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What is this white-winged insect from Hong Kong?

What is this white-winged insect from Hong Kong?



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When we were travelling in Hong Kong, near a bushy temple, we spotted some white-wing insects which we had never seen before. I sense it's a type of moth, but I have no idea what classification it is.

  1. Tiny to 3-5mm
  2. Mostly white on its body
  3. Moving slowly
  4. High volume in one area
  5. Not so sensitive to external threats, e.g. no escaping when you try to hit them.


I think these are planthopper nymphs. I can't be sure of the species, but Ricania speculum looks rather similar: (image source)


Termites mitigate effects of drought in tropical rainforests

Termites are commonly regarded as one of the most destructive insect pests, but in fact only 4% of the 3,000 termite species known globally are pests. Its unknown side was recently revealed by a major new study published in the journal Science -- the collaborative research co-led by Dr Louise Ashton of the University of Hong Kong, with researchers from the University of Liverpool and the Natural History Museum, London, has discovered that termites actually help mitigate against the effects of drought in tropical rain forests.

Termites are highly abundant in tropical ecosystems. They are one of the few living creatures that can break down cellulose found in plant material. They create temporary above-ground protective structures called "sheeting" which allows them to move about in the forest even during drought conditions. They are thought to be important for soil processes including decomposing and soil moisture, however the roles of termites in these processes in tropical rainforest have not been fully quantified using real-world experiments. This is because it is quite difficult to suppress the activity of termites. The research team developed novel suppression techniques using toilet paper rolls and regular monitoring of termite communities to understand what termites are doing in tropical rainforests.

This large-scale experiment was established at the beginning of the 2015 El Nino drought and the team carried out the same experiments in 2016 during non-drought conditions. This allowed them to not only investigate the roles of termites in tropical rainforests, but also how drought influences termite activity and the knock-on effects in the ecosystem.

Working in a tropical rainforest in Malaysian Borneo, four 80 x 80 m termite suppression plots and four control plots in Maliau Basin Conversation Area were set up. The core team of researchers included Dr Louise Ashton from the University of Hong Kong, Dr Hannah Griffiths and Dr Kate Parr from the University of Liverpool, Dr Paul Eggleton from the Natural History Museum, London and Dr Theo Evans from the University of Western Australia. The researchers worked with a team of Malaysian research assistants to carry out regular field expeditions, which were around 3-month long. Over the course of the project they spent around 9 months in the field.

They found that the sites with termites saw an increase in the abundance of termites during the drought period, with fewer termites in the non-drought period. The greater number of termites during the drought resulted in higher rates of leaf litter decomposition and nutrient heterogeneity, and increased soil moisture and seedling survival rates compared with the non-drought period.

Joint lead author, Dr Louise Ashton from the University of Hong Kong and Natural History Museum said "Termites confer important ecosystem services, not only in pristine tropical rainforest, but in disturbed or even agricultural ecosystems, if termite abundance is reduced with disturbance, these habitats could be particularly sensitive to drought."

Another lead author, Dr Hannah Griffiths from School of Environmental Sciences of the University of Liverpool said: "The results of our study are important because our study shows that intact biological communities can act as a kind of ecological insurance by keeping ecosystems functioning in times of environmental stress."

Professor Kate Parr, also with Liverpool's School of Environmental Sciences, said: "Whilst there has been some work exploring how severe drought affects plants in tropical rainforests, our study shows for the first time that having termites helps protect forest from the effects of drought. Termites might only be small but collectively their presence can help reduce the effects of climate change in tropical systems."

Senior author, Dr Paul Eggleton from the Natural History Museum said "People are just realising how important invertebrates are ecologically, particularly social insects. Termites and ants may well be the 'little things that rule the world'."

"In most people's minds, termites are a pest that can damage homes and crops. Here, however, we have shown that termites are essential in buffering the negative effects of drought in tropical rainforest. Given that droughts are predicted to become more frequent and severe with further climate change, termites may be beneficial for maintaining decomposition, soil moisture, nutrients and seedling survival during droughts, and this may also be true in other ecosystems including agricultural systems. We would like to carry out research on the benefits of termites in such systems in the future." Dr Ashton said.


