Insecta: Science That Stings
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Insecta: Science That Stings



it's not a thing I just fed her so she's kind of fat and sassy she had a nice big juicy caterpillar off a cabbage plant she was very happy with that this is that bait I was telling you about that these collectors have been using so they were that where they were successful in getting a black witch moth it's really cool hey guys do you still have him off can you would you mind showing it yeah look how big it is it's really really beautiful when I was growing up my mother and stepfather owned a large piece of land 24 acres and I would spend a lot of time outside just kind of poking around and finding things and what I loved about the natural world is I love to see things rot something about insects it kind of approaches that place in us that that is is the same fascination that we have in circuses for things like a bearded lady they're just sort of like outside of our day-to-day experience and and so I think that the you know mortality is sort of got this strange beauty in this kind of dark draw for us if you've ever spent any time digging around a compost you'll know that there are some really incredible creatures in there some that look like really large kind of nasty things like there's a part in the Wrath of Khan where they drop a a bug into the guy's ear and it's supposed to go in and eat his brain and and there's a lot of things in your compost that look just like that and even without ever seeing that back clip in film you still have that sense of like whoa what is that okay you want it like everybody else does Felix I recognized in myself if I were gonna be a really successful bench scientist in the current way that academia works I would really need to be devoting my whole self to that and I have a family and I want to make sure I had time also to be a mother and so I've started retold a little bit and now I spend more time teaching and doing outreach and engagement actually did actually got a wash got a nice couch ever since I was a little kid I'd be wandering around in in the fall or in the summer I was just always intrigued by the insects of small things I was little some people are intrigued by you know seeing a football or a basketball or some people are intrigued by you know getting a paintbrush I was intrigued by the beautiful wasps and the bees I I don't really you know look forward to getting stung it's just kind of one of the hazards of my chosen you know activities and life that I'm trying to answer questions about stinging insects you know I'd been stung like I said probably five hundred or thousand times by honeybees so I said well we've got to get some numbers we got a rate that ow is less than that out which is less than that ow how do we do that well come up with a pain scale I usually work on the higher levels than the genus which is kind of like the cluster of species that are all very similar so the number I usually go by is in the book sting of the wild where I made a table of these and appendix in the back I have 83 listed 10 fire ant stings hurt me about as much as one honey bee sting so you can you can continue that strap elation the 10 honey bee stings will hurt about as much as one good Maricopa harvester that's the red harvest students we see running around on the sidewalks here and in Tucson and in the southwest you got ten of those ten of the harvester ants would be about equivalent to one bullet ant or one trench locked so that's pretty much relationship there fortunately aren't any fives I'm coyote Peterson and I love animals I don't care if their scaly scary hairy two feet or absolutely huge guys do be aware that if I do immediately go into a state of paralysis just they've got a sting that's about 6 7 millimeters about a quarter of an inch long third of an inch they'll get you Electrify in one word and if you can imagine that that's about what it feels like it's instantaneous its electrifying it's clean and sharp it's very pure and just totally shut you down it's like short-circuiting your brain your brain is sort of idling along you think oh yeah you know I'm still functioning well Wow so I tell people you get stung don't try to be tough and all I just lay down lay down and scream Oh Katie your fame in a few million miles second this is the most nervous I've ever been to take a stinger bite from anything my hand is shaking are you guys all ready oh yeah I'm ready you're ready I'm ready I'm ready here we go I'm coyote Peterson and I'm about to answer the sting zone with the tarantula hawk one two here we go long just screaming it they're doing two jobs just screaming and trying to endure the pain as better than just enduring the pain and if you scream most of us like I have lung power I can scream for about 2 or 3 minutes by the time you finally run out of energy for screaming kind of like oh it doesn't hurt anymore and you can see the stinger I think we had this this arms race predator-prey where the predator and insects are the prey and so I think what happened is they won we're dreadfully afraid of that bees and stinging ants and wasps have won that war because they get into our head for instance a lot of people are afraid of shark attacks but you know I recently saw a statistic that actually humans bite more humans on the New York City subway than sharks bite humans and so similarly mosquitoes are an incredible problem because they transmit malaria there they can be fatal because of what they're carrying and so yeah I think sometimes the our sensation our fear doesn't necessarily map to where the actual risk occurs we're all here together this is one planet and we've had a lot of time here on this planet together interacting with one another in these nuanced ways that science is just starting to uncover it's one of the most exciting times in biology but I'm sure that every biologist throughout time has said that so when we think about the history of humans understanding the world around them and pursuing science one of the very first steps was for these explorations of the world major collecting expeditions where Charles Darwin and Wallace would travel collect specimens bring them back I think of it as a map like creating a map of the biological world we still do that type of research and we're still learning a lot we're learning we're discovering new species I thought I wanted to be a marine biologist and I pursued marine biology for my master's degree I studied marine isopods that live in the South Pacific Islands and we would for collecting I would put on full scuba gear and dive go diving and it was a really fantastic and fun experience I also fell in love with my advisor who was one of the most amazing open-hearted people I had ever met we were we were in love and we decided to get married there's a lot a lot of big decisions all at one time I needed to make a shift so that there wouldn't be such an overlap between my professional and personal lives and so I decided to switch to entomology to study basically the crustaceans of the land i specialized on bombardier beetles bombardier beetles are special corabeth's they are these masters of chemistry they mix chemicals inside of their bodies in a way that creates an exothermic reaction just before it leaves the body of the beetle my collaborators and I have a grant through the National Science Foundation where we're able to look at the the genes involved in the production of defense of chemicals for these bombardier beetles they'll blast you when you collect them and it doesn't hurt too bad it's not as hot as for kindness the other lineage of Bombardier it's not the boiling point of water but it's definitely a bit of a shock my personal mission tonight is to try to get more of those new species the small bodied ones but also to get as many of the larger goney tropas kutenai as poss on beyond this point but once you've seen a few of them you get get an eye for it and then just out of the corner of your eye you'll see a black something moving at just the right speed and it'll catch your attention and you turn and it usually be just out of reach I used to work on marine crustaceans and