Profile picture
Ask An Entomologist @BugQuestions
, 28 tweets, 8 min read Read on Twitter
So...for this week's #DeepDive, let's talk about some of the insect rescuing ideas that seem to go viral at this time every year.

A lot of these ideas are obviously well intentioned, but at best, have neutral effects.

Some of them are even harmful.
The first thing I'd like to bring up is this post by @BugEric, which discusses wing repair in Monarchs.

He hits a lot of the same points we'll be discussing today.…
In order to understand this post, first you need to understand how insect reproduction works...because it's not at all like humans.

A human can give birth to, maybe, 30 offspring over a lifetime?

Which is a crazy amount of babies.

Colorado Potato Beetle females do that daily.
Because we're mammals, most folks are familiar with reproduction on a mammal scale. Don't get me wrong...this totally makes sense.

However, insect reproduction is at another level.

Bugs literally pump as many babies into the world as they possibly can.

Mammals don't do that.
In general, reproductive strategies can be split into two categories which grade into each other.

R-selection: Pumping as many babies into the world as possible, with minimal investment

K-selection: Having fewer offspring, but higher investment in those offspring
Insects have a tendency to be R-selected, with a typical bug having about 300 babies over a lifetime. Some can lay as many as 10,000 eggs.

Some, like the tsetse, lay only 10 or so.
There are K-selected bugs, like the American Burying beetle, which are of major conservation concern. The American burying beetle works in pairs to bury dead animals and the females tend their babies for extended periods.

The @stlzoo works on these

(Note: The above is *NOT* an American burying beetle, but Twitter doesn't have a GIF of those yet)
So...let's talk about Monarch wing repair first.

In the late '80s, scientists tracked egg production in Monarchs after 1 (dotted line) or multiple matings (solid line).

They'll make 25-50 babies/day, depending on how many times they've mated.
It also depends on how old they are...older Monarchs will make fewer eggs. The youngest Monarchs are more capable reproducers.
Most of these eggs aren't going to survive to adulthood. Even though Monarchs are famous for their chemical defenses, there are a still a lot of things which eat them. Wasps, flies, even some birds aren't deterred by their defenses.

...but there are also parasites.
The parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, OE from here on out, can make it more difficult for Monarchs to fly. Most infected don't make the full migration, although they do lay eggs.

OE is passed on through the eggs.
So, if you see a Monarch with a torn's likely old and has already reproduced a few times. 30% of the Monarch population is already infected with OE, so by attaching a wing from a butterfly, you're risking infecting an uninfected individual. reattaching a broken wing to a Monarch, you're really not helping it.

1.) It's likely old, and has already reproduced a few times.
2.) There's a 50% chance it's a male (and there are plenty of males about)
3.) OE infection risk is 1 in 3., bees.

Bees are...weird. I'd argue they're generally K-strategists, since most social species reproduce in colonies.

However, the bees you're most likely to meet are workers. Reproductives, particularly new queens, are very rare

You don't need to worry about every bee
Bees typically pause during their foraging collections for two reasons:

1.) Grooming: They need to get the pollen off their hairs to fly well.

2.) Thermoregulation. Bees can get hot/cold, depending on the weather.
The bees you see outside tend to be workers, which are more or less treated as disposable by the colony. The oldest workers are the ones who take part in the foraging runs, which minimizes the risk to the colony.
Having a venomous stinger is awesome, but it's also useless against a huge number of predators...many of whom are practically invisible until they strike (or are moved by a photographer).
If you see a bee resting, it's probably not starving. Instead, it's probably resting and cleaning itself in preparation for a journey home.

It will happily take food, but it also probably doesn't *need* food.
Also, if you see a bumble bee raising one of it's leg...that's it's way of politely telling you to please go away.

Bees have threat displays which just so happen to look a lot like human congratulatory behavior.
The final thing we're going to be talking about today is the idea of setting out devices to feed honeybees specifically.

That's...not a great idea.
summed it up pretty well in an article for @WIRED...honeybees don't actually need our help because they're managed livestock.

Beekeepers will feed them, if need be.…
However, with honeybees, you need to worry about disease transmission.

If something causes workers to gather from different colonies, it's likely to spread diseases amongst the bees.

Those bees may also act to spread diseases among the native bee populatons.
So...what can you do to conserve insects, if working at the individual level doesn't work?

Well, insect conservation is done at the population level. For bug conservation to work, it's not every individual that's healthy populations.
A really great place to start is with the stuff @xercessociety has on their website.…

You can build a really nice pollinator garden for relatively cheap!
...but after setting the garden up, you need to maintain it.

Milkweed is notorious for spreading monarch parasites, if not maintained.…
You can also build bee nesting sites, which will give bees places to lay their eggs and make new bees.…
Of course, none of this should be interpreted to say that these emotional reactions are the contrary, they're good because it means that you care.

However, at the same time, there are things you can do that are a bit more helpful and more worthy of your time.
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Ask An Entomologist
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member and get exclusive features!

Premium member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year)

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!