Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lack of respect for insects bugs a biologist

"Hey, watch where you step! Just because I'm an insect doesn't mean you should crush me!" Emory biologist Jaap de Roode will give students a bug's-eye view of the world in his Maymester course "Insect Biology." (Photo by CaPro/Wikipedia Commons.)

“More than half of all animal species alive today are insects and it’s believed that there’s at least a million species of beetles alone,” says Emory biologist Jaap de Roode. “Yet most people will just see an insect and call their pest control agency and move on, and that’s it. What they’re missing is this beautiful understanding of these creatures.”

De Roode runs one of the few labs in the world focused on monarch butterflies. He’s discovered that monarchs actually use medication they find in nature to treat their young for parasites.

He hopes to inspire more students to appreciate the world of insects in his Maymester course “Insect Biology.” Through lectures, labs and field trips, students will learn to distinguish the major groups of insects and to analyze the importance of insects for ecology, human food production and health.

“We’re going to address a lot of questions,” de Roode says. “Why is it that only female mosquitoes bite and female bees sting? And how do these insects live in these amazing societies where there is specialization of different tasks?”

The course will also cover insects and human culture, including questions such as: Why are there so many beetle depictions in Egyptian art?

“Insects have amazing sex lives,” de Roode adds. “In some cases, it’s flowers and chocolate and romance. But not so in other cases. During the mating of praying mantises the female will often bite off the head of the male -- if he’s lucky, during mating, and if he’s unlucky, before it. We’ll talk about why that is and how that behavior evolved.”

Watch the video above to hear more about the Insect Biology course.

Click here to learn more about other Maymester and summer courses. 

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