Romeo and Juliweta: kissing cousins or rival families?

Romeo and Juliet. Star-crossed lovers from two feuding families. What makes this story so epic, and such a tragedy, is that the Capulet and Montague families are such bitter enemies. The star-crossed lovers have it all in front of them if they want love to triumph. They might ask themselves…

No Buzz, No Food, No Joke.

Decline of insect pollination and its economic effect on NZ crop production. Honey Bee in Apple Tree My earliest memory of wanting to become a scientist goes way back. I was only 8 years old when I imagined myself lying somewhere in the Amazon, observing the behaviour of small mammals…

Goblins, orcs and Uruk Hai: taxonomy and Tolkien

Tolkien knew the value of naming. More than that, he knew the value of understanding and labeling diversity. Tolkien was not satisfied with simply mentioning pipeweed, he needed to mention several varieties (Longbottom Leaf, Old Toby, Southern Star), each with its own properties. I have commented on the subspecies of hobbits that…

Craft beers and crafty bugs

I have to admit a certain fondness for craft beers. I particularly like the big tasting American pale ales but will generally try any old thing that I come across. There is certainly a large diversity of craft beers around and it taps into that collector gene that gets you excited…

Splitting up the beetles: Come together on Banks Peninsula?

I’ve always been a fan of the beetles. They are some of the most obvious insects in our environments as we grow up and they don’t seem to have the ‘ick’ factor for people, like flies and spiders do. I’ve also always been a fan of the Beatles. My parents…

The invasion of Californian Thistle (and how to fight back!)

Since 1878, the dreaded Californian thistle has caused mayhem throughout New Zealand farms! It is very problematic to the country’s pastoral farming systems, costing close to $700 million each year. The invaders have been subjected to a continuous battle with herbicides. This has been an effective, if costly, method of control…

It’s all about the birds, but what about the bugs?

Predator control by poisons is considered a must by many in New Zealand. This is a touchy subject to approach as people’s opinions tend to be polarised with arguments for and against. These are particularly focused on how humane these controls are, and the risk to non-target species, especially birds….

Concerning Hobbit subspecies: Tolkien and the taxonomy of damselflies

Tolkien was a taxonomist. At least, he had thoughts like that of a taxonomist. A taxonomist is someone who thinks about taxa, about how to make sensible groups out of individuals, especially about what constitutes a species. Without taxonomy the world is just a place full of individuals and biology…

Gollum and the carpet beetles: One man’s meat is another man’s poison

When it comes to pest species we spend a lot of time thinking about how they forage. Usually pest species cause most of their problems through what they eat. This generates a lot of research on either finding out what makes them stop eating something (to protect what they are eating)…

Concerning hobbits and NZ grass grub

   I’ve suggested before that The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien is a great way to prepare a young person for a career in biogeography. I would go further and suggest that The Lord of the Rings is a great way to prepare someone for ecology and evolution…