the relationship between humans and insects into context. The direct and indirect contribution of insects to ecosystem services is immense. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) report 2005 defines ecosystem services as benefits people obtain from ecosystems and distinguishes four categories of ecosystem services: * Provisioning services
- Regulating services
- Supporting services
- Cultural services: cultural, intellectual and spiritual inspiration, recreational experiences (including ecotourism), and scientific discovery
In each category, species of insects and other arthropods are a pivotal component, a relationship which can be elucidated through the principles of CE.
A fundamental tenet of CE is that a few insect species are well understood for their influence on humans (honeybees, ants, mosquitoes, spiders, to list a few). However, the vast majority of insects offer incalculable benefits of Ecological goods and services (EG&S). Research by the Xerces Society- one of the foremost invertebrate conservation group in the world - calculates the economic impact of four ecological services rendered by insects: pollination, recreation (i.e. “the importance of bugs to hunting, fishing, and wildlife observation, including bird-watching”), dung burial, and pest control (insects play a huge role in controlling crop-pests). The value has been estimated in the United States at $57 billion. A broader perspective of the full gamut of arthropod species and their reciprocal influence on the human society can be offered through the humanities.
In addition to providing services, insects in many instances define the system. As EO Wilson, the world's foremost myrmecologist (ant expert), observed: “If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”
A Nova (TV Series)segment on the American Public Broadcasting Service framed the relationship with insects in an urban context: "We humans like to think that we run the world. But even in the heart of our great cities, a rival superpower thrives . . . These tiny creatures live all around us in vast numbers, though we hardly even notice them. But in many ways, it is they who really run the show.
In another illustration of the connection between CE and public perception, The Washington Post stated: "We are flying blind in many aspects of preserving the environment, and that's why we are so surprised when a species like the honeybee starts to crash, or an insect we don't want, the Asian tiger mosquito or the fire ant, appears in our midst. In other words: Start thinking about the bugs."
Human attitudes toward insects (and related arthropods) are greatly negative. The mass media continually reinforces negative and sensationalized beliefs of insects. This cultural indoctrination has produced a society that seems to be increasingly consumed by efforts to eliminate insects from all facets of daily life. Nearly 75 million pounds of broad-spectrum insecticides are manufactured and sold each year for use in American homes and gardens. Annual revenues from insecticide sales to homeowners exceed $450 million. Out of the 800,000 - 1,000,000 species of insects that have been described so far, not more than 1,000 (about 1/10 of 1%) can be regarded as serious pests, and less than 10,000 (about 1%) are even occasional or sporadic pests. Yet with such overwhleming statistics, not one species has been permanently eradicated through the use of pesticides. In fact, estimates are that at least 1,000 species have developed field resistance to pesticides.
With such a massive – yet poorly understood – significance, the study of insects through Cultural Entomology serves the role of disseminating factual and inspirational information about our modern co-existence with insects and other arthropods.
The core concepts of Cultural Entomology extend back as far back into the origins of human civilization. One of the earliest cave paintings showing humans interacting with insects is in Cuevas de la Araña en Bicorp in Valencia, Spain, which dates back approximately 10,000 years. Questionably titled "Bicor Man," the rock art clearly depicts a human figure ascending vines to harvest honey with bees flying around. Since that then insects have appeared extensively in the annals of human arts, providing a historic basis for Cultural Entomology.
The field was acknowledged as a bona fide branch of insect studies in 1984. Dr. Charles Hogue, world renowned naturalist, scholar and pioneering curator of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County presented the first colloquium on Cultural Entomology at the 17th International Congress of Entomology in Hamburg, Germany.
In the 1990s, CE garnered international attention via The Cultural Entomology Digest, a publication and e-zine distributed "to anyone interested in the multitudes of insect references within human culture." From 1994-1997, the publication served as a discussion forum and reference source for academic, environmental, and anthropological special interest groups as well as the general public. After Dr Hogue's death, the Digest lost momentum and the field went into a period of diapause.
Media hype regarding events such as the honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder crisis of 2006-2008 and the invasive Africanized bee entering the United States rekindled a wider public inquiry into the insect world. The evolution of the Internet also made worldwide interest in insects and the reporting of research more timely and compelling.
Since insects impact many aspects of human existence, the scope of the field is continually expanding. As Dr. Hogue explained in his definitive work “Cultural Entomology,” (published in the 1987 Annual Review of Entomology:
"Humans spend their intellectual energies in three basic areas of activity: surviving, using practical learning (the application of technology); seeking pure knowledge through inductive mental processes (science); and pursuing enlightenment to taste a pleasure by aesthetic exercises that may be referred to as the “humanities.” Entomology has long been concerned with survival (economic or applied entomology) and scientific study (academic entomology), but the branch of investigation that addresses the influence of insects (and other terrestrial Arthropoda, including arachnids, myriapods, etc.) in literature, language, music, the arts, interpretive history, religion, and recreation has only recently been recognized as a distinct field. This is referred to as “cultural entomology”.
