A Rainbow of Butterflies

Butterflies come in all colors of the rainbow. It’s true, and if you don’t see a particular color, you can bet that someone else, somewhere in the world, will see that color. Take a look at some of the marvelous colors of butterflies.

1. Red

James St. John via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Behold, Cymothoe sangaris, or the red glider butterfly. It lives in the rainforest of several central African countries. If you do a Google search for the species name, most of the results will be stores that will sell you a mounted specimen. They are apparently hunted for their looks.

2. Orange

Harald Hoyer via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

This orange butterfly is male and he’s called The Cruiser (Vindula dejone erotella). We know he’s male because the female of this species looks nothing like this -females are kind of greenish-gray with a white sash. But they manage to recognize each other. The Cruiser is found in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.

3. Yellow

Contact '97 via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0 

You see here the common grass yellow butterfly (Eurema hecabe), found in Africa, Asia, Australia, and the South Pacific. They are migratory, but normally stick to tropical regions.

4. Green

The Dido longwing butterfly (Philaethria dido) has striking bright green wings set off by black borders. This tropical butterfly ranges from Mexico to the Amazon, where it lives in the rainforest canopy.

5. Blue

Zeynel Cebeci via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Here is a lovely specimen of the Anatolian navy blue butterfly (Agrodiaetus actis). Unfortunately, it’s only found in certain regions of Turkey.

6. Purple

MONGO via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Although the species is the Eastern-tailed blue butterfly (Cupido comyntas), you can see that this little guy is clearly purple. A lovely shade of lilac. Eastern-tailed blue butterflies come in a variety of blues, plus purple, pink, and gray.

7. White

White is the combination of all colors, if you’re talking about light, or the absence of color, if you’re talking about paint. Shown here is a European cabbage butterfly (Pieris rapae). They originated in Europe, Africa, and Asia, but are now found in North America, Australia, and New Zealand as well, probably introduced through caterpillars on imported vegetables. They feed on cabbage and various weeds of the mustard family.

8. Black

Glimmer721 via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Black is the absence of color in light, or the combination of all colors in paint. Spicebush swallowtail butterflies (Papilio troilus) are large black butterflies that cover the eastern U.S. The black is a handy color, because these butterflies feed at night!

9. No Color

The real absence of color is transparency -no pigment at all. Then you’re talking about the glasswing butterfly (Greta oto). They are native to Central and South America, and feed off the nectar of rainforest flowers. We don’t quite understand how the membrane of its wings can be so transparent, but they are just as strong as any other butterfly wings.

Butterflies come in many other colors, too, like salmon, turquoise, and those lovely combinations of colors. Enjoy the butterflies in your flower garden this spring!

These Fake Flowers Could Help Scientists Study At-Risk Bees

If you haven't heard, the world's bees are having a crisis. According to one recent study, bee populations in some areas have plummeted by 75 percent in a quarter of a century. Some countries have introduced legislation banning certain pesticides in response to the news, but solving the complicated problem will likely require much more research. In order to gather better data on bee behavior, one new media artist has developed a machine that can give scientists a bug's-eye view.

As Co.Design reports, Michael Candy's Synthetic Pollenizer is designed to blend into a bee's natural environment. Yellow circles bolted around the opening of the device imitate the petals on a flower. Tubes pump real nectar and pollen into the center of the fake flower, so when bees land on it to feed, they're collecting real reproductive materials they can spread to the next plant they visit.

Candy, who's based in Brisbane, Australia, originally conceived the apparatus as a way for scientists to track the pollinating behaviors of bees. The synthetic flower is outfitted with cameras and dyes, and with enough of them distributed in the wild, researchers could see which bees travel to certain places and how long they stay.

After his concept reached the final round of the Bio Art and Design awards in the Netherlands, Candy decided to create his own prototype with help from an urban beekeeper in Melbourne, Australia. The invention worked: Bees mistook it for real flora and carried pollen from it to their next destination. But to use it for tracking and studying bees on a larger scale, Candy would need to build a lot more of them. The pollinators would also need to be scattered throughout the bees' natural habitats, and since they would each come equipped with a camera, privacy (for nearby residents, not the bees) could become a concern.

Even if the concept never gets the funding it needs to expand, Candy says it could still be used in smaller applications. Fake flowers designed to look like real orchids, for example, could encourage the pollination of endangered orchid species. But for people studying dwindling bee populations, orchids are low on the list of concerns: 30 percent of all the world's crops are pollinated by bees [PDF].

[h/t Co.Design]

A Chemical in Bed Bug Poop Might Be Making You Feel Sick

Bed bugs can give you nasty bites and a lifetime of nightmares, but scientists have long wondered if the creepy parasites can pass diseases to their hosts. For years, the general consensus was no: Unlike ticks, mosquitos, and other insects that are known to feast on human blood, bed bugs aren't packing any harmful pathogens in their bites. Yet according to a new study, spotted by Gizmodo, the bugs don't need to nibble on us to make us sick. Histamines in their poop might be aggravating our immune systems.

For their study, recently published in the journal PLOS One, scientists at North Carolina State University tested the dust in a bed bug-infested apartment complex. They found that samples from some infested homes had histamine levels 20 times higher than those without bed bugs. This was still the case three months after the buildings had been treated by exterminators.

Histamine is a chemical compound produced by our bodies. In small amounts, it works as a vital part of our immune system. It's activated in the presence of allergens, irritants, and pathogens. Say a puff of dust goes up your nose: Histamine is what prompts your body to sneeze it out. It's also the culprit behind the watery eyes, runny nose, and itchy skin you might experience during an allergy attack (which is why you might take an antihistamine to calm these symptoms).

But we're not alone in our ability to produce histamine. Recent research has shown that the chemical is present in bed bug feces. When the insects poop, they spray histamines into the same air that homeowners breathe. A few whiffs of the stuff is likely nothing to worry about, but scientists are concerned about the effects environmental histamine can have on people over an extended period of time. The chemical compound can cause allergic reactions on its own and possibly make us more vulnerable to existing allergens. The implications are especially serious for people with asthma.

"Dermal, nasal, or respiratory responses (e.g. bronchial reactivity) to histamine in clinical tests suggest that exposure to histamine in the environment would constitute a significant health risk, although information on environmental exposure is limited," the study authors write.

For now, scientists can do nothing but speculate on what these results might mean for public health. Humans are prepared to treat only histamine that's produced by our own bodies, and dealing with the effects on histamine spread by bed bugs is uncharted territory for doctors and scientists. How exactly bed bugs obtain the chemicals in the first place is also unclear, but researchers suspect that it's a combination of the blood they suck from us and histamine they make on their own as a type of pheromone, indicating to other bed bugs that a place is safe to invade.

Following this study, the North Carolina State scientists plan to conduct more intensive research on the impact histamine produced by bed bugs is having on the people who live with it. While the best way to eradicate histamine in bed bug poop is still a mystery, there are plenty of ways to deal with the bugs themselves if you suspect you have an infestation.

[h/t Gizmodo]


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