Monday, December 24, 2012

Still here are we?

OK so I guess the Stag Beetle blew it. But beware, the Stag Beetle isn't the only Rare Bug with designs on the destruction of mankind. Stay tuned. I have uncovered another creepy crawly conspiracy and will soon reveal the details of this latest nefarious scheme.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tournament of Lies

This super rare bug, the Odontolabis cuvera fallaciosus, or so-called Stag "Beetle", is native to Asia but is available on eBay for $2.65 USD plus $14.00 shipping.  As rare bugs go, this one is up there, with only about one thousand different species in the family Lucanidae to which it belongs.  It can be identified by the large mandibles, which this beetle uses for fighting foes, impressing lady beetles, intimidating bison and removing both beer bottle caps and splinters.

This bug is also often referred to as the Apocalypse Bug for its role in the end of the world.  The name, Odontolabis cuvera fallaciosus, given to it by the ancient Mayans is an anagram for foi, o cold evil sun rats, o USA cabal.  The Mayans, long known for their spot on predictions could clearly see the impending doom looming on our horizon and so gamely passed a message to us in the future.  I'm not certain why they didn't just write it down somewhere but I must admit that the bug messenger is indeed quite clever.

The hidden message reveals that these masterful prognosticators not only wanted to pass a warning along, but also that they predicted the prevalence of acronyms as a legitimate method of communication.  The foi is clearly a reference to Freedom of Information, a lack of which clearly has a part to play in our demise.  The cold, evil sun rats is obvious and therefore requires no explanation.  And of course there is the reference to the USA cabal.  The group in question could be anyone plotting to trigger end times: the Republicans, the ultra-rich, the cast of Baywatch (but not Hasselhoff; he's touring and would never (willingly) trigger an Anocalypse).  The dropping of the "h" on the word oh in both instances of use is further proof of the Mayans deep understanding of the future, or, as we call it, the now.  The Mayans understood that the youth of today would reduce cumbersome two letter words to single characters, thus providing their "text" messages back and forth to each other a previously unavailable brevity, depth of meaning and flexibility of interpretation not available via mediums like letter writing and talking.

So then, what does this beetle really tell us?  Well, in combination with the Mayan long count calendar, it tells us much.  We know that the "world" will end December 21, 2012.  This is irrefutable.  Unless it doesn't.  Then it is completely futable.  But the Mayans laid down the gauntlet; now it is time for mankind to step up and make the Mayans proud.  We've been doing our level best to try to make it happen for some time now: there is pollution, overpopulation, starvation.  I have faith that, with a push from the USA cabal we can make this happen.  If it comes to it, the beetle has its marching orders too for instigating our last waltz.

So then, what to do with your last moments on this planet.  May I suggest:
  • skydiving - 'cause what do you have to lose, right?
  • peyote - it was good enough for the Mayans
  • take a nap - if the world ends while you're sleeping you won't have to fret about it and if it doesn't, hey, you squeezed in a nap - awesome!
And what are the signs that the end is nigh?  That's right.  It starts with an earthquake.  And, by the way, if you are reading this post and it is no longer December 21, 2012, congratulations, you survived the Zombie Apocalypse.  I sure hope you didn't do anything rash while you were off work burning your Apocalypse Days.  If so you're going to have to wait until you accrue new ones or you're going to end up working through the next apocalypse, which I think we can all agree, would suck.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

G v. VAB

There is no bigger name in rare bug creation than the genius Irish husband and wife team of Anderson & Aluvia Van Allen.  Mostly that's because it is very rare in and of itself to actually create a bug.  But they are creators.  It is what they do.  Well, technically I guess it was more of a modification than a full on creation.  A twisting of nature.  Their story is no straight shot either.