The original definition offered by Dr. Hogue limited which aspects of insect studies are included and which are not. For example, he explained:
“The narrative history of the science of entomology is not part of cultural entomology, while the influence of insects on general history would be considered cultural entomology.”
He also wrote: "Because the term “cultural” is narrowly defined, some aspects normally included in studies of human societies are excluded."
In the following decades, the definition has expanded to a much broader platform. A more contemporary denotation of the field is offered in this entry, utilizing a more expansive definition “culture”: the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.
CE is considered an emerging, albeit little known, academic discipline. The ability to perform controlled experiments is usually an indication of hard science. By that definition CE is not a hard science. The activities associated with CE are long established, even though the name is not yet universal.
While there are dozens of American universities and colleges that teach aspects of CE, there are no colleges or universities that currently offer undergraduate or advanced degrees in Cultural Entomology. However, because no formal criteria exists for when educational programs and scholarly journals form an academic discipline, the full parameters of CE remain to be determined.
CE is used as an instructional tool in introductory entomology classes in universities across the United States. (citation needed). For instance, the humorous cartoons of the The Far Side created by Gary Larson were used in an entomology course at Oregon State University. The class was voted “best course” in the nation by Playboy Magazine. Also, the Art Science Fusion program at the University of California-Davis is co-taught by the associate dean of Entomology, Prof. Diane Ullman. Some of the topics taught in the Entomology 101 course include “Insect Societies: How Did They Arise And How Have They Changed Human Culture?”, “Insects in Religion, Culture and Films” and “Art, Science and the World of Insects”. All incorporate innovative principles in Cultural Entomology.
Due to the rapid emergence of digital technology over the past 20 years, modern human culture has the opportunity to understand the microcosm at an intimacy and a level of detail that no other society has ever had. This has broadened the scope of CE, making the virtually limitless amount of information and discoveries about insects universally accessible. It allows the information to be disseminated almost instantly across the Internet. Modern society can slow down, expand, dissect and dramatize the world of "little creatures" in unprecedented fashion.
Some of the fundamental precepts of CE are:
- Given the generally accepted theory that human societies transitioned from hunter-gatherer tribes to agrarian societies, it is conceivable that people in early human societies, were insect scientists before they were anything else, except for perhaps botanists. The understanding of the intimate relationships between insects and food crops would have been an essential skill set for humans to develop. The significance continues in the modern world.
- Insects are crucially important for functioning of all terrestrial and many aquatic ecosystems on the planet, and to the success of human societies. Because of this profound and comprehensive relationship, insects are inculcated into many forms of cultural expression and creative endeavor.
- Insects serve as metaphors or symbols for many human emotional state and metaphysical pursuits.
- Because of the competition for food and dwindling natural resources, humans and insects will continue to come into more contact, with fewer natural buffers than at any time in modern history. This necessitates more advanced, non-toxic means of coexisting with them.
- While a few species are well-understood for their influence on humans (honeybees, ants mosquitoes, spiders to list a few) the vast majority of insects offer incalculable benefits of ecological goods & services.
For the purposes of this entry, the main categories of human endeavor that fall under the field CE are listed alphabetically. They are based on the original categories defined in the first issue of Cultural Entomology Digest, with additional categories addd.
Architecture (3D) Edit
Termite-Inspired Office ComplexEdit
The Eastgate Centre Building in Harare, Zimbabwe is an excellent example of insect biomimicry in architecture. The building was created on the concept of “passive cooling,” which stores heat in the morning and releases it in the warm parts of the day.
The species Macrotermes michaelseni (subfamily Macrotermitinae) control a significant portion of the flows of carbon and water through arid savanna ecosystems via their mounds, which can extend 3–4 meters above ground. These structures are not where termites live, but are rather aid in gas exchange, serving as a “lung” for the subterranean colony, located about a meter or two below the mound. Functionally, these mounds are devices for capturing wind energy to power active ventilation of the nest. They are adaptive structures, continually molded by the termites to maintain the nest atmosphere.
This system is so efficient that the Eastgate complex does not need to use air conditioning, as a result it has avoided $3.5 million in air conditioning equipment and uses only 35% of the energy required for temperature regulation as a conventional building of similar size, with similar exterior temperatures. Rents are 20% lower than in surrounding buildings.
