Panel provides glimpses into the wonderful world of bees

Honey bee (Apis melifera) visiting Pride of Madiera (Echium candicans)

(Updated, 11/25/16:  fixed broken links) Bees are amazing creatures, with their complex societies and unparalleled ability to pollinate plants*, so I like to learn about them when I can. One such opportunity recently was at a panel discussion about bees at Sonoma State University’s Insectpalooza. Sitting on the panel were three experts on European and […]

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Hummingbirds!

In mid-January 2010, PBS’s Nature series had a remarkable program about my favorite animal, the hummingbird. The lives of these incredible birds is explored in several “chapters,” each one punctuated by outstanding footage and insightful commentary.  (Update, 1/10/17: In late 2016, Nature ran another incredible hummingbird program called Super Hummingbirds.) Among the many interesting parts […]

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Spiders Doing a Mating Dance in the Garden

(Updated, 1/15/17: fixed broken links) I wasn’t planning on writing another entry for “creepy-crawly week,” but on Saturday I saw something in the garden that could not be ignored. As I was walking across the yard, I noticed some motion in one of the cross spider (Araneus Diadematus) webs. It was another spider, one much […]

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Parasites are creepy — and also amazing

It seems to be creepy-crawly week here at Mental Masala, with today’s installment covering parasites.  Radiolab, a fascinating radio program from WNYC (and available for download via iTunes and other podcasting software), recently devoted their show to parasites. It had the story of zombie roaches, how eliminating hookworm in the southern U.S. helped improve economic […]

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Arachno-high-wire

These line drawings aren’t some kind of code or ancient writing, they represent spider webs that have been  in my backyard in recent days. The circle represents the web and the radiating lines represent the support structures.  At the center of the circle is a dot that represents the 1-cm diameter spider (probably a cross […]

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Mosquitoes in Siberia

In two recent issues of the New Yorker, staff writer Ian Frazier describes a four-thousand mile trip across Siberia (Travels in Siberia I and Travels in Siberia II). So far, because of my haphazard system of New Yorker consumption (read “Talk of the Town” and an article or two, then add it to the pile), […]

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Lime tree drama: spider vs. bee

A few weeks ago I bought a makrut lime tree (Citrus hystrix) so I could use its leaves in Asian curry pastes (Thai and Balinese, in particular), my favorite cauliflower soup, and to make infused syrups for drinks. Right now, the tree is festooned with blossoms and pea-sized fruits (most of which will probably fall […]

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Earthrise, 40 years later

On December 21, 1968, three NASA astronauts in a small space capsule were propelled out of Earth’s atmosphere by a 363 foot tall, 3350 ton Saturn V rocket. It was the Apollo 8 mission, and it was ambitious: the astronauts would be the first humans to orbit the moon while also performing numerous tests of […]

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