New ant species Paratopula bauhinia described from Hong Kong by HKU biologists

The Insect Biogeography and Biodiversity research group led by Dr Benoit Guénard at the School of Biological Sciences, the University of Hong Kong (HKU) has recently described and named a new species of ant from Hong Kong, Paratopula bauhinia, or the rare "Golden Tree Ant" in Asian Myrmecology, a peer-reviewed, yearly journal dedicated to the study of Asian ants.

A newly described species is a species previously unknown to Science, i.e. it has been discovered on Earth for the first time. The person who describes it has the right to name it. The new ant species discovered by the research team represents the 22nd ant species described from Hong Kong since 1858. The last one was in 2000. Descriptions of earlier species had to be dated back to 1928.

While some might think that new species are only discovered in deep pristine forests, this new ant species was found just a few hundred meters from HKU campus on the foothill of Lung Fu Shan Country Park during a night field course. The unusually large size of the ant (about 7mm long) and its golden appearance piqued the curiosity of Ms Ying Luo, a research assistant of the School of Biological Sciences, to collect it for further detailed inspection. Back at the laboratory, she and Dr Guénard realised that this ant was quite special, not only did the specimen represent the first record of the ant genus Paratopula for Hong Kong and southern China, it also represented a new species for science. Despite intensive collection efforts since its original collection, it has only been found at Lung Fu Shan Country Park and so the ant can be considered as endemic to Hong Kong Island. This new species is described in Asian Myrmecology by Ms Luo and Dr Guénard, along with the first description of the queen of another arboreal species, Rotastruma stenoceps.

The newly described species has been given the scientific name Paratopula bauhinia, in reference to the Bauhinia flower, symbol of Hong Kong. Indirectly, the name also refers to the arboreal nature of the ant. Indeed, this species seems to live on trees and forage only at dusk and at night where it can be found on lower vegetation and human-made structures. Its beautiful golden colour and relative large size, similar to a grain of rice, makes this discovery all the more remarkable. Considering the number of hikers, joggers and visitors to Lung Fu Shan Country Park and its ease of access, this ant could have been found by anyone curious of nature and new discoveries.

The discovery of Paratopula bauhinia in Hong Kong, as well as three other new species from Singapore earlier this year by the Insect Biodiversity and Biogeography research group illustrates how little we know about insect biodiversity surrounding us and the pressing need for discovering it. In times of a biodiversity crisis, with major parts of natural habitats disappearing, describing new species before they disappear is particularly important.

"With probably 80% of life still unknown to Science, species descriptions are more than ever paramount to the study and protection of biodiversity, including in Hong Kong," said Dr Guénard.

The Insect Biogeography and Biodiversity Laboratory at the School of Biological Sciences is a relatively new research group at the University of Hong Kong. The group works on biodiversity patterns of insects and how human activities directly or indirectly modify species distribution and composition in Hong Kong and South East Asia. While this is the first new ant species described from Hong Kong by the Insect Biogeography and Biodiversity Laboratory, several other specimens have already been identified to represent unique new species and should be described in the coming years.

Images shown above can be downloaded via the following link: http://www. scifac. hku. hk/ news/ media?page= 1

To learn more about the Insect Biodiversity and Biogeography Laboratory and its research, please visit: http://benoitguenard. wordpress. com/

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.


Researchers and practitioners in insect physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology entomology, or chemical ecology