Namib Desert Beetles Inspire Water Catchment Edit
Inspired by the Namib desert beetle}, a company working with the British Ministry of Defense created a film coating that optimizes water catchment. The unique design of the Buprestidae beetle’s exoskeleton (genus Sternocera) channels water from temporary fog in the desert environment. The beetles’ wings have bumps that have water-loving tips and water-shedding sides, allowing the beetle to invert in body and drink water droplets that are channeled down its body.
The structure might also aid in capturing water in cooling towers and industrial condensers, arid agricultural systems, and buildings in fog-rich areas. The designers believe Sternocera's bumpy armor offers a good model for designing inexpensive tent coverings and roof tiles that could collect water for drinking and agriculture in arid regions.
Honeycomb-Inspired Apartments in SloveniaEdit
The Honeycomb Apartments, in Izola, Slovenia, won the first prize in a competition for designing two social housing blocks with ecological design. Created by Ofis Architects, the brief was to construct buildings of a very low budget for young families and couples. The design won due to its handling of the economic, rational and functional issues, its ratio between gross vs. saleable surface area and the flexibility of its plans.
The balcony modules were created with alternating hexagonal cross-sections, designed as an efficient system that provides shading and ventilation for the apartments. The 3-sided shape emulates the core structure of honeycomb. The hexagonal grid of wax cells on either side of the honeybee nest are slightly offset from each other. The hexagon is considered one of the most efficient designs in nature, holding the highest volume of liquid in the strongest structure with the least amount of wax needed.
Both the symbolic form and the actual body of insects have been used to adorn humans in ancient and modern times.
Deities Represented through Ornaments Edit
A recurrent theme for ancient cultures in Europe and the Near East regarded the sacred image of a bee or human with insect features. Often referred to as the bee "goddess", these images were found in gems and stones. An onyx gem from Knossos (ancient Crete) dating to approximately 1500 BC illustrates a Bee goddess with bull horns above her head. In this instance, the figure is surrounded by dogs with wings, most likely representing Hecate and Artemis - gods of the underworld, similar to the Egyptian gods Akeu and Anubis.
Beetlewing Jewelry Edit
Beetlewing, or beetlewing art, is an ancient craft technique using iridescent beetle wings practiced traditionally in Thailand, Myanmar, India, China and Japan. Beetlewing pieces are used as an adornment to paintings, textiles and jewelry. Different species of metallic wood-boring beetle wings were used depending on the region, but traditionally the most valued were those from beetles belonging to genus Sternocera. The practice comes from across Asia and Southeast Asia, especially Thailand, Myanamar, Japan, India and China. In Thailand beetlewings were preferred to decorate clothing (shawls and Sabai cloth) and jewelry in former court circles.
Living Bug Jewelry Edit
Written in 1945 by renowned Canadian entomologist C.H. Curran, Insects of the Pacific World noted women from India and Sri Lanka, who kept 1 1/2 inch long, iridescent greenish coppery beetles of the species Chrysochroa ocellata as pets. These living jewels were worn on festive occasions, probably with a small chain attached to one leg anchored to the clothing to prevent escape. Afterwards, the insects were bathed, fed, and housed in decorative cages. Living jeweled beetles have also been worn and kept as pets in Mexico.
In a similar contemporary instance, in 2010, customs agents arrested a woman wearing a broche made from precious stones glued to the body of a live Click beetle. Agents cited her as violating laws prohibiting the cross border transport of insects from Mexico to the United States. 
The Bee-a-Thon was an online webstreaming "marathon" created to promote awareness and activity surrounding the decline honeybee and native pollinators across the United States. Originally aired in July, 2011 and re-broadcast in November, the Bee-A-Thon featured over 30 experts and enthusiasts from over 4 different continents., including bee experts, scientists, entertainers, filmmakers and was viewed by people in over 3 dozen countries. The 12-hour event supported the Great Sunflower Project, a national bee census begun at San Francisco State University, promoted as "The world’s largest citizen science project focused on pollinator conservation." The Bee-A-Thon was presented via the Citizen Science platform on YourGardenShow.com. It was hosted by Emmet Brady, creator of the Insect News Network, a radio show dedicated exploring the full scope of Cultural Entomology.
The Xerces SocietyEdit
The Xerces Society is an environmental organization that focuses on invertebrates which are essential to biological diversity. The name is in honor of the extinct California butterfly, Xerces Blue. Xerces is the premier international non-profit organization that advocates for invertebrates and their habitats by working with scientists, land managers, educators, and citizens on conservation and education projects. Core programs focus on endangered species, native pollinators, and watershed health.
The beauty and morphology of many insects species have invigorated the aesthetic sense of humans in many works of literature, film and art.
