Follow your feet…


I like the idea of communicating science and ideas. It will forever be my fate to wander the wilderness of science, forever interested in something new.

And I don’t mind one little bit.

 I’ve finally finished my latest youtube video It features creepy crawlies in the backyard. For a few months now I’ve been missing in action. Why?, you may ask. It’s because I’ve been on the hunt, forever on the lookout for insects, worms, spiders and all manner of tiny nasties.

They’re really bloody interesting I have to say. Only a few days ago my wife and I decided to jump in the car and go for a long drive to anywhere. We ended up in Port Pirie; a lead smelting town several hours drive north of Adelaide, where I live. The drive was nice. The town is not so promising. 

BUT, we found this little scrap of mangrove encrusted beach in the centre of town..There I got some of the best footage I’ve ever taken. Native bees were out in force, and they were putting on a stellar performance…

I’m actually kind of proud of the above piece of video in particular. 

What this random trip taught me is that no matter what dump you end up in, there is always something that is worth seeing. I never even would have considered filming native bees, and yet there they were. They were beautiful to behold, they put on a fantastic show, and they weren’t afraid of being filmed. Most insects and arthropods are quite eager not to be seen. 

These natives are superficially similar to honeybees: an introduced species here in Australia. Their mode of flight is (to me) reminiscent of a hummingbird’s. They hover and dart back and forth with practiced agility. They possess a gleaming exoskeleton, replete with the typical black and gold. I’m not an entemologist, just an interested observer I might add. Creepy crawlies though have always been something I’ve enjoyed watching and learning about. Lectures and courses involving insects and other lower life forms always got my attention at university.

Mellitosphex burmensis, an ancestral bee, hailing from Cretaceous Burma

Melittosphex first appears in Cretaceous fossil records dating approximately 100 million years. As I mention in my video Melittosphex is somewhat a hybrid, an early fork in the road that led to bees, wasps and ants. 

M. burmensis probably pollinated plants as modern bees do, but it hadn’t evolved all of the requisite structures. The long and important co-evolution between bees and angiosperms was most likely a long way off..

What I love the most about finding new things like these bees is that if you take a good look your mind can take you back. All the way back to this hazy distant past. Learning for it’s own sake is special because it allows your mind to wander. 

Some of the best things in life are unplanned.

**Erratum** 10/10/2016

It turns out that the insect in the above video which I describe as a native bee is in fact NOT a bee at all, but a hoverfly! Known scientifically as Melangyna viridiceps, this little guy is common all over Australasia. It is actually known as the common hoverfly.

The adult common hoverfly feeds on pollen and nectar, as witnessed in the video. The distinctive colouration is reminiscent of a bee or wasp, and is a ploy to deceive would be predators.

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