1. Production and Reception of Insect Pheromones – Introduction and Overview
2. Lepidoptera: Female Sex pheromone biosynthesis and its hormonal regulation
3. Yeast/plants: production of insect pheromones
4. Pheromone production in bark beetles
5. Drosophila: pheromone production
6. Pheromone mediated social regulation in honey bees (Apis mellifera)
7. Hydrocarbon pheromone production in the housefly and other insects
8. Pheromone Production in Nasonia
9. Hemiptera/stink bugs: pheromone production
10. The neuroethology of labeled lines in insect olfactory systems
11. Pheromone Detection and Responses in Bombyx mori
12. Molecular Mechanisms of pheromone detection
13. Insect Odorant Receptors: Function and Regulation
14. Biophysics of Lepidoptera Pheromone Receptors
15. Olfactory genomics within the Lepidoptera
16. lfactory Genomics of Eusociality within the Hymenoptera
17. Olfactory Genomics of the Coleoptera
18. Mechanisms and dynamics of insect odorant-binding proteins
19. Odor Degrading Enzymes and Signal Termination
20. Olfactory Genomics and Biotechnology in Insect Control
21. Reflections on antennal proteins


Chemical ecologists, neurobiologists, biologists, chemists, physiologists, entomologists, biochemists, and, molecular biologists

Part 1: PHEROMONE PRODUCTION
Biosynthesis and detection of pheromones and plant volatiles - Introduction and Overview.
Biology and ultrastructure of sex pheromone producing tissue .
Biochemistry of female moth sex pheromones.
Molecular Biological Investigations of Pheromone Desaturases,
PBAN regulation of pheromone biosynthesis in female moths.
Biosynthesis and endocrine regulation of pheromone production in Coleoptera.
Molecular Biology of Pheromone Production in Bark Beetles.
Biosynthesis and ecdysteroid regulation of housefly sex pheromone production.
Genetic studies on pheromone production in Drosophila.
Regulation of pheromone biosynthesis, transport and emission in cockroaches.
Pheromone biosynthesis in social insects.
Alkaloid-derived pheromones and sexual selection in Lepidoptera.

Part 2: PHEROMONE DETECTION
The biochemical design of pheromone and odor detection
The biochemistry of odor detection and its future prospects
Biochemical Diversity in Odor Detection: OBPs, ODE, and SNMPs. Proteins that make sense.
The peripheral pheromone olfactory system in insects: targets for species-selective control agents
Biochemistry and diversity of insect odorant-binding proteins.
Biochemistry and evolution of OBP and CSP proteins.
Diversity and Expression of Odorant Receptors in Drosophila
Transduction Mechanisms of Olfactory Sensory Neurons
The external and internal environmental factors influencing the biochemical design of pheromone and odor detection
The Biomechanical Design of an Insect Antenna as an Odor Capture Device
Olfactory landscapes and deceptive pollination: signal noise and convergent evolution in floral Scent
Physiology and genetics of odor perception in Drosophila
Plasticity and coding mechanisms in the insect antennal lobe


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First came the nickel-sized holes in her backyard, and the small dirt turrets popping up near trees. Then the plump, beady-eyed creatures with mouths like drinking straws began to crawl forthਏrom their underground hibernation and begin their brief, noisy quest for a mate.

This time, Martha Weiss was prepared. She had been waiting for this moment for 17 years, since the last batch of Brood X — also known as the Great Eastern Brood, a massive eruption of periodical cicadas that parts of 15 U.S. states will experience this spring and summer —ਊppeared in the Georgetown University biology professor’s home city of Washington, D.C.

“Today, we are bombarded 100 times a day with articles about cicada this and cicada that,” Weiss said. �k then, it was pretty much silence, and then all of a sudden there were millions of insects crawling all over the sidewalks and the trees and the bicycles and the mailboxes.”

Although Weiss,ਊnd her children, had been caught off guard by the 2004਌icada swarm, she delighted in every part of the winged invasion. But she knew that not everyone shared that openness.

“If somebody has a tendency to be a little bit scared of insects, this would be a great opportunity to develop a full-blown fear,” she said. So, along with illustrator Dio Cramer, she published a children’s book, What to Expect When You’re Expecting … Cicadas!, out this spring, and worked with a colleague to create cicada-prep materials for classrooms. “With a little bit of context and knowledge and information, what we hoped to do was to allay those fears and ideally foster appreciation and amazement at this phenomenon.”
 

For many, Brood X has already inspired its fair share of anticipation, not all of it eager. According to Jeffrey A. Lockwood, who wroteThe Infested Mind: Why Humans Fear, Loathe, and Love Insects,ਊs many as 19 million Americans are considered entomophobic, meaning they possess a persistent, excessiveਊnd debilitating fear of insects. Many others have a more quotidian aversion to bugs.