Butterflies have long inspired humans with their life cycle, color, and ornate patternization. Vladimir Nabokov, considered one of the great writers of modern fiction was also a renowned butterfly expert. In addition to his notoriety as an author, he published and illustrated many dozens of butterfly species to world wide acclaim. He stated about his investigation of lepidoptery:
"I discovered in nature the nonutilitarian delights that I sought in art. Both were a form of magic, both were games of intricate enchantment and deception.”
It was the aesthetic complexity of insects that compelled Nabokov to express rejections of natural selection. He believed the theory does not fully account for the observed intricacy and sophistication of the natural world. Nabokov argued that the Darwinian model of evolutionary selection is reductive, the posited mechanism being too rudimentary to have produced all of nature’s “fantastic twists and tints”.
In a similar vein naturalist Ian MacRae writes abut the complex and contradictory aesthetics of butterflies:
". . . the animal is at once awkward, flimsy, strange, bouncy in flight, yet beautiful and immensely sympathetic; it is painfully transient, albeitcapable of extreme migrations and transformations. Images and phrases such as “kaleidoscopic instabilities,” “oxymoron of similarities,” “rebellious rainbows,” “visible darkness” and “souls of stone” have much in common.They bring together the two terms of a conceptual contradiction, thereby facilitating the mixing of what should be discrete and mutually exclusive categories . . . In positing such questions, butterfly science, an inexhaustible, complex, and finely nuanced field, becomes not unlike the human imagination, or the field of literature itself. In the natural history of the animal, we begin to sense its literary and artistic possibilities."
The allegory is a literary device which carries an extended metaphor throughout the work. Insect allegory is a common theme, often one of negative effect.
Lord of the FliesEdit
One of the best known American novels is Lord of the Flies, written by Nobel Prize-winning English author William Golding, which depicts a dystopian scenario of human society, and tackles sociopolitical concepts such as self-governance and the notion of "common good." The allegory is drawn to the group of young men who arrive on the desert island in harmony, and wind up in homicidal disarray. In the story, “The Lord of the Flies” was a crucified head of a pig sow, representing though at one time clean, loving, and innocent, had become a manically smiling, bleeding image of horror.
The 1963 film version of the book also suggested the consequences of nuclear war on society.
As a point of interest, the title "Lord of the Flies" relates to the ancient Biblical reference to a Philistine god named Beelzebub. The demonization of the god arose from a philosophical difference between the neighboring communities: a Hebrew king Ahaziah sought medical attention in the town of Ekron. When Elijah the Prophet learned that Ahaziah asked for help from the god of Ekron instead of Yaweh, he condemned the king, the town and its demigod - Ba'al Ze bub. The name Beelzebub is often a nickname for Satan.
Ladybugs and Nuclear WarEdit
Another example of negative insect allegory is the 1963 film Ladybug Ladybug, an Academy Award nominated film which explores the hysteria surrounding nuclear war. The film plays on the classic children's poem of the same name.
The Politics of Starship TroopersEdit
A Bug is an antagonist species in Robert Heinlein's book Starship Troopers, which won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1960. The novel is reflective of contemporary Cultural Entomology, showing the contradictory attitudes towards arthropods, ranging from derogatory to appreciative of their evolutionary success. The Bugs are an extraterrestrial race sometimes also referred to as the Arachnids, although this is a misnomer, as the aliens are not related to Earth arachnids. The Bugs in the film differ considerably from those in the novel, which calls the Bugs "Pseudo-Arachnids."
The novel has attracted controversy and criticism for its social and political themes including allegations of advocating fascism or militarism. It has been suggested that the strongly hierarchical and anti-individualistic "Bugs" were meant to represent the Chinese or Japanese, but Heinlein claimed to have written the book in response to "calls for the unilateral ending of nuclear testing by the United States." In the 1986 film adaptation, the aliens are portrayed as generally mindless insectoid beings, ruled and organized by an extremely intelligent overmind. The Bugs are found to have millions of years of evolution behind them and are, in the case of survival capability, the perfect species. They have the ability to colonize planets "by hurling their spore into space" and possess a social structure which fits their mental capabilities.
Poe's Gold BugEdit
A more positive insect allegory is The Gold-Bug" written by Edgar Allan Poe in 1843. The main character is bitten by a gold beetle and begins a manic search for hidden treasure. The beetle serves as a portend of good fortune, and - despite a brief period of seeming hysterical - the narrator of the story finds "Captain Kidd's buried treasure."
Poe drew his inspiration from a combination of real beetles. The Callichroma splendidum, though not technically a scarab but a species of longhorn beetle Cerambycidae, has a gold head and slightly gold-tinted body. The black spots noted on the back of the fictional bug can be found on the Alaus oculatus, a click beetle also native to Sullivan's Island, which was the setting of Poe's tale.