It dates back to the early days of upper atmosphere exploration when a young Anderson Van Allen was using "rockoons" to learn about the Earth's atmosphere.  He would strap a rocket to a weather balloon, allowing the rocket to be carried high into the upper reaches of the sky where the balloon would eventually pop.  At that point the rocket would fire, allowing it to reach further into the atmosphere than if it had been fired from the ground.  He leveraged the efficiencies of each, combining them to create a whole greater than the sum of its two parts in much the same what that the renowned philosopher Jack Handy reasoned that the most dangerous creature on the planet is neither tiger nor lion nor elephant, but rather a shark riding on an elephant's back trampling and eating everything in their path.  A simple matter of combined efficiencies.

As Anderson was busy mucking about with his rocket balloons, Aluvia was abuzz on the home front, wrangling with the couple's young boys, Ronin and Wynot.  As a scientist herself, she was constantly finding ways to engage the boys in inquiry-based learning.  Whether that was by combining unusual concoctions in the kitchen or exploring the wilds of their backyard, she challenged the boys to question what they saw, digging into the why and how of everything.  She was also a determined fashionista, eschewing the fads of the day in favour of the simple elegance of the little black party dress.

All of this came together in the most unlikely of ways over dessert one evening.  The Van Allens were finishing up their Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls, which the boys had created when they crashed into one another in the middle of the kitchen.  It is still disputed whether Ronin got his chocolate in Wynot's peanut butter or Wynot got his peanut butter on Ronin's chocolate, but the result was a combination greater than the sum of its two parts.  The dessert served as inspiration for the couple.  Anderson had complained that the buckle on his belt irritated him as he sat eating his meal.  Aluvia had suggested some simple designs for a buckleless belt that would be both functional and fashionable.  Anderson, his head still half in his work, mumbled something about the Earth's magnetic poles and the effects they had on the electronically charged particles surround the Earth.  And thus was born the Van Allen belt.  Though the apparatus for holding up one's pants never really took off, they did also use the same name (mostly as a marketing technique to try to sell more belts) to describe the bands of irradiated particles that surround the Earth. 

But what you may ask does all of this have to do with Rare Bugs?  Ah, that comes next.  You see we're not done with combined efficiencies.  Below is a graphic of the Van Allen belt.  Have a look.  What do you notice?  We're going to use a little inquiry based learning of our own here.

You see, one of the effects of the magnetic pull of the Earth's poles on those electrically charged particles, or "sparkies" as they are commonly referred to in the scientific community, is beta radiation.  That's not to be confused with beta carotene.  BC good, BR bad.  So what do you see when you look at this diagram?  A graph of the flux levels of particles in the Van Allen belt?  A six-legged, fat abdomened bug?  How about both?

So one sunny Saturday afternoon, Anderson had taken the boys with him to a rockoon launch.  The boys, being naturally inquisitive, all "chip off the old block" like, were poking about in the field amongst the weeds, searching out crawling critters.  They happened upon a somewhat nondescript little bug, probably of the order Hemiptera, and came up with divergent hypotheses.  Wynot felt that the bug could travel to space and bring back some moon cheese for them.  Ronin believed that it would be too cold for the bug in space and besides it would not be able to hold its breath long enough for the return trip.  But he was up for some moon cheese.  To solve the argument they tucked the bug into their dad's little rockoon and soon the little buggy was headed off to space.  The rest, as they say, is history.  Tiny bug + beta radiation = giant, Tokyo stomping bug.  Or as it came to be known - the Van Allen bug.

After that the story gets pretty ordinary.  Giant bug rampages through Tokyo, destroying buildings, crushing cars, distracted only momentarily by Manga.  Japanese invoke the name Godzilla.  Godzilla crushes bug.  And much of Tokyo.  Japanese cheer.  Then chase him away with sticks.  Photos below.

Gloatzilla vamps for the camera and mocks his victim post throw down.

