insects

Posted by Ellen

This is the time of year when, in many places, the first springtime crop of mosquitoes takes to the air at once and . . . swarms.

The Alaskan tundra and other Arctic-like regions are notorious for huge dark clouds of skeeters, hovering hungrily and buzzing, whining--call it screaming for blood.

But this photo was taken last week in Portugal, in the salt marshes near Vila Franca de Xira. The swarm affected the shape of a tornado, and perhaps inspired a bit of the fear associated with tornadoes. But it wasn't really a cyclone; the flight pattern of the little bloodsuckers wasn't rotational, just the usual brownian motion within the overall swarm. And the top of the swarm was much closer to the viewer than the bottom, which is why it appears wider.

We are told that outside of the tropics, people don't really die from mosquito bites, even if they get hundreds of bites, as in a serious swarm. They don't die; they just wish they would.

Posted by Ellen

This is what you'd see if you confronted a spider head on from a distance of 12 millimeters (about half an inch), magnified 50-fold with a scanning electron microscope. Below is the mouth of a caterpillar, magnified 10,000 times, as viewed from a distance of 5 millimeters.

Posted by Ellen

Last summer, when floodwaters swamped one-fifth of all the land in Pakistan, spiders were among the creatures struggling to escape the rising waters. Spiders moved up into the trees, while the water on the ground stayed high for so long that the new eight-legged tree-dwellers had plenty of time to spin web upon web among the branches.

Today, many of the trees of Pakistan are tangled up in spiderwebs. And it has been reported that many of the mosquitoes of Pakistan have been snagged in the webs, resulting in a much smaller than anticipated post-flood mosquito problem.