As the ground warms and the first cicadas emerge, one coping strategy is getting out of town. D.W., 33, was in high school in Prince George’s County, Maryland, during the last 17-year awakening. “It was miserable and a bit traumatic,” she said in a Twitter direct message. She asked to be identified only by her first name. “I’ve had a fairly severe phobia of insects for as long as I can remember, and having large numbers of cicadas flying around everywhere and often flying into me was terrifying.”

Waiting for the school bus outside as a teen, she could do little to mitigate her interaction with the creatures. But this year, as an adult who is fully vaccinated and working remotely, she’s been able to wrest back control: She plans to visit friends and family in New England, outside of the cicada zone, for the next few weeks.

“I think the most scary parts were randomly discovering that there were cicadas clinging to my clothes, sometimes following me inside in the process,” she wrote. 𠇊lso, just the feel of them flying into me and bouncing off me.”

Jenna Golden, who lives in Washington, D.C., has been afraid of insects of all kinds (even ladybugs) since childhood, around the time she first saw the film Arachnophobia. Houseplants are verboten in her household, for fear that bugs will hitch a ride. She plans to stay inside as much as possible for the duration of the Brood X event. “I am also feeling very certain that I will continue wearing my mask outside during this time to ensure nothing can fly into my face or my mouth,” Golden said in an email. 

“I guess maybe I could say a pandemic helped me prepare for this.”

Knowing that for people like Golden, avoiding bodily contact with bugs will be paramount this summer, some companies have started marketing cicada-proof outerwear. Rick Pescovitz is theਏounder of Under the Weather, which makes a variety of rain, wind, and insect-proof tents and wearable “pods.” He grew up in Cincinnati —ਊnother Brood X hotspot — and remembers being about 10 years old during a previous swarm.

“It was like a hailstorm of these big nasty bugs,” he said. “They just fly around blindly, just banging off your forehead.” His company, whose most famous product is a kind of full-body umbrella that protects parents watching their kids’ outdoor sports games from the elements, was already planning on rolling out a mesh pod-suit for mosquito season. But with Brood X approaching, his team decided to rebrand. Sales of the WalkingPod Mesh have exceeded expectations, especially to buyers in Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. (“I am preparing for those days when the insects will take control,” wrote one reviewer.) Apparently, the need for a bugꂺrrier outweighs any social discomfortਊssociated with wearing what looks like a giant Minion costume. 

“We’ve brought in 2,000 of them, and they’re going quickly,” Pescovitz said. 

Others are going the DIY route. On Facebook groups like 𠇌incinnati Cicada-Phobia Safe Space,” membersਏrom all over the eastern U.S. post pictures of themselves holding plastic-wrapped tennis racquets for batting cicadas awayਊnd share links to buy򠯮keeping suits. People are reporting having cicada-themed nightmares, and setting traps to protect their gardens from਌icada-eating moles. Some are stocking up to just stay in their homes for the duration, as if for another quarantine.

Connecting with other cicada-phobes has helped Jane Ann Pyron, 54, feel less aloneਊs she battens down her own hatches in Cincinnati. She’sਊssembledਊ homemade cicada-proof enclosureਏrom umbrellas and shower curtain liners, which she plans to wear whenever her skin might be exposed to the outdoors. She doesn’t like thinking about what might happen if a cicada manages to get under the plastic with her.

“If I can’t get from my house to my car and then from my car into work, I’m just not leaving the house,” she said. Pyron works as a nurse for a home health agency, and her colleaguesਊre aware she might have to sign in remotely for the next few weeks. “I guess maybe I could say a pandemic helped me prepare for this.” 

