Dr. Tim's Spineless Wonders

Dr. Tim's Spineless Wonders


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Why Beetles Require a Thick Skin

Wednesday, August 5th, 2020

One of our greatest social fears is to appear in public at a party wearing the identical dress or shirt or outfit that another person is wearing. Some say there could be nothing worse. “Same dress fear” is a foreboding that, even if conceived only in one’s imagination, can cause alarm, panic and, if left…

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A Cockroach in the Kitchen is NOT the End of the World

Monday, July 6th, 2020

I don’t spend a lot of time pondering what might cause the end of our world as we know it, be it an asteroid colliding with and knocking Earth out of orbit; a rogue black hole appearing out of nowhere, sucking our world into its inescapable and unforgiving clutches; a massive volcanic eruption filling the…

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Bipedal vs. Hexapedal Wonders

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

After my children progressed from the stage where they argued with friends about whose dad was biggest or whose dad could beat up whose dad, they moved on to more civil comparisons. It was always interesting for me to hear them try to explain what their dad does. “My dad is a bug doctor. That’s…

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Sit, Stay and Don’t Shake Paws

Monday, May 4th, 2020

A lot has happened since my last column. Our sense of normality has been drastically altered. We are staying home more, and when we do go out for necessities we are very cautious of everyone else’s movements so that we don’t violate the 6-feet safe space. We habitually wash hands, disinfect surfaces and even wear…

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What has a fly with a flu to do with you?

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

Viruses are at the top of nearly everyone’s list of concerns right now, and understandably so. COVID-19 has wreaked havoc within our medical community and our current way of life. Ripple effects to our economy are yet to be determined – huge ramifications for such a tiny, sub-microscopic “bug.” Viruses are so small that 100…

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Did you hear the one about the huge camel spider? Well …

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

On several occasions photos of huge camel spiders, the size of a human’s calf, have exploded across the internet, accompanied by alarming stories describing how the spiders attacked and partially consumed a U.S. soldier stationed in Iraq. In each case the soldier reportedly was completely unaware of his plight until he awakened in the morning…

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Snow fleas: Winter Insect Insanity

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020

An entomological rule of thumb is that insects are active in the spring, summer, and fall, but not the winter. It is what we always expect and even come to rely on.  By the time winter hits, insects should either be smart enough to come in out of the cold, or they should have figured…

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You see a tree. Insects see a welcome mat.

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020

Leaf-footed pine bugs can be inadvertently carried into a home on Christmas trees. Boxelder bugs brought into a home on firewood. If you are convinced that insects have really declared war against humans, you might want to review the rules of engagement set forth in the Geneva Convention. Specifically, note that the rules do NOT…

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Insect Biology and the Necessary Hedge Words

Friday, December 6th, 2019

When teaching about insects, biologists almost never say “always” or “never.” The words “almost always,” usually,” “most often,” “generally,” “ordinarily,” and “normally” can save a lot of trouble because in biology, there is “almost always” an exception to every rule. Take, for example, the characteristics that separate insects from other classes of animals. Insects are…

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Uninvited Stink Bugs in the Home – Dispatch Satisfaction

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

Some time ago I wrote a Spineless Wonders column about the invasion of stink bugs – specifically, the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys). I described what this particular stink bug looks and smells like, where it originated from, its current American distribution as well as when and why it is attracted to and gets…

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Plague of Locusts – or Whatever They Are Called

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

Dear Dr. Tim, What’s up with all the locusts, or whatever you call the “hoppy” insects that are all over our neighborhood. Is this the start of a plague? They look like normal grasshoppers to me except that they are everywhere. Can you explain this and will we have them again next year? Signed Moses…

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Hover Fly vs. Homeowner – Conflict Mediation

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

As an entomologist, I find that it often falls on me to serve as a sort of de facto mediator in ongoing or potential insect/human conflicts. My role is to facilitate understanding and communication between both parties with a view to helping them reach a mutually amicable resolution. As a mediator I sift through the…

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Japanese ‘Beetlemania’ Continues

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

Beatlemania was often used to describe the frenzy, excessive enthusiasm, obsession and fascination directed at a British pop group, the Beatles, when they first arrived in America. Their introduction elicited hysterical screaming by fans whenever the Beatles landed at an airport or appeared in public. Beatlemania of a different kind accompanies Japanese beetles each year…

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Flies in a home are a complicated issue

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

Dear Dr. Tim, I have a simple question. Can you tell me how to get those pesky flies out of my home? You know the ones I am talking about – those obnoxious black ones, the ones that really annoy you. Thanks for your help. Ann Oyd (aka annoyed) People seldom appreciate what it takes…

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Flowers, Pollinators, and the Ripple Effect

Wednesday, June 5th, 2019

Most people understand that nothing in nature exists in isolation. All nature is connected. Any change in one component affects others, causing more changes and alterations that impact still other components down the line and so on. It is called the ripple effect. Everything is nature is interconnected and interdependent. Local weather conditions affect the…

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Tick Talk Time

Monday, May 6th, 2019

Black-legged tick life stages. From left: adult female, adult male, nymph, larva.Photo credits: Lee Green, Medical Entomologist, Indiana State Department of Health It is tick talk time, but when I say “tick talk” I am not referring to a timekeeping device, such as a watch or a clock. I am simply pointing out that spring…

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Insects as Pets: Consider the Advantages

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

Pets are part of the family for nearly 62% of Americans. According to a recent pet census, a whopping 69.9 million dogs are kept as pets in the United States. And get this: There are even more cats – 74.1 million of them. That seems like a lot of dogs and cats.  U.S. pet ownership…

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Insect Biomimicry and Why I love Spider-Man

Friday, March 1st, 2019

You might think it strange to see a small kid, all by himself, dressed in red and black, lurking in random corners of the home. He crouches, motionless, silent, ever-watching for a chance to spring upon some unsuspecting passerby. This might freak out other people, but for me it is a welcome sight. It is…

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Valentine’s Day Strategies – Tips I have learned from insects

Friday, February 8th, 2019

Valentine’s Day is nearly here so, as an alert to all guys out there who have significant others and want to keep them, do not forget February 14th.  It is pretty important to your relationship, and flubbing this one is akin to forgetting her birthday or wondering why she is not home and suddenly remembering…

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Insects May Be Smiling on the Inside

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

As a fourth-grader I drew my first real insect in art class. I think it was a pretty good rendering. It was anatomically correct for the most part, right up until the very end when, as children often do, I planted a big ole smiley face on the head, two dots for eyes, a circle…

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