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Illustration by Rebecca O'Connell // Ant head via Smithsonian FB page, Roosevelt thorax via Public Domain
Illustration by Rebecca O'Connell // Ant head via Smithsonian FB page, Roosevelt thorax via Public Domain

15 Bugs Named After Politicians

Illustration by Rebecca O'Connell // Ant head via Smithsonian FB page, Roosevelt thorax via Public Domain
Illustration by Rebecca O'Connell // Ant head via Smithsonian FB page, Roosevelt thorax via Public Domain

When it comes to honorific gestures made for politicians, getting a city named after you is probably at the top of the tribute hierarchy (hello, Washington, D.C.). International airports or aircraft carriers aren't too shabby, either, and any president worth his or her salt should have a few high schools thrown their way (good luck finding a Richard M. Nixon College Prep).

But where do bugs come in? Entomologists get to name their discoveries, and many have used the opportunity to give homage to political leaders. If you can't get an airport named after you, a slime-mold beetle is a pretty decent consolation prize.

1. LITURGUSA ALGOREI // AL GORE

This praying mantis discovered near the Amazon in Peru is named after Al Gore. The find—one of 19 new species of mantis—was announced in 2014 and named after the former vice president for his environmental work.

2. CALIGULA // GAIUS JULIUS CAESAR AUGUSTUS GERMANICUS (A.K.A. "CALIGULA")

This genus of moth found in Asia doesn't hold incest-rife orgies and rarely shows signs of clinical insanity, so naming it after the Roman emperor seems like an odd choice.

3. ANELOSIMUS NELSONI // NELSON MANDELA

This South African cobweb spider was named to honor the country's former president. It's part of a genus commonly found in America [PDF], though nelsoni is one of a bunch of new species that were discovered in Africa or Southeast Asia; others include Anelosimus biglebowski and Anelosimus dude—entomologists are big fans of the Coen brothers film, apparently.

4. LINCOLNA // ABRAHAM LINCOLN

This parasitic Australian wasp was discovered in 1940 and is named for the 16th president of the United States. A fitting tribute to the greatest leader in American history.

5. APTOSTICHUS BARACKOBAMAI // BARACK OBAMA

Auburn University entomologist Jason Bond discovered this new species of trapdoor spider in 2012 and named it after President Obama. "It’s difficult for me to envision a higher honor,” Bond told the Washington Post. "In science, there are few things that we do as scientists that has the permanency that taxonomy does.”

6. ALLENDIA CHILENSIS // SALVADORE ALLENDE

Allendia chilensis is a patronym for Salvadore Allende, the Chilean president who died during a 1973 coup. A ground beetle, this bug was first found in Chile in the 1970s.

7. AGRA SCHWARZENEGGERI // ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER

Nit-pickers can argue Schwarzenegger was technically not yet a politician when this beetle was discovered in 2002 [PDF]—he was still a year away from winning a special election to become governor of California. But how could we leave out this species who earned its name because of its "markedly developed (biceps-like) middle femora"?

8. PHEIDOLE ROOSEVELTI // THEODORE ROOSEVELT

Pheidole roosevelti, or "Roosevelt's ant," was discovered in Fiji in 1921 by W.M. Mann. In his report [PDF], Mann says he named the species after "the late Col. Theodore Roosevelt," though its "feebly convex sides" are nothing like the stout former president.

9-12. HELLINSIA AGUILERAI, ALFAROI, MORENOI, AND SUCREI // JAIME ROLDOS AGUILERA, JOSÉ ELOY ALFARO DELGADO, GABRIEL GARCÍA MORENO, AND ANTONIO JOSÉ DE SUCRE

A slew of new moth species were found in Ecuador and classified in 2011 [PDF], and the scientists who discovered them gave each a title tied to the region's history: Hellinsia aguilerai is named for Ecuadorian President Jaime Roldos Aguilera, who died in a plane crash in 1981; H. alfaro is named after another Ecuadorian president, Jose Eloy Alfaro Delgado, who was assassinated in 1912; H. morenoi is for Gabriel García Moreno, assassinated in 1875; and H. sucrei is classified in honor of Antonio José de Sucre, the second president of Bolivia, cited in the entomologists' abstract as someone "crucial in achieving the freedom of several South American countries."