As a side note, the Ender’s Game series written by science fiction novelist Orson Scott Card also features a story called "The Gold Bug". The story describes the character Sel Menach, a fighter pilot in the Formic war, xenobiologist, and eventually the governor of one of the former Formics worlds. He discovers some caves with large golden bugs, which he believes to be a cross between the Formics and a parasite native to the planet. The story sets the stage for the transfer of power from Sel to Ender, the eventual exterminator of the Formics. (citation needed).
As explained in the 4th issue of Cultural Entomology Digest:
"Exemplified in the Egyptian and Mayan culture, man has incorporated many insects as characters of alphabets throughout history."
Alphabets in Butterfly WingsEdit
Photographer Kjell Sanded documented all characters of the current Latin-derived alphabet within the beautiful and varied wing pattern designs of butterflies and moths. Over the course of 25 years, Sandved documented “The Butterfly Alphabet," which serves as a coincidental example of cultural entomology, bringing attention to the extraordinary evolution of butterfly wings.
During the 20th Century and into the new millennium, many misconceptions of insects – both positive and negative – have been dispelled.
Von Frisch: Color Vision and Language in InsectsEdit
The work of Karl von Frisch, for instance, is incomparable for shedding light on what are now accepted scientific truths regarding insect’s stimulus perception and communication.
Much to the skepticism of his contemporaries, Von Frisch was the first scientist to demonstrate that invertebrates could see colors. Until the 1930s, colored sight was thought to be the domain of vertebrates.
Von Frisch later proved that honeybees communicated through a definite dance language. Again, this discovery resonated through the natural sciences and anthropology: it made for a compelling re-evaluation of the concept of language, thought to be only the realm of humans and a select group of mammals. The discovery was such a revelation that in 1973 Karl von Frisch received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine (together with Konrad Lorenz and Nikolaas Tinbergen) for his achievements in comparative behavioral physiology and pioneering work in communication between insects. In his honor, the Karl Ritter von Frisch Medal of the German Zoological Society (Deutschen Zoologischen Gesellschaft, DZG), is awarded every two years to scientists whose work is distinguished by extraordinary zoological achievements which represent an integration of insights from several different biological disciplines. It is Germany’s most important science prize in zoology and includes prize money of 10,000 euros. (citation needed)
Ever since the discovery the topic has been a source of controversy: it directly impacts the notion of the intellectual superiority of humans. Anthropologist Hugh Raffles writes of the discovery:
"To give them language was to simultaneously celebrate their difference and to doom them to impossibility, to condemn them to the merely imitative . . . What foolishness to judge insects - so ancient, so diverse, so accomplished, so successful, so beautiful, so astonishing, so mysterious, so unknown - by criteria they can never meet and about which they could not care. What silliness to disregard their accomplishments and focus instead on their supposed deficiencies!"
Cockroaches and DiseaseEdit
There is a common misconception that cockroaches are serious vectors of diseases. Cockroaches are not vagile, i.e. they do not travel far from their birthplace as opposed to the housefly which may travel miles from its birthplace. The cockroach will spread its GI tract contents throughout a building. If that is a home it will be helping to spread the diseases that the family and friends bring into the home. In a hospital or a restaurant it can spread diseases from sick to well individuals. They have no bite or sting. It is true that by external contact that cockroaches can carry bacteria such as salmonella onto surfaces. Their shells do contain a protein arylphorin that has been implicated in asthma and other respiratory conditions. But most research suggests human aversion to cockroaches is aesthetic rather than biological. (citation needed)
The Urban Myth of Daddy Longlegs BitesEdit
Many people believe the urban myth that the daddy longlegs Opiliones have the most poisonous bite in the spider world, but that the fangs are too small to penetrate human skin. This is untrue on several counts. None of the known species of harvestmen have venom glands; their chelicerae are not hollowed fangs but grasping claws that are typically very small and definitely not strong enough to break human skin. This myth is so pervasive that it was debunked by popular television show Bill Nye The Science Guy. However, Mythbusters Episode #13 (2004) stated that in fact the daddy long legs can bite, which elicits a slight tingling sensation. This is attributed to the fact the team procured cellar spiders for the experiment (which build webs and are capable of gentle bites)rather than the harvestmen spider. Even still, the hosts stated clearly that the daddy long legs posed no significant threat to people.
The Far SideEdit
Among the most popular and informative cartoon series in history was “The Far Side” created by Gary Larson. Larson created over 4300 cartoons and was honored with the Newspaper Panel Cartoon Award in 1985. A large majority of his work focuses on insects and spiders. His cartoons were so effective is engaging the general public that a course at Oregon State University was taught using his illustrations to keep students’ interest. The class was voted “best course” in the nation by Playboy magazine. OregonLive.com said he once gave two students a Larson cartoon in which two insects looked across the street and saw their firefly neighbors mooning them. They came back with a PowerPoint presentation explaining fireflies and bioluminescence, which is how they produce and make light.
