3linesabout8legs: a spidery digression


the jumping spider Phidippus looks amazed and amazing, amused and amusing

i think that if all spiders looked like Phidippus

arachnophobia would just                  disappear




what if on a warm winter day a thousand brightly coloured beetles

crawled up through the snow and up a fir tree to sit in the sun on its branches

while the fireflies flashed on and off?


diagnostic characters


to give a newly discovered species its identity and immortal name

we tear out its distinctive genitalia to macerate and draw them

you have to be cruel to be kind



we were on our way to a celebratory lab lunch on a hot day

but the girls saw ladybird larvae on a spiraea bush

so we stopped in the sun and watched them hunt


backlogs of discovery


if i never go in the field again i could spend the rest of my career

describing new species that are already sitting in drawers in the museum

that, i think, is the definition of biodiversity


habits of phorid flies


emerging from buried corpses six feet under, or heads of decapitated ants

from specimens kept in formalin, termite mounds, shoe polish and emulsion paint

the world is their oyster, preferably a dead one


butterfly wings



the colour and pattern of butterfly wings are made up of thousands of tiny scales

those scales are worn off and lost over the life of the butterfly

where do they go? and what would the earth look like if they all just piled up?


strange behaviors


Batrachomyia is an Australian genus of flies in the family Chloropidae.

The larvae develop under the skin on the backs of frogs.

Really big larvae. Really small frogs.


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