insects are basically just flying crustaceans but the most exciting thing I ever did was hooked up with Wendy on a Polynesia expedition to Tahiti and Guam and Fiji and that was the beginning of Wendy and I mean go nootropic earning on my fingers from the bottom of your blast that's very fun Wow all right it's probably sight Linda's today we're looking at amylase trap sample and that is a kind of a flight intercept trap so this is a really convenient way to trap a lot of insects I think what's extraordinary about looking through amylase trap sample is that there's so many different shapes and colors and textures I think the other thing about insects that's amazing is that they've been here for a lot longer and they dominate earth they're in pretty much every habitat except for like benthic and the sea being in all of these different habitats and occupying all these different niches was what has allowed them to modify all these different structures to fit those spaces and so that's part of it to you is that the story is kind of written in the body flies generally have piercing slash sucking mouthparts they look like puppies they've got these beautiful little brown wide spaced eyes Wow as a really crazy mouth too whoa this one has a crazy abdomen so insects have an open circulatory system so their air comes right directly into their body at different points along the whole length of their bodies and so the spiracles are sort of equivalent to our nostrils and it's just sort of odd to think about a nostril on your abdomen when I was an undergraduate at the University of Toronto and Toronto was considered one of the most multicultural cities in the world by the United Nations and I would do this in a little room by myself for several hours and then I would go outside of the museum where I worked and walk on the sidewalk and think this is not diverse I think just like the standard set up of people over it it's not weird like there's just like a limited number of like types and shapes this is an insect world we just look at the insects that's 52 percent of described species they are related to us on the planet so so we're more closely related to insects than we are to see plants and or microbes or fungi these are the major groups of life on our planet the reason why beetles are so successful one of the reasons why is they've developed a hard protective shell which is called the alight row which is actually the front wings but they protect the hind wings which are the flight wings so structural differences are one reason why things can be so successful everything's kind of adapted to weather or they occur things you know die out that can't adapt and speciation events it takes place so everything is constantly evolving and changing over time those that survive the changes are the ones that are successful the field of systematics involves naming species determining how they're related to one another and then establishing classification systems which it which are a nested sets of organisms based on their relatedness together that shows us a map of how organisms evolved throughout the history of life on earth what we have here in this collection is the product of all over that time our goal is to take these specimens and to keep them forever for all future generations to study for me like it just fills me up it's like it's so obvious you know that that is such a good thing to do you definitely always need physical specimens because you can only do so much with an image an image you can't analyze for molecular analysis so the specimens in the collection are irreplaceable if a specimen was lost or damaged you can't go back to Mount Lemmon in 1942 and recollect that specimen when those specimens were collected the collectors and the people who have curated them all of these years had no idea what kind of sequencing technology was going to come down the line it used to be that we would need to go collect specimens specifically for molecular phylogenetic analyses recent advances in sequencing technology allows us to sequence small pieces of DNA that are very fragmented museum collections are filled with specimens that have fractionated DNA that we could not use for genetic projects in the past but now they're perfectly suited for this new sequencing technology and there are our can it be a lot of other technologies in the future that we can bring to bear on these time capsules naturalistic collections are time machines getting Mike done this is like double Mike situation action alright guys it's a big day on location here in Tucson Arizona because I am about to meet the king of sting himself the godfather of the insect sting pain index Justin Schmidt we are right outside of his house and if you guys are ready let's go inside meet the man himself Justin Schmidt I'm expecting to Lydians I see you've got some of our favorites over here tarantula hawks yeah we've got a couple of the Hawks celebrities open that up huh well sure you can see better yeah greens see you everybody at home watching probably wait a min he just took the lid off of the tarantula hawk terrarium see there oh you're just gonna put your hand in there think so would you see what I'm doing is just demonstrating that they really aren't out to get me I mean if they are out to get me I'd be stung right now if I put my thumb on the back of them I'm gonna get nailed yeah applying pressure is all a party I don't want you getting out because then I have to catch you yeah that's I'll kind of lead us in and then yeah I'll ask you some question you tell me some stories I'll give you some of my experiences and and then of course when we're talking about experiences I think what people really want to know or probably like our top three let's go foreign for me the tarantula hawk almost put a line in the sand no pun intended when it came to completing the sting index because I will never forget what it was like first of all how intimidating that creature is to get that thing in the entomology forceps and it looks like an Italian it is strong the wings are going and you see that quarter interesting or coming in and out of that abdomen and that moment where I'm like alright and it's sharp I'm gonna have to place this on my forearm and take this sting and when I finally worked up the courage to do that you know I do this countdown where it's 3 to 1 or 1 to 3 and boom you place it down this sting from that insect was electric in nature I've been shocked before by accidentally like you know taking a zap from like oh yeah we record right this was that times 10 and it put me on the ground my arm seized up from muscle contraction because your mind goes into this state that's just it's blank emptiness and all you can focus on is the fact that there's radiating pain coming out of here that's why you scream because now you're focusing it's something else yeah yesterday I woke up at 3 a.m. went to bed at 9:30 and then I got up at 4 you put this year and a million other things to help this morning they were all like they put them here and I was like that's not gonna work hey bugs you know how many people eating are here right now when you see you know five six eight year old child explaining science to other members they're so empowered and it's really great like be financially button I can guarantee you that over the course of my life people have wondered why why insects why spend your time thinking about this all the time but insects do everything and I love them and it's okay to follow something that maybe seems different to others because that love really can fuel you through so much adversity human curiosity is is really what drives us that's one distinguishing characteristic of us versus most other things we have this insatiable curiosity I think we need to feed that we feed that through music and art and dance and language and poetry but we feed it to exploring and science is one of the fields that we explore once you realize how completely spectacular the natural world is you are very driven to protect it there's cheer beauty that that's you know what elevates the human spirit that's what that's what makes us special we aren't special what are or nothing you

