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The Earwig's Tale

An entomologist and author exposes some widely held insect myths

May Berenbaum
One advantage of being an entomologist is that there's never a lack of material for small talk (as it were); with close to a million described insect species, there's an almost inexhaustible supply of stories to share. But I expect most entomologists have noticed, as I have, that a small number of species seem to come up in conversation with disproportionate frequency. These are the insects about which misconceptions abound.It sometimes seems that the majority of the most widely known insect facts aren't facts at all. So I wrote The Earwig's Tail, which describes my encounters with 26 of the most firmly entrenched modern insect myths.Here are a few highlights from The Earwig's Tail -- misconceptions that achieve particular distinction.
Oldest arthropod urban legend: the brain-boring earwig The common name of the "earwig," entomologically a member of the order Dermaptera, derives from the Old English "ear wicga," which,...
Newest arthropod urban legend: extinction prevention beeDer Sueddeutsche Zeitung
Most pervasive arthropod urban legend: the mate-eating mantis
Most baffling arthropod urban legend from an entomological perspective: the domesticated crab louselinkurl:The Earwig's Tail: A Modern Bestiary of Multi-legged Legends,;http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/BEREAR.html by May R. Berenbaum, Harvard University Press, 2009, 216pp, ISBN 978-0674035409 US $23.95.Illustrations by linkurl:Jay Hosler.;http://www.jayhosler.com/ linkurl:May Berenbaum;http://www.life.illinois.ed/entomology/faculty/berenbaum.html is an entomologist studying plant-insect interactions at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. She has authored numerous magazine articles and five books about insect for the general public, and received the 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science Public Understanding of Science and Technology award. She is also the founder and organizer of the linkurl:UIUC Insect Fear Film Festival,;http://www.life.illinois.edu/entomology/egsa/ifff.html a celebration of Hollywood's entomological excesses, now in its 27th year.Correction (February 28): When originally posted, this story misspelled the book title asthe correct title is regrets the error.



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