Sulkzilla trudges back out to sea, knowing, deep in his heart, though he hates to admit it, when they need him again, he'll be back.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

being qua being, or Aristotle, look out for that tree

If a blog is written on the internet, but nobody reads it, does it...oh who cares? Clearly nobody reads it; which makes it just like 99% of the other tripe out there.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Gone but not Forgotten

This latest bug comes to us from contributor Paris, out of Vaughan, Ontario.  Among other things, Vaughan is famous for being the twin city to Yangzhou, China, a cozy little city of 4.4 million.  Although not monozygotic, these sister cities have much in common.  Yangzhou's demographic is made up of approximately 4.999 million Chinese citizens; there is a Chinese family currently living in Vaughan.  Yangzhou is famous for its beautiful and intricate jade carvings; some of the kids in Vaughan are jaded.  The primary language in Yangzhou is Mandarin; there are two Mandarin Buffets in the greater Vaughan area.

However, all is not smiles and chuckles between these two sisters.    As with any siblings, there are petty jealousies, long-standing grudges and minor misunderstandings.  Indeed, one ongoing feud between the two revolves around the bug pictured below.  Commonly known as the Yang Van Zhoughan Fly, or more precisely by its scientific name, the "Officewindowcus Sitonicus" from the sub-family "Everywhereicus Foundicus", this rare bug was, until this recent discovery, thought to be completely extinct.

It was that status that caused the rift between the girls.  The fly had, until 1995, enjoyed a strong presence in the greater Vaughan area.  It was at that point that the umbilical cord connecting the two cities was first discovered.  Initially cause for much joy and the swift exchange of Canadian dollars for low labour cost products, it soon became clear to the citizens of Vaughan that although the cost of this relationship in hard currency was low, their was a much, much higher price to be paid.  It was only when the Yang Van Zhoughan Flies disappeared that they realized just what that price would be.  It seems the flies were transported via the umbilical cord to Yangzhou, where they were quickly eradicated by dragons.  The citizens of Vaughan, while enjoying their cheap electronics still harbour some anger towards the dragons of Yangzhou.

As can be seen in the photo, the clouds have parted and the great umbilical cord in the sky has opened up to allow this lone survivor to travel back to his homeland.  Although this guy probably won't last more than a day or so due to the absence of the disco and saccharin pop that sustained his ancestors through the 70s and 80s, his presence is encouraging.  The bigger concern is the possibility that the umbilical cord may continue to exhibit the current "reverse flow" which placed this bug back among the fine people of Vaughan.  Should this activity continue, Vaughan may soon exchange their lost bug for dragons.  For a city of 4.4 million like Yangzhou dragons are a nuisance; a few thousand missing people over the course of a week is a mere blip in Yangzhou.  The significantly smaller borough of Vaughan simply doesn't have the population to support dragons.  The dragons would devour the entire city within a few years.  And that would be bad - mostly because it would leave access to Wonderland questionable.

Here is a poem.

Seeing Meng Haoran off to Yangzhou from Yellow Crane Pavilion

At Yellow Crane Pavilion in the west
My old friend says farewell;
In the mist and flowers of spring
He goes down to Yangzhou;
Lonely sail, distant shadow,
Vanish in blue emptiness;
All I see is the great river
Flowing into the far horizon.
             - by Li Bai who lived in the 700s

Monday, October 15, 2012

What, Because my Name is Katy, I Must be a Girl?

The Texas Bush Katydid inspecting its undercarriage via the reflection in the tabletop glass, is a bold and brash member of the Orthoptera order.  Though not rare per se, what is rare is to catch one without its Stetson and boots on.  This one, having clearly just awoken, has no qualms about prancing about in the "suit it was born in".  The little fella is probably a bit confused.  As his normal diet is broad-leafed woody deciduous plants this wicker tabletop seems to have him perplexed.

Note too the long rear legs.  Although this is common among the grasshoppers, crickets and katydids, the Texas Bush Katydid has especially pronounced hind legs to aid in mounting.  Can you imagine a fat little cricket with his relatively short hind legs trying to get up in the saddle?  It's just plain ridiculous.  

