Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Minds of Insects

Hello everyone, Tyler Stading here. I am a biology and psychology double major at UNL!

It may seem odd that someone with a psychology focus would be interested in insects. But you might be interested to know just how intertwined the two are. For instance, one of psychology’s most famous sexuality researchers Alfred Kinsey began his scientific career as an entomologist studying hymenopterans, specifically gall wasps. He was notorious for his methodical nature and meticulous attention to detail, which made his work in psychology all the better!

Some arthropods, such as arachnids, have helped psychologists more directly. For instance, researcher Peter Witt better used common garden spiders to better understand the effects of psychoactive drugs on behavior. By giving spiders appropriate doses of drugs such as LSD, marijuana, speed, sedatives, and even caffeine, Witt could later observe how the drugs affected the spider’s web construction the next morning.

Insects can also help us better understand something as complex as memory! In particular, the eusocial honey bee demonstrates complex learning and communication with its unique waggle dance that helps communicate flower position to other bees. This learning behavior is extremely impressive, especially when you consider that bees have about 100,000 x’s fewer neurons than humans (9.6 105 vs 8.6 1010).

More than anything though insects are fascinating, they are one of the most diverse and successful animal clades on the planet! Whether they’re a pet, a pest, or ending up on your dinner plate, everyone has a reason to be interested in these amazing and ubiquitous animals!

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