Ento-musings from the University of Kentucky Department of Entomology

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Zorapterans Are Worthy of Our Notice

On my visit two months ago to a prospective college that will remain unnamed (since it was notgasp—UK),  I toured Incognito University's insect-pest-research lab. Therein I saw bedbugs of all instars eagerly imbibing rabbit blood (and hoping for a taste of the human kind too), and also termite colonies in every stage of development: including a few that were a decade old, and (uniquely in 2002) had been founded in captivity; these lived in forearm-deep 3-foot-long Rubbermaid tubs filled to the brim with mulch. Up in a corner shelf, I noticed one of these tubs to be conspicuously labeled "Zoraptera", not Isoptera: referring to an order of Insecta of whose existence even many systematic entomologists are unaware, and which I had never seen. 

Upon request, my graduate student guide brought down and opened the bin, which contained no termites—my guide informed me that this mulch had been abandoned by the wood-chewers for some time, leaving it to the fungus-browsing zorapterans: inconspicuous things, being only 3-4 mm. long. I knew little of these insects, other than their habitat, their obscurity, and their subsociality; and I inquired if Incognito University was researching them.

Apparently not: according to my guide, these zorapterans were just baggage that came along with the mulch; nobody there really bothered with them. This is unfortunate, for the Zoraptera are far more interesting than most will give them credit for (http://gentlecentipede.blogspot.com/2013/03/patriarchy-and-other-eccentricities-of.html).

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