Even bug-lovers and researchers understand that living through Brood X won’t necessarily be a picnic. The thrumming mating song of the males can be louder than a leaf blower. At the height of their powers, they’ll deposit about 300 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of poop a day. Some are infected with a hallucinogenic spore that makes their butts fall off. After they mate and die, their corpses will pile up by the billions and start smelling. They can splat into your car, distractingly. But they’re not predators. They’re not poisonous, they’re not spiky, and they don’t sting or bite. (In fact, you can eat them, chocolate-covered or deep-fried.) They may prune the tips of some plants off as they feed on sap and lay their eggs, damaging young trees. But they are not going to lay eggs in your neck, Weiss said, something that had not even occurred to me to fear.

“They really can’t hurt you. And they’re really not interested in you,” said Weiss. “They’re above ground for 1% of their lifespan. They want to sing, mate, have babies, and then they’re going to be gone.”

Fear of cicadas might not be rational, but it’s part of a profound psychological pattern between humanity and the insect realm, says The Infected Mind’s Lockwood, who is a professor of natural sciences and humanities at the University of Wyoming. “They can invade our bodies, and our homes,” he said. There’s a chilling intimacy in that proximity.

But the beasties bubbling up to the surface are not really outside invaders, said Weiss. “They have been minding their own business underneath their feet, in our yards and in our parks, very slowly growing and staying out of sight and out of mind until all of a sudden for this last short period of their life cycle they come up,” she said. “They have been here for tens of thousands of years on their cycle, and we’ve imposed ourselves into the middle of it.” 

Their multitudinousness may be their most frightening — and most awe-inspiring — feature: The sheer number of cicadas in Brood X will cause humans to confront existential questions, Lockwood says, referencing Immanuel Kant’s theory of the numerical sublime. “The quantity causes both a positive kind of enchantment, and a sense of fear,” he said. “It puts you in your place cosmically.” 

For most of his professional life, Lockwood has worked with grasshoppers. Sometimes even he has felt overwhelmed in the field. Once, he found himself down a 10-foot prairie draw, boiling with a swarm of hoppers. “They were bouncing off my face, bouncing off my legs, crawling into my shirt, crawling into my hair, crawling up up my sleeves, clinging to my face.” He panicked, and the feeling of terror lingered long after the encounter.

For entomophobes who dread the coming weeks, Lockwood says that cognitive behavioral therapy — which often involves facing one’s fears, instead of avoiding them — has been proven effective at managing several phobias. In studies, a single session of exposure therapy has been proven�tive in dramatically reducing severe insect anxiety in most patients. He suggests that the next few weeks might be the perfect time to try to seek treatment.

“Rather than hiding in the basement, this might be the moment to deal with the phobia,” he said. 𠇊nd perhaps, if not enjoy, at least not be psychologically debilitated by the arrival of Brood X.” 

For Pyron, the more realistic way forward is to dream of better days. In 17 years, she and her husband plan to be retiredਊnd spending cicada summer as far away from Cincinnati as possible.


Make a meal of mealworms, Hong Kong startup says

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Pasta prepared with mealworms raised in your own home?

The unusual dinner idea could soon be a reality, if Hong Kong entrepreneur Katharina Unger has her way.

The 28-year-old is the founder of Livin Farms, a start-up that has been making insect incubators since 2016, and is now working on a compact model to cultivate mealworms it says is suitable for use in kitchens, and in biology classrooms.

“In 2050, we’re going to be nine billion people on the planet, so we have to find new solutions to feed ourselves, and to feed the next generations”, Unger said.

“Insects offer a really great alternative to current meat production because they can be grown on food waste, with very little space, with very little water, and they taste great.”

While many people squirm at the prospect of eating insects, they are common fare in countries such as Thailand and China.

“They are high in protein and low in cholesterol,” said Li Ching, owner of the People of Yunnan restaurant in Hong Kong, adding that he considered deep-fried grasshoppers, stick-bugs and silkworms to be beneficial for his health.

However, Hong Kong-based nutritionist Miles Price says the production of alternative proteins such as insects remains largely unregulated, and this may have significant implications for food safety and consumer acceptance.

“We need to enforce a more rigorous approach to production . which will give confidence to consumers to say that this is a safe protein source,” he said.

