Monthly Archives: January 2013

Actual work

My schedule this semester actually allows me to spend long chunks of time looking at caterpillars. Finally! It’s really difficult for me to work on my morphological datasets in small bits of time (like one hour between classes/seminars). But three to five hours at a time with no interruption… glorious.

lab desk

The bottom-less cockroach

I’ve heard about the ability of a cockroach to live for a time without its head, due to having ganglia in other parts of its body. Basically, it will die from starvation or infection.

But… I had not heard of a cockroach living without its entire abdomen. And then I witnessed it myself.

cockroachI have a pet vinegaroon (whipscorpion) named Stanley. I caught him in Arizona two years ago as a youngster, and he’s a nice young adult size now. I periodically feed him small hissing cockroaches from the colony raised for introductory biology classes. They end up with so many roaches they encourage me to take them.

I put one into the cage today, and the hisser crawled into Stanley’s burrow. A while later, I saw the cockroach scurrying around, and climbing up the glass. Something seemed… off… so I took another look, and realized its entire abdomen was gone. Stanley had eaten it, and the front half ran away.

Any guesses on how long the poor thing will live? I don’t know the exact point at which it escape from Stanley’s clutches, but I’d guess about 12 noon EST.

EDIT (Feb 1, 9:00am): 21 hours later, the cockroach is still alive!

EDIT (Feb 3): I did not visit the lab over the weekend, however I know it lived at least 30 hours without its abdomen. It likely died of dessication.

Insects on Etsy

I buy almost as much as I sell on I love finding unique handmade items, especially when they involve insects.

I’d like to share with you some of my favorite insect-themed shops/items that I have found recently. Click the images to go to the listing pages where you can buy them!

This amazing mantis image was created by Nadilyn Beato – her shop is full of amazing organisms, mostly invertebrates and reptiles. If you love charismatic (and slightly creepy) creatures, you’ll find something to covet in her shop.

I absolutely love the whimsical style of this artist, Lulunjay. I have two of her rabbit prints hanging in my house, and I’ll probably buy some of her insect prints for my office. Her work is of animals doing “human” things, like this bee drinking a coffee.

It’s really difficult to choose a favorite image from OniOniOniArt’s shop, they’re all so wonderfully adorable. This print is of an owlfly. She has a lot of insects, reptiles, and cats (great combination!). Check out these fruit fly cards if you still need a Valentine’s day card.

One day, when I make millions as a professor (ha!), I’ll buy a whole set of matching cockroach dishes from foldedpigs.

As soon as I figure out what I’ll make with it, I’m going to buy some of this moth-print fabric by LilaRubyKingShop.

Do you have any favorite insect-themed shops on Etsy? Please share in the comments!

Burpee challenge

If you don’t know what a burpee is, I guess you’re lucky. It’s one of the most hated movements in crossfit, but it’s growing on me. Rather than explaining it, check out this video:

Last year I decided to do a 365 day burpee challenge, which means starting with one burpee and doing one more burpee each consecutive day. Day 1 = 1 burpee, day 2 = 2 burpees, day 3 = 3 burpees, etc. I started on the first day of the fall semester along with a bunch of people from CFS.

The rules for our challenge:
1. Chest must touch the ground, and you must jump at the top of the movement.
2. Reps may be spread out throughout the day.
3. You can take as long as you want to make up missed burpees, but you must be completely caught up by the end of the competition (example – if you miss day 30, the next day you should do 30+31, or you could do a few extra per day for a few days until caught up).
4. You cannot bank burpees by doing extra ahead of time.
5. Burpees during normal crossfit WODs count toward the daily total.
6. The competition will end when all have dropped out except one!

We had a proposed end date of the end of the spring 2013 semester, but I really want to go for an entire year if I can. Currently it’s down to me and one guy, a former marine, so we’re basically going until one of us gets severely injured and has to quit. It’s a battle of willpower!

Today is day #155.

I even did burpees on vacation, and here’s the proof.burpees

If you are looking for a mental and physical challenge that’s really easy to start (but gets more difficult to maintain) – I highly recommend trying your own burpee challenge! It’s especially fun with a few friends, to encourage each other and share tips. I like doing burpees while I’m reading textbooks to keep me alert and awake (read one page, 10 burpees, read another page, 10 burpees, etc.), or to give me a reason to get up from my desk and stretch my legs. I keep a yoga mat in my office for burpees…. I guess I’ll go do some right now.


This is not related to entomology at all. But I’ve got two bunnies now, and they’re hilarious and totally adorable.

I brought Rascal to a rabbit shelter (Sweet Binks Rabbit Rescue) to meet some ladies (they’re all fixed, don’t worry). He got along the best with Appledot, so I adopted her. She has really helped Rascal come out of his shell; their personalities are both so distinct. Thankfully they’re both well litter trained so they can be loose in the apartment all day, like cats. They are incredibly cute all day every day, even when they’re causing trouble.

I could talk about them all day. I’ll try not to, though. Here are some pictures and videos instead.


Ok, that’s enough vertebrates for now. Back to the bugs!

Mustache Ride

I’m going to start my catch-up with one of the most monumental events to occur in our lab since I’ve been here.

Dave (my advisor and almighty ruler of the lab) always has a mustache. According to him he’s had that mustache since he could grow facial hair. We call it the “Wag-stache”.

An epic plot was concocted by one of our lab members last fall. Throughout October, none of the guys in the lab shaved. They slowly grew out their facial hair without saying much about it. Then Dave left for Arizona for a week. When he returned to the lab… all of the guys had a “Wag-stache”.

None of us got anything done that day, because we were too busy laughing and taking pictures. One of them used photoshop to create an album cover. The title of their “band” came naturally.

mustache ride

Not much more needs to be said (though we did have to explain to one of them what “mustache ride” means).

Unfortunately, they all shaved the next day. Except Dave. Long live the Wag-stache.

I survived

I’m back! Hurray!

I have about a million things to talk about, so I’ll spend the next couple weeks trying to catch up on the last few months.

Here are some important updates, in no particular order, all of which will be explained in later posts…

1. I passed my general (oral) exam for my PhD.
2. I adopted another rabbit.
3. My boyfriend moved in with me.
4. Somehow managed to grade the entomology student collections.
5. Actually had a relaxing break at home and in the Bahamas.
6. Visit to the Cornell entomology collection.
7. Started sewing again.
8. At one point, all the guys in the lab grew a mustache.
9. Read “Stranger in a Strange Land” – first fiction book I’ve read in years.
10. Started a daily burpee challenge.

I’m really excited for this semester – less intense TA position, no “real” classes (just seminars and projects). But lots of research and fun work, like working on my illustrations and curating the teaching entomology collection. Trying to get two papers submitted soon. Fingers crossed that I get more publishable work done this semester.

Meanwhile, enjoy this caterpillar on a stick.


Ryerson Lab

Functional Morphology, Sensory Biology, Behavior, Biomechanics

I spell it nature

Trying to make sense of the world through science and language.