Zooillogix

A paper by the University of Basel’s Zoological Institute to be published in the upcoming issue of the journal, Animal Behavior, reveals the complex relationship that baby bugs – nymphs and larvae – have with their parents.

When young tree hoppers feel threatened they will shake the leaves and stems that they reside on, signaling their mothers to sit on top of them and chase away any attackers. Burying beetles and earwigs kick their mothers in the face until they regurgitate delicious filth into their babies’ open mouths. Even Vespidae wasp larvae, which grow up in cells, will scratch at the walls of their enclosure to get their parents’ attention.

i-013e6f8fa9267404fd4c9b3ee77eaea8-Earwig babies.jpg
Mom! Jimmy hit me! No I didn’t. I’m way over here. Wait which one of you is Jimmy? You are! No I’m not. I’m Billy. You can’t be Billy. I’m Billy! What!? I’ve been calling you Mort for the last two weeks….and so on.

In an interview for Discovery News, the study’s co-author Flore Mas explains…


… that some cues by the bug babies are “honest,” like emitting a hormone to summon their parents when there is a true threat. But other times, the larvae are tricking their rents into pampering them.

“It is possible, and often observed, that actually it is the strongest or the oldest that get the best spot in the nest where parents are feeding, and thus those behaviors positively correlate with competitive ability but not necessarily with true need for food,” said Mas in the interview.

i-34a7fe9ac7af93e048a122cc5e0bdab6-Treehopper nymphs.jpg
Sarah Palin arrives at the RNC with her family. If you look closely, you can see Bristol’s “larva bump.”

That’s funny, because I remember the time that Andrew and I were but two nymphs, aged four and five. I had gotten a balloon from going to the doctor but Andrew hadn’t gone to the doctor and thus was balloonless. Nonetheless Andrew convinced me that Mom said my balloon was filled with poisonous gas and I had to pop it. I did. By the time I realized the folly of my actions, it was too late. No more balloon. And that is one of the many ways my brother resembles an earwig.

Comments

  1. #1 ym
    September 3, 2008

    You guys find the neatest stuff.

  2. #2 CR McClain
    September 3, 2008

    Sarah Palin arrives at the RNC with her family. If you look closely, you can see Bristol’s “larva bump.”

    Very nice…

  3. #3 Size
    September 4, 2008

    LOL @ the first picture caption especially.

  4. #4 Bee
    September 4, 2008

    Urggh. Fascinating, but though I am normally very bug-friendly, the first pic brought up my worst ever bug freak. I was digging a hole for a small transplant in my garden. One last little scoop with the trowel and… hundreds of transparent whitish buglets came BOILING out of the earth, the instantly recognizable demonic offspring of the only bug that for unknown reasons makes me feel ill every time I see one… the Earwig. Acgk!

    I later discovered the mother Earwig sticks around to look after the young-uns, which is nice. I also understand they are harmless to humans. But though I am willing to let a Bumblebee walk on my hand, shoe spiders, ants, moths and beetles out the door, and respond to garden infestations that can’t be cured with a hose-down by not planting the attracting vegetation for a couple years, I cannot find in me any love for the Earwig.

  5. #5 Andrew
    September 4, 2008

    Andy – As children, earwigs were Benny and my most despised organism. As we grew older and gained perspective into the web of life, our hatred for the earwig grew all the more extreme. If you would like to form an anti-earwig militia with Benny and me, I will send you the address of our Montana vacation compound that we like to call “the Facility.”

  6. #6 juliagoolia
    September 4, 2008

    Reason number 5,628 not to have children.

  7. #7 bug_girl
    September 4, 2008

    How do you guys keep scooping me on stuff like this?

    Sigh.
    (and nice find!)

  8. #8 s1mplex
    September 5, 2008

    Hmm. The Palin’s appear to be cute little Trilobites. How the heck did they survive this long?

  9. #9 tuncay
    August 7, 2010

    Spiders in the haka I’m sure many more things we do not know

  10. #10 Mariano Krumme
    July 2, 2012

    This web site is so excellent that i’ll honor it with my comment