Part of the appeal of Larson's work is that he "ascribes to animals, plants and Divinities human attributes (anthropomorphism) in a deliberate and ironic fashion to point out the human tendency and (usually) error (anti-) in placing ourselves as the centre of cosmic significance (anthropocentrism), to regard everything else on our own terms. In so doing, he weaves paradox with his humor to disarm the audience and toy with our thinking."
Larson even had a species of insects named after him: Strigiphilus garylarsoni, a louse parasite of owls. Discovered by Dale H. Clayton 1989, he named the species after Larson for "the enormous contribution that my colleagues and I feel you have made to biology through your cartoons." In his book The Prehistory of the Far Side, Larson stated, "I considered this an extreme honor. Besides, I knew no one was going to write and ask to name a new species of swan after me. You have to grab these opportunities when they come along."
The Avengers: Ant ManEdit
One of the most successful comics of all time is The Avengers series. The 2012 film - which grossed over $1.462 billion worldwide- omitted one of the original members of the Avengers crew: Henry Pym, aka Ant Man.
Introduced in 1962, Pym's character, a scientist that debuted in a standalone science-fiction anthology story, returned several issues later as the superhero Ant-Man, with the power to shrink to the size of an insect. Pym is eventually given a crime-fighting partner, Janet van Dyne (Wasp) and goes on to assume other superhero identities, including the size-changing Giant-Man and Goliath; the insect-themed Yellowjacket; and briefly the Wasp.
Biochemist Henry Pym, discovering an unusual set of subatomic particles he labels "Pym particles", creates a size-altering formula and tests it on himself. Reduced to the size of an insect, Pym has a dangerous encounter with ants in a nearby anthill. Shortly afterward, he constructs a cybernetic helmet that allows him to communicate with and control ants. Pym designs a costume and reinvents himself as the superhero Ant-Man, and defeats several KGB agents attempting to steal the formula for an anti-radiation gas.
Maya the BeeEdit
The Adventures of Maya the Bee (German: Die Biene Maja) is a German book, comic book series and animated television series, first written by Waldemar Bonsels and published in 1912. The book has been published also in many other languages.
The stories revolve around a little bee named Maya and her friends Willy the bee, Flip the grasshopper (referred to as "Maja", "Willi" and "Philip" in some versions), Mrs. Cassandra (Maya's teacher), and many other insects and other creatures. The book depicts Maya's development from an adventurous youngster to a responsible adult member of bee society.
Maya the Bee also served as the basis for a Croatian children's opera written by a famous Croatian composer Bruno Bjelinski in 1963. It was recently staged in Villach, Austria as part of their Carinthian Summer Music Festival. The uniqueness of the performance was in the fact that the "bees" were played by children and not professional opera singers as it is usually the case.
The Haagen Daaz Honeybee HavenEdit
Ceramics play an essential role in the academic and outreach efforts. At the Harry Laidlaw Jr. Honeybee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, aka "The Honeybee Haven", a 6-foot ceramic honey bee greats visitors at the main entrance. The installation tells the ceramic story of pollination and some of the historical aspects of honey bees in human culture.
The garden was built with such names as “Honeycomb Hideout,” “Nectar Nook” and “Pollinator Patch” and partially funded through the "Häagen-Dazs Loves Honey Bees" campaign in February 2008. A total of $500,000 in donation for bee research was given to UC Davis and Pennsylvania State University.
Stirring the SwarmEdit
In 2011, an artist in England created over 10,000 individual ceramic insects featured at Nottingham Castle. Created by artist Anna Collette, the exhibit was called “Stirring the Swarm.” Reviews of the exhibit offered a compelling narrative for Cultural Entomology:
" . . .the unexpected use of materials, dark overtones, and the straightforward impact of thousands of tiny multiples within the space. The exhibition was at once both exquisitely beautiful and deeply repulsive, and this strange duality was fascinating."The design of the exhibit also suggested an anthropomorphization of bugs. Viewers “step into the shoes of a baffled Entomologist who is documenting the phenomenon that has occurred. The Entomologist has been chasing the swarm for several months now, capturing specimens to study and experiment with. Her actions were not unnoticed by the enchanted swarm who have come to seek revenge.“ The exhibit was accompanied by this Application which was commissioned by Craftspace for Made in the Middle.
