Thursday, April 09, 2015

Nature, so fascinating

So, something crossed my Twitter feed yesterday from the "QI Elves" (QI is a British quiz-show of sorts). It was a comment about "book scorpions" that ate mites and other organisms that might damage books. The picture was of something I know as a pseudoscorpion, which I am somewhat familiar with as they sometimes show up in my soil samples.

So I thought, That would be cool if it's true but my default position on these cutesy little things is to be skeptical without verification. I knew some stuff about pseudoscorpions but had never heard of them inhabiting old books.

So last night, when I had a few moments, I looked them up.

Book scorpions are a real thing. In fact, that's another name sometimes given to pseudoscorpions:

Scientific American blog (And yeah, they devote more space than really necessary to "oh my gosh, pseudoscorpion sex is weird" but we live in a clickbait world now...)

Here's more of a book lover's perspective. I wonder if I have some of these critters....I do own a number of old books and I'm not exactly compulsive about dusting the bookshelves. Not that I'd mind. I might be startled if one ran across the page while I was reading, but I know pseudoscorpions enough not to be afraid of them or not to want to squash them.

Warning: creepy crawlies ahead. But really, they're friendly creepy crawlies!

Here's some video:

Not sure about the music on that one, other than that the beat kind of matches the movement of the pseuoscorpion. (They do not actually eat beans. Or ham or chicken, for that matter)

The best thing about these little guys? The can eat Varroa mites, which are a group of mites that invade beehives and harm the bees:

Not sure if there's a plan to do mass releases of these, and even how effective they would be in an actual beehive. But they eat Varroa mites! The person who made that video has a website, but it's mostly in German
(Makes me want to read more. Google turns up a couple scholarly articles on Varroa mites and pseudoscorpions....)

I don't much like actual scorpions (I don't have much experience with them, we don't seem to have many around where I live, though I admit I was somewhat creeped out by how many there were running around the research buildings up at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve when I went up there). But pseudoscorpions, as far as I know, cannot hurt humans. And they are kind of cool looking - I like any organism that looks so distinctive that it's hard to confuse it with anything else.

Edited to add:

This kind of thing makes me think of this (sadly now defunct) advertising campaign:

I love it when I learn something I didn't know before. And it's really not a "hey, I can impress my friends with this" kind of thing (though I do kind of love having, as an adult, friends who will be impressed by this sort of thing and not roll their eyes and talk about how I'm an "egghead"). The real reason I love it is that there's something NEW TO LEARN. There's so much wonderful crazy stuff out there in the world...

Also, I find this kind of thing oddly comforting. To be able to think about pseudoscorpions eating mites that parasitize bees. I get so fed up with humanity - right now I'm in one of my periodic fed-up cycles over just so much - that I'd rather go out into nature and learn about something that's cool and isn't someone complaining about what amounts to a problem that only the very wealthy and safe have while at the same time people in some parts of the world are being killed for their religious affiliation, or their tribe, or who they are....

And yeah, I get that the pseudoscorpions are KILLING the mites....but they're killing them to eat them, not out of any animus towards them. It's kind of like us eating a salmon or even lentils. 


Lynn said...

That IS cool. I've always thought insects are interesting.

And I love that Discovery Channel commercial. Probably my favorite commercial, of any kind, ever.

Chris Laning said...

Every time you mention the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve I send you a mental friendly-wave, because I've been there too. One year when I was an undergrad biology student, we went on a field trip to Oklahoma for Spring break. This was before any of the Tallgrass preserves were officially established, but we got to see some of the land where it would be. We were thrilled.