Livin Farms believes that their self-contained hive system provides a do-it-yourself solution, as the mealworms can be fed with food scraps, harvested weekly, frozen and then cooked in various ways.

This versatility of the inch-long larvae of the mealworm beetle, which is found in many part of the world, is an additional advantage.

“Unlike meats, I can prepare this in two different ways, savory and sweet”, said Livin Farms head of operations Clayton Wong, as he demonstrated cooking mealworms with peppers, tomatoes and onions in a tomato mascarpone pasta sauce.

“I think it’s really dynamic, I can play around with this.”

Reporting by Aleksander Solum Writing by Karishma Singh Editing by Robert Birsel


Discover Hong Kong's Great Outdoors With Nat Geo Explorers Astrid Anderson & Jonathan Cybulski

The Global World City, Hong Kong may be known for being one of the most densely populated cities in the world, cocooned in a thicket of gleaming skyscrapers. What might come as a surprise to many is that amidst this bustling city, legendary for its world class cuisine and a colourful nightlife, lies an enormous green paradise containing wildlife that flourishes in the heart of this concrete jungle, waiting to be explored.

40% of Hong Kong’s total land area is reserved for country parks and that coupled with the natural landscape means, the wild side of Hong Kong wins hands down in square miles as compared to its brick and mortar. Two National Geographic explorers Astrid Alex Andersson, a resident of Hong Kong since she was two, and Jonathan Cybulski who is pursuing his doctorate in Marine Biology list down their favourite outdoor jaunts.

ASTRID RECOMMENDS

34-year-old Andersson is currently pursuing her PhD on the wildlife trade and an introduced urban population of yellow-crested cockatoos at the University of Hong Kong. She has been immersing herself in the natural side of Hong Kong from the age of two, when her parents relocated from Sweden, and has since been exploring the natural spaces surrounding her. According to her, Hong Kong is home to a plethora of fascinating insects, flowers and plants and following are some of her go to places for a dose of Hong Kong freshness:

Mai Po Nature Reserve

The internationally acclaimed marshlands of the Mai Po Nature Reserve are one of the best places to spot many of Hong Kong's more than 550 species of birds. For more than three decades, the five main habitats in Mai Po Nature Reserve and the surrounding area namely, gei wai, freshwater ponds, inter-tidal mudflats, mangroves and reedbeds have been a haven for tens of thousands of migratory waterbirds each year, in turn setting a prime example of conservation success for regional wetlands.

Hong Kong Park in Central

Andersson highlights the area in and around Hong Kong Park as one of the best places to see the critically endangered Yellow-Crested Cockatoos – not just in Hong Kong but in the entire world – with over a 100 of them congregating there at certain times of the year.

Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve

Situated in the valley behind the 300-year-old Hakka village of Fung Yuen sprawls the Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve, a protected site that’s home to more than 200 species of butterflies, including the pretty Common Birdwing and White Dragontail varieties. Along with the butterflies, you may also spot some unusual breeds of terns. If you visit the reserve on the last Sunday of each month, you can be a part of the Butterfly Festival to take advantage of a selection of exhibitions and guided tours.

Au Law Organic Farm near Yuen Long

Astrid suggests, for a taste of Hong Kong’s freshest produce, head to the Au Law Farm. Here visitors can sample delicious, naturally cultivated vegetables and honey. “It really is heart-warming to know that those types of places persist, where people are still farming organic local vegetables, or they’re keeping bees and they’re making their own honey. That’s a side of Hong Kong that I don't think many people even know exists,” she says.

Andersson also recommends the jungle-set hiking trails around Hok Tau Reservoir in Pat Sin Leng Country Park

JONATHAN’S RECOMMENDATIONS

US-born, Hong Kong-based, historical ecologist and National Geographic Explorer Jonathan Cybulski is part of the coral biogeochemistry laboratory at the University of Hong Kong, where he is pursuing his PhD. 31-year-old Cybulski specializes in studying coral ecosystems.