40 thoughts on “Insecta: Science That Stings

  1. This Film was very well executed and grateful to have found this. It is really eye opening to these creatures many fear and find disgusting. I understand this was last year but I just wanted to state my thoughts. 😂😅

  2. Amazing quality and content! Thanks so much for presenting this story. I truly live amongst the insects. Daily encounters, feed endless curiosity.

  3. I shared your video to everyone I know that brought tears to my eyes. Coyote and Justin brought me here but I love handling insects that aren't always mean, lol.

    KEEP UP THE WONDERFUL WORK!!! 👨‍🏫👨‍💻👩‍🏫👩‍💻

  4. So this was the other film crew that was there while Wild Wilderness was filming that episode 🙂 Nice ! great video btw was awesome !! Got my sub !

  5. Ayy, so weird seeing all the people I work with and then knowing I was in the background of a few shots or behind the camera. Should have talked to Dr. Bogan, too! Aquatic inverts need love, too!

  6. I think it’s a shame that few people have watched this documentary. I think this should have a million. It has really expanded my appreciation for insects. I’m still going to kill house flies though…

  7. A little odd to focus on how painful insect stings can be when the documentary is trying to get people interested. Should've focused more about positive ecosystem services.

  8. It's so sad to see that you have so much less numbers than e.g Jake Paul :/ Hope that your work will be appreciated on a larger scale on some point <3

  9. Thanks Brave Wilderness.
    I would never have found this is not for them.
    It's hard to find decent insect films.

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