Insects in Ceramic ForensicsEdit
The forensic science of insects has proven a boon to the ceramics industry. Authentic items are highly valued by anthropologist, historians and collectors alike, which has fueled a multi-million dollar forgery industry. Scientists and researchers use the life cycles of corpse-eating insects and the oxidation of metals by bacteria to assess the authenticity of ceramic figurines.
Rimsky-Korsokov Flight of the BumblebeeEdit
The Flight of the Bumblebee was written by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, in 1899-1900, as part of his opera, The Tale of Tsar of Saltan. The piece is one of the most recognizable pieces in classical composition. The bumblebee in the story is a prince who has been transformed into an insect so that he can fly off to visit his father.
It is the fast pace of the music that has caused its mass appeal. The speed of the piece makes it difficult to play and a number of musicians have risen to the challenge by setting world records for the fastest performance of the music on guitar, piano and violin. Canadian violinist Eric Speed broke the record for the fastest performance of the "Flight of the Bumblebee" again at the Just For Laughs festival in Montreal on July 22, 2011, playing the piece in 53 seconds.
The song has a direct connection to martial arts master Bruce Lee, who starred on the radio program The Green Hornet. "Flight" was the show's theme music, blended with a hornet buzz created on a Theremin.
It is interesting to note that the in the play upon which the opera was based - written by Alexandr Pushkin - originally had two more insect themes: the Flight of the Mosquito and the Flight of the Fly. Neither was made into musical pieces. One was made into an illustration for the original publication.
Dave Matthews Ants MarchingEdit
“Ants Marching” is a song by The Dave Matthews Band. The song features the themes of the monotony of everyday life being like ants marching endlessly to and fro. Both the theme and the music of the song are beloved by fans, being played over 1,000 times live in concert. Dave Matthews himself once declared, “This song is our anthem.”
David Bowie and the Spider from MarsEdit
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is a 1972 concept album by English musician David Bowie, which is loosely based on a story of a fictional rock star named Ziggy Stardust. His three back-up musicians were referred to as “The Spiders.” The album and subsequent documentary film were hugely influential in music and culture. In 1987, as part of their 20th anniversary, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #6 on "The 100 Best Albums of the Last Twenty Years." In 1997, it was named the 20th greatest album of all time in a Music of the Millennium poll conducted in the United Kingdom by HMV Group, Channel 4, The Guardian and Classic FM.
Béla Bartók's 'Diary of a Fly'Edit
Béla Bartók was a Hungarian composer and pianist, considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century and is regarded, along with Franz Liszt, as Hungary's greatest composer (Gillies 2001). Through his collection and analytical study of folk music, he was one of the founders of ethnomusicology. In his bizarrely empathetic piece, From the Diary of a Fly, for piano (Mikrokosmos Vol. 6/142), Bartók attempts to depict the actions of a fly caught in a cobweb, from the fly's perspective—i.e., as related from his diary. The composer revealed there are buzzing sounds depicted that signify the fly's desperation to escape.
In cosmology’s connection to astronomy, it is worth noting that there are several major constellations named after arthropods, including the magnificent constellation better known as "The Bug Nebula", and sometimes “The Butterfly Nebula.” Known as NGC 6302 is one of the brightest and most popular stars in the universe – popular in that its features draw the attention of a lot of researchers. It happens to be located in the Scorpius constellation. It is perfectly bipolar, and until recently, the central star was unobservable, clouded by gas, but estimated to be one of the hottest in the galaxy – 200,000 degrees Fahrenheit, maybe 35xs hotter than our Sun.
A recent discovery by the University of Manchester suggests that its gaseous composition reflects a celestial entity which has just finished a phase transition from oxygen rich to carbonate rich. This is the same process that would theoretically lead to the formation of a planet such as the Earth. In the gaseous nebula, scientists have detected carbonate particles, quarts and the presence of ice crystals. Cezary Szyszka, lead author on the paper and a research student at the University of Manchester, commented:
“It’s extremely important to understand planetary nebulae such as the Bug Nebula, as they are crucial to understanding our own existence on Earth . . . Images like these are remarkable not only for their beauty but also for what they tell us about our own origins . . . The cloud of dust and ice in the Bug Nebula contains the seeds of a future generation of planets.” ”
Venus and the Mayan Bee DeityEdit
The honey bee played a central role in the cosmology of the Mayan people. The stucco figure at the temples of Tulum known as “Ah Mucen Kab” - the Diving Bee God - bears resemblance to the insect in the Codex Tro-Cortesianus identified as a bee. Such reliefs might have indicated towns and villages that produce honey. Modern Mayan authorities say the figure also have a connection to modern cosmology. Mayan mythology expert Migel Angel Vergara relates that the Mayans held a belief that bees came from Venus, the “Second Sun.” (citation needed)
The relief might be indicative of another "insect deity", that of Xux Ex, the Mayan "wasp star." The Mayan embodied Venus in the form of the god Kukulkán (also known as or related to Gukumatz and Quetzalcoatl in other parts of Mexico), Quetzalcoatl (Classical Nahuatl: Quetzalcohuātl [ketsaɬˈko.aːtɬ]) is a Mesoamerican deity whose name comes from the Nahuatl language and has the meaning of "feathered serpent".The cult of Kukulkan/Quetzalcoatl was the first Mesoamerican religion to transcend the old Classic Period linguistic and ethnic divisions. This cult facilitated communication and peaceful trade among peoples of many different social and ethnic backgrounds. Although the cult was originally centered on the ancient city of Chichén Itzá in the modern Mexican state of Yucatán, it spread as far as the Guatemalan highlands. Author Daniel Pinchbeck correlates this deity with the Mayan Long Count Calender and the 2012 escatological myth of the "end of times."