Although not seen here, the Texas Bush Katydid is also seldom without its lasso.  Most Texas Bush Katydids spend their lives as herders; however, a select few have been known to stray from the straight and narrow to live a life of rustling.  Herders and rustlers can be be distinguished from one another by the colour of their hats (white and black, respectively) as well as the firearms they carry; herders are known to carry long rifles and the occasional shotgun to ward off predators while rustlers are partial to six shooters.  The exception to this is the Texas Ranger Bush Katydid which can be identified by its ivory-handled silver pistols and its fondness for Chuck Norris films.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Rogue Araneae

Speaking of the great flip flop in the sky, is there anyone who doesn't shudder uncontrollably at the thought of a Dock Spider?  I mean really, when you're that big and hairy you can get your own beer.  Seriously, they're over there in the red cooler.  Grab me one too, would you?

From an entomological perspective there is much to be creeped out by when it comes to Dock Spiders. Consider:

  1. big
  2. hairy
They're also stealthy.  Oh, and you can't kill them either.  There's that.

Now consider the following scenario.  A Dock Spider has been transported via four wheeled, Chrysler® branded people mover from a lonely desolate lake.  OK, yeah, its the same lake as before.  Same cottage too.  What, you think as a bugologist I'm rolling in dough and travelling to far off exotic places?  So anyway, the hitchhiker has moved from the Near North to the much sunnier climes of Southwestern Ontario.  From there it was a short flight on Porter Air® (truly Flying Refined®) followed by a steamship and two train rides.  There was the wrong turn in Albuquerque but that's a tale for another day.  Eventually said spider found his way to the Sahara.  A far cry from the little lake named for a long-tailed, semi-aquatic rodent where he grew up.  Oh, and while on the steamship he was exposed to hydrogen fuel cells.  Great for reducing the carbon footprint of your Honda® Fit, but terrible if you are an errant Dock Spider.  The combination of the hydrogen energy, the fiery Sahara sun and some bad figs led to the scene below.

 That's right, what once was merely a terrifying, immortal bug the size of a Frisbee® had now morphed into a creature that could only be stopped by the all-powerful and puzzlingly Southeast Asia-centric Godzilla®.  I mean really, there must be other places to throw down, right?  Give the Japanese a break.  I mean, its great that you defend them from Mothra® and Rodan®, but can't you find a big, empty space to do battle?  Does it really always have to be in downtown Tokyo?  You do know its your fault loft space is so expensive there, right?

Sorry, I get passionate when it comes to the big lizard.  The reptiles get all the glory.  Nonetheless, the image you are seeing is a satellite photo of the spider resting on the remains of the once fine city of Khartoum.  The yellow dot, right in the centre of the beast's head is the sighting laser for the nuclear armed strike drones that were sent to obliterate the creature.  The news out of that area of the world is always sketchy at best and whenever governments are involved one must take pause and consider the information, but word is that the spider lives no more.  However, there is no body.  The government claims that the remains were "dumped into the ocean, to avoid creating a rallying point for other monstrous bugs" but I have a feeling we may not have seen the last of GISPIDERTOR®.  See how I did that?  I took the "ant" out of Gigantor® and replaced it with "spider".  Because he's a spider, not an ant.  And he's giant.

*** use of the name GISPIDERTOR® without the express written consent of the author is strictly prohibited.***

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

At the Workplace

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at work one morning and was greeted by none other than the super rare Golden Mantis.  Upon realizing just what was in front of me, I was filled with a mixture of terror and glee.  The happiness stemmed from the fact that on the rare bug continuum, this critter was near the end of the line, hovering somewhere between "never been seen in recorded history" and "as common as cockroaches".  Admittedly, its a pretty broad span from one ranking to the next.  The happiness however was tempered with extreme fear.  If the legend was true I was looking at not just any Golden Mantis, but the Golden Mantis.

In ancient times, before mankind was tearing around at breakneck speeds in 4000 pounds of Detroit's finest, the world was a different place.  The bugs were more abundant.  And bigger.  Some were really big.  Like, the size of a Datsun big.  That's one big roach, right?  As is common in all societies, everything eventually tends toward mayhem.  It is unclear where the trouble first began.  Some believe the Dung Beetles were at the root of the problem.  Others feel the Honey Bees grew drunk on success and royal jelly.  Ultimately, war among the various Arthropoda raged.  The world was on the brink of destruction.  The first group to disappear were the Trilobites.  The Crickets and the Aphids were at an impasse, threatening each other over an unbreachable chasm, each with their little buggy fingers suspended over the button.  Both sides waited for the other to blink and while neither wanted to burn their world to the ground, each too also seethed with hatred for the other.  They were completely crazy.  In a mad rage.  Things were getting really buggy.  (Sorry, I'm ashamed of myself for even writing that.  That's why blogs need editors.)