13-15. AGATHIDIUM BUSHI, CHENYI, AND RUMSFELDI // GEORGE W. BUSH, DICK CHENEY, AND DONALD RUMSFELD

Drawing by Frances Fawcett // Cornell.edu

These three species of slime-mold beetles were discovered in 2005 by entomologists Quentin Wheeler and Kelly B. Miller, who chose to name them after George W. Bush, his vice president, and his secretary of defense. The beetles feed on fungilike mold, and Wheeler wrote that he named them after the politicians because they "have the courage of their convictions and are willing to do the very difficult and unpopular work of living up to principles of freedom and democracy rather than accepting the expedient or popular." Bush called Wheeler to thank him, saying he was "honored."

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Weird
Billions of Cockroaches Are Bred in China to Create a ‘Healing Potion’
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Insectophobes would probably agree that any place that breeds billions of cockroaches a year is akin to hell on Earth.

That place actually exists—in the Sichuan Province city of Xichang—but China's government says it's all for a good cause. The indoor farm is tasked with breeding 6 billion creepy-crawlies a year to meet the country's demand for a special "healing potion" whose main ingredient is ground-up roaches.

While there are other cockroach breeding facilities in China that serve the same purpose, the one in Xichang is the world's largest, with a building "the size of two sports fields," according to the South China Morning Post.

The facility is reportedly dark, humid, and fully sealed, with cockroaches given the freedom to roam and reproduce as they please. If, for any odd reason, someone should want to visit the facility, they'd have to swap out their day clothes for a sanitized suit to avoid bringing pollutants or pathogens into the environment, according to Guangming Daily, a government newspaper.

The newspaper article contains a strangely poetic description of the cockroach farm:

"There were very few human beings in the facility. Hold your breath and (you) only hear a rustling sound. Whenever flashlights swept, the cockroaches fled. Wherever the beam landed, there was a sound like wind blowing through leaves. It was just like standing in the depths of a bamboo forest in late autumn."

Less poetic, though, is the description of how the "miracle" potion is made. Once the bugs reach maturity, they are fed into machines and ground up into a cockroach paste. The potion claims to work wonders for stomach pain and gastric ailments, and according to its packaging, it has a "slightly sweet" taste and a "slightly fishy smell."

The provincial government claims that the potion has healed more than 40 million patients, and that the Xichang farm is selling its product to more than 4000 hospitals throughout China. While this may seem slightly off-putting, cockroaches have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years.

Some studies seem to support the potential nutritional benefit of cockroaches. The BBC reported on the discovery that cockroaches produce their own antibiotics, prompting scientists to question whether they could be used in drugs to help eliminate bacterial infections such as E. coli and MRSA.

In 2016, scientists in Bangalore, India, discovered that the guts of one particular species of cockroach contain milk protein crystals that appear to be nutritious, TIME reports. They said the milk crystal could potentially be used as a protein supplement for human consumption, as it packs more than three times the energy of dairy milk.

"I could see them in protein drinks," Subramanian Ramaswamy, a biochemist who led the study, told The Washington Post.

However, as research has been limited, it's unlikely that Americans will start to see cockroach smoothies at their local juice bar anytime soon.

[h/t South China Morning Post]

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Animals
How to Identify Insects Just By Looking at Their Mouths
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Most of us learned how to tell arachnids and insects apart in elementary school, but classifying insects into their different orders based on looks alone is a little trickier. If you want to look at insects like an entomologist does, though, there’s one body part in particular you should focus on. According to a TED-Ed lesson by Anika Hazra, identifying the type of mouth an insect has can tell you a lot about what group it belongs to, what it eats, and how it evolved.

There are five main types of mouthparts insects can have, the most common of which is the chewing mouthpart. These mouths are characterized by large, serrated mandibles made for grinding up plants and prey. Believed to be the most primitive type of insect mouth still around today, you can see the chewing mouthpart on insects like ants and grasshoppers.

Other insect mouthparts include the pierce-sucking type, which is used by bedbugs and mosquitos to suck blood; the siphoning mouthpart, the curly, straw-like mouths that butterflies have; the sponging mouthpart, which helps flies sop up fluids; and the chewing-lapping mouthpart, which enables bees to build their hives as well as eat.

It’s important for scientists studying bugs to be able to recognize the diverse mouths of insects. It’s also a useful skill if you’re just a casual bug enthusiast. For illustrations of all the different mouthparts, check out the video from TED-Ed below.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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