Random buggy news...

* BibliOddesy has a neat collection of vintage illustrations from bee/apiculture literature with links to some other resources. (LINK)

* PESTIVAL was held from the 3rd-6th of September in the UK and featured all sorts of cool insect inspired art. Check out their website (LINK).

* A new book out called "The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics" by Clifford Pickover has a neat exerpt that talks about cicadas:

Cicada-Generated Prime Numbers

Cicadas are winged insects that evolved around 1.8 million years ago during the Pleistocene epoch, when glaciers advanced and retreated across North America. Cicadas of the genus Magicicada spend most of their lives below the ground, feeding on the juices of plant roots, and then emerge, mate, and die quickly. These creatures display a startling behavior: Their emergence is synchronized with periods of years that are usually the prime numbers 13 and 17. (A prime number is an integer such as 11, 13, and 17 that has only two integer divisors: 1 and itself.) During the spring of their 13th or 17th year, these periodical cicadas construct an exit tunnel. Sometimes more than 1.5 million individuals emerge in a single acre; this abundance of bodies may have survival value as they overwhelm predators such as birds that cannot possibly eat them all at once.

Some researchers have speculated that the evolution of prime-number life cycles occurred so that the creatures increased their chances of evading shorter-lived predators and parasites. For example, if these cicadas had 12-year life cycles, all predators with life cycles of 2, 3, 4, or 6 years might more easily find the insects. Mario Markus of the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Physiology in Dortmund, Germany, and his coworkers discovered that these kinds of prime-number cycles arise naturally from evolutionary mathematical models of interactions between predator and prey. In order to experiment, they first assigned random life-cycle durations to their computer-simulated populations. After some time, a sequence of mutations always locked the synthetic cicadas into a stable prime-number cycle.

Of course, this research is still in its infancy and many questions remain. What is special about 13 and 17? What predators or parasites have actually existed to drive the cicadas to these periods? Also, a mystery remain as to why, of the 1,500 cicada species worldwide, only a small number of the genus Magicicada are known to be periodical.


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