It is Hong Kong’s combination of the natural and the man-made, the rural and the urban, that has left the biggest impression on Cybulski and these are a few places he says you must have on your bucket list when you visit Hong Kong:

Sai Kung Peninsula

Did you know that Hong Kong has more coral species than the entire Caribbean combined! Also dubbed the 𧮬k garden of Hong Kong', Jon has discovered charming fishing villages, hiking trails, sweeping views, stunning beaches and numerous picturesque islands just a stone’s throw from the city at Sai Kung.

The places Cybulski recommends to see the highest diversity and the highest coral cover in Hong Kong are around the outlying islands between Mirs Bay and Port Shelter in the territory’s northeast, including Tung Ping Chau, Crescent Island, Bluff Island and Sharp island, and in the Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park, a large protected area near Sai Kung that’s home to coral and many other types of sea life.

Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark

The waters surrounding Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark are rich with sea life. Stretching from the famous Ninepin islands in the south to Tung Ping Chau in the north, the Geopark serves as a striking reminder of the territory’s geological past, when 85% of Hong Kong’s land was formed by super volcano eruptions between 140 to 165 million years ago, creating an abundance of rocky outcrops and intricately textured islands that are both visually stunning and geologically fascinating. Every trail underfoot and each eye-catching formation has its unique history, offering tactile connections to a volcanic past.

“All the islands are volcanic, so they’re very, very steep, but they’re vegetated almost right to the edge, so you have this thin band of orangey rock and then vegetation then blue water,” explains Cybulski. Particularly striking are the “entire islands made of what look like chiselled octagonal columns” that were created when the magma cooled. Such formations are unusual enough globally, but the fact they are composed of rhyolite rather than basalt, as well as the scale on which they occur, make Hong Kong’s versions utterly unique.

‘Ghost Island’ of Yim Tin Tsai

The ‘Ghost Island’ of Yim Tin Tsai. Located a 15-minute ferry ride from Sai Kung Town, the island is famous for its eerie abandoned village, its lush mangroves and the saltpans that give it its name (‘Little Salt Pan’ in Cantonese), and which garnered an Award of Distinction at the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation in 2015.

With such a diverse array of attractions, both natural and cultural, for Cybulski there is nowhere in the world – quite like Sai Kung.

There is no doubt that with more than 250 islands, 24 country parks, six marine parks and a marine reserve, Hong Kong has a lot more to it than neon lights, glass and concrete. It offers a treasure trove of natural wonders that are a feast for the senses begging to be explored.


A comparative analysis reveals weak relationships between ecological factors and beta diversity of stream insect metacommunities at two spatial levels

Jani Heino, Finnish Environment Institute, Natural Environment Centre, Biodiversity P.O. Box 413, FI-90014 Oulu, Finland.

Departamento de Ecologia, Universidade Federal de Goiás, Goiânia, GO, Brazil

The first three authors contributed equally to this study.Search for more papers by this author

Departamento de Ecologia, Universidade Federal de Goiás, Goiânia, GO, Brazil

The first three authors contributed equally to this study.Search for more papers by this author

Department of Aquatic Ecology, Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Dübendorf, Switzerland

Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich, Zürich, Switzerland

School of Biological Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia

Biology Department, Faculty of Science, University of Tabuk, Tabuk, Saudi Arabia

Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden

Departament d'Ecologia, Grup de Recerca Freshwater Ecology and Management (FEM), Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

LIESA-CONICET-Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia SJB, Chubut, Argentina

Departamento de Biologia Geral, Instituto de Biologia Geral, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada

Laboratory of Entomology, School of Biological Sciences, Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador, Quito, Ecuador

IRD, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Laboratoire Evolution, Génomes et Spéciation, Gif-sur-Yvette, France

School of Biological Sciences, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China

Laboratorio de Ecología Acuática Colegio de Ciencias Biológicas y Ambientales Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Quito, Ecuador

Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Silkeborg, Denmark

Finnish Environment Institute, Natural Environment Centre, Biodiversity, Oulu, Finland

Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Coordenação de Biodiversidade, Manaus, AM, Brazil

Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Departamento de Botânica e Ecologia, Universidade Federal do Mato Grosso, Cuiabá, Brazil