Into the midst of this came one lone bug.  She was cool and collected.  She feared neither Aphid nor Cricket.  Rumors abounded that she had left behind a series of husbands, none of whom had lived through their prime.  It was also said that she had a den with a cozy fireplace, a stout oak desk replete with blotter and inkwell where the heads of all of her mates adorned the walls.  She waded into the fray, quelled the fighting, throwing down all comers.  But not without a cost.  In the mighty battle to subdue the maniacal Aphids, the Golden Mantis lost her right front leg.  Or is considered an arm?  Anyhoo.

In the aftermath it quickly became apparent that the roaches had actually orchestrated the entire thing, longing to run free in the world, forever safe from the shadow of the ever-present shoe that hangs in the air, poised to end every roach's life.  And they would have gotten away with it too if it hadn't been for those pesky Earwigs and their Ichneumon.  But after the fall of the Aphids and the Crickets and the calming of all insects, the legend of the Golden Mantis grew.  Stories began to circulate that she had retired to her home to live out her days enjoying fine sherry, the poems of Edgar Allen Poe and admiring the heads of her various husbands.  Others believe she went into a witness protection program for bugs and is now living in Cleveland as a Firefly.  One thing all of the stories have in common is that she was always icy cold and uncommonly lethal.  And she was missing a leg.  Or an arm.  Whatever.

So now the question for me was, should I test her patience?

Monday, October 8, 2012

First Bug

The first bug. This is the one that got it all started. We were on a small, desolate island in the Canadian North. Well, not an island exactly. More of a peninsula. But we go there by boat so it may as well be an island. And by desolate, I mean a bustling lake, dotted with cottages. Anyway, I was off on my own exploring. Or perhaps processing my earlier beverages - I can't be sure. Nonetheless, this little baby was perched on the steps as if just waiting for me to happen by.

At first I though it was just a common Cecropia Moth, also known as Hyalophoa cecropia. But on closer inspection it became clear that it was the much rarer, Bulanık kahverengi ve beyaz hırka getirmeyi unutmayın or as translated from the original Turkish, Fuzzy Brown and White Sweater Moth. I couldn't believe my luck! I crept closer, preparing to snap some photos before it could take wing. I clicked away, knowing at any time this moment could pass.

I was amazed at how utterly still he remained, with nothing but the slightest flutter of his wings as the breeze kissed both my cheek and his.  Actually, I don't know if moths have cheeks.  I risked moving closer, creeping slowly, expecting him to flit away on the wind.  I reached out, tentatively at first but then, as I gained confidence, more quickly.  As unbelievable as it was, he was letting me pet him!  This sweet, fuzzy little beastie and I had made the ultimate connection.  It was as if we were sharing our thoughts, bonding to one another.  I was communing with nature in a way I never believed possible.  Then I noticed his stupid, filthy wing dust all over my fingers.  I immediately broke the mind-meld we had established and continued on my way.  I can't be certain, but I think I heard a small, muffled, mothy sob.

I returned later and the little fellow was still sitting in the exact same place where I had left him.  Clearly he was having difficulty moving on with life after our encounter.  And when I searched my inner self, I realized that I too was struggling with the way we had left things.  I moved toward him, determined to right a wrong.  As I did so, a great gust of wind set my jacket to flapping.  And, as I watched in horror, my new friend, the rare Fuzzy Brown and White Sweater Moth TIPPED OVER!  His legs didn't move.  He didn't move his wings.  His tiny little buggy soul had left him.  I sat on the steps and wept for the tragedy of it all.  Such beauty.  Gone.