In the Koran, the honeybee is the only creature that speak directly to God. Mohammed wrote in the 68-69 verses:
And your Lord taught the honey bee to build its cells in hills, on trees, and in (men's) habitations; Then to eat of all the produce (of the earth), and find with skill the spacious paths of its Lord: there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colours, wherein is healing for men: verily in this is a Sign for those who give thought. (Surat an-Nahl (The Bee), 68-69)
Cirque du Soleil's "Ovo"Edit
Ovo is an insect-themed production by the world renowned Canadian entertainment company Cirque du Soleil. Ovo is Portuguese for "egg". The show looks at the world of insects and its biodiversity where they go about their daily lives until a mysterious egg appears in their midst, as the insects become awestruck about this iconic object that represents the enigma and cycles of their lives. The costuming was a fusion of arthropod body types blended with superhero armour. Liz Vandal, the lead costume designer, the has a special affinity for the world of the insect:
When I was just a kid I put rocks down around the yard near the fruit trees and I lifted them regularly to watch the insects who had taken up residence underneath them. I petted caterpillars and let butterflies into the house. So when I learned that OVO was inspired by insects, I immediately knew that I was in a perfect position to pay tribute to this majestic world with my costumes. All insects are beautiful and perfect; it is what they evoke for each of us that changes our perception of them."
Isabella Rosselini and Green PornoEdit
The Webby award-winning video series “Green Porno” was created to showcase the reproductive habits of insects. Jody Shapiro and Rick Gilbert were responsible for translating the research and concepts that Isabella Rossellini envisioned into the paper and paste costumes which directly contribute to the series' unique visual style. The film series was driven by the creation of costumes to translate scientific research into “something visual and how to make it comical.” 
Chinese crickets predicting weatherEdit
In China, farmers often regulate their crop planting according to the Awakening of the Insects, when temperature shifts and monsoon rains bring the insects—in particular crickets—out of hibernation. According to custom, if the first thunder of the year happens on this day, it will bring good luck to the entire agricultural production year. But if the first thunder happens before this day, the following period will be rainy and the autumn harvest will be bad. Most "Awakening" customs are related to eating snacks like pancakes, parched beans, pears, and fried corn, all symbolizing harmful insects in the field.
Moth caterpillars predicting weatherEdit
In the Great Lakes region of the United States, there is an annual Woollybear Festival that has been celebrated for over 40 years. The larvae of the species Pyrrharctia isabella (commonly known as the Isabella Tiger moth), with their 13 distinct segments of black and reddish-brown, have the reputation in common folklore of being able to forecast the coming winter weather. In the fall of 1948, Dr. C. H. Curran, curator of insects at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, took his wife 40 miles north of the city to Bear Mountain State Park to look at woolly bear caterpillars. Dr. Curran collected as many caterpillars as he could in a day, determined the average number of reddish-brown segments, and forecast the coming winter weather through a reporter friend at the New York Herald Tribune. Dr. Curran's experiment, which he continued over the next eight years, attempted to prove scientifically a weather rule of thumb that was as old as the hills around Bear Mountain. The resulting publicity made the woolly bear the most recognizable caterpillar in North America.
The Masonic honeybeeEdit
The Freemasons adopted the beehive as a symbol; the hive came to be viewed as a type of “ark” analogous to the Holy Ark of the Covenant mentioned in the Bible. As such, honey was used in both funeral rites and ritual customs known as the Eleusinian Mysteries, the origins of which were practiced in ancient Egypt and Greece.
Lithuanian marriage honeyEdit
There is a humorous custom in Lithuania: when a bride is first welcomed into her husband’s home, the mother-in-law smears a dollop of honey on the front door post. She then takes the younger woman by the back of the neck and gently bangs the daughter-in-law’s forehead on the honey spot.
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