Departamento de Biologia Geral, Instituto de Biologia Geral, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Coordenação de Biodiversidade, Manaus, AM, Brazil

LIESA-CONICET-Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia SJB, Chubut, Argentina

School of Biological Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia

Departamento de Ciências Biológicas e da Saúde, Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso do Sul, Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil

Departamento de Ciências Biológicas e da Saúde, Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso do Sul, Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil

Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden

Section of Conservation Biology, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland

Balaton Limnological Institute, Centre for Ecological Research, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Tihany, Hungary

Departamento de Ecologia, Universidade Federal de Goiás, Goiânia, GO, Brazil

Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Instituto de Biociências, UNESP - Universidade Estadual Paulista, Rio Claro, São Paulo, Brazil

Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Department of Zoology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Finnish Environment Institute, Natural Environment Centre, Biodiversity, Oulu, Finland

The first three authors contributed equally to this study.

Jani Heino, Finnish Environment Institute, Natural Environment Centre, Biodiversity P.O. Box 413, FI-90014 Oulu, Finland.

Departamento de Ecologia, Universidade Federal de Goiás, Goiânia, GO, Brazil

The first three authors contributed equally to this study.Search for more papers by this author

Departamento de Ecologia, Universidade Federal de Goiás, Goiânia, GO, Brazil

The first three authors contributed equally to this study.Search for more papers by this author

Department of Aquatic Ecology, Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Dübendorf, Switzerland

Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich, Zürich, Switzerland

School of Biological Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia

Biology Department, Faculty of Science, University of Tabuk, Tabuk, Saudi Arabia

Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden

Departament d'Ecologia, Grup de Recerca Freshwater Ecology and Management (FEM), Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

LIESA-CONICET-Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia SJB, Chubut, Argentina

Departamento de Biologia Geral, Instituto de Biologia Geral, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada

Laboratory of Entomology, School of Biological Sciences, Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador, Quito, Ecuador

IRD, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Laboratoire Evolution, Génomes et Spéciation, Gif-sur-Yvette, France

School of Biological Sciences, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China

Laboratorio de Ecología Acuática Colegio de Ciencias Biológicas y Ambientales Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Quito, Ecuador

Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Silkeborg, Denmark

Finnish Environment Institute, Natural Environment Centre, Biodiversity, Oulu, Finland

Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Coordenação de Biodiversidade, Manaus, AM, Brazil

Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Departamento de Botânica e Ecologia, Universidade Federal do Mato Grosso, Cuiabá, Brazil

Departamento de Biologia Geral, Instituto de Biologia Geral, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Coordenação de Biodiversidade, Manaus, AM, Brazil

LIESA-CONICET-Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia SJB, Chubut, Argentina

School of Biological Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia

Departamento de Ciências Biológicas e da Saúde, Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso do Sul, Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil

Departamento de Ciências Biológicas e da Saúde, Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso do Sul, Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil

Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden

Section of Conservation Biology, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland

Balaton Limnological Institute, Centre for Ecological Research, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Tihany, Hungary

Departamento de Ecologia, Universidade Federal de Goiás, Goiânia, GO, Brazil

Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Instituto de Biociências, UNESP - Universidade Estadual Paulista, Rio Claro, São Paulo, Brazil

Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Department of Zoology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Abstract

The hypotheses that beta diversity should increase with decreasing latitude and increase with spatial extent of a region have rarely been tested based on a comparative analysis of multiple datasets, and no such study has focused on stream insects. We first assessed how well variability in beta diversity of stream insect metacommunities is predicted by insect group, latitude, spatial extent, altitudinal range, and dataset properties across multiple drainage basins throughout the world. Second, we assessed the relative roles of environmental and spatial factors in driving variation in assemblage composition within each drainage basin. Our analyses were based on a dataset of 95 stream insect metacommunities from 31 drainage basins distributed around the world. We used dissimilarity-based indices to quantify beta diversity for each metacommunity and, subsequently, regressed beta diversity on insect group, latitude, spatial extent, altitudinal range, and dataset properties (e.g., number of sites and percentage of presences). Within each metacommunity, we used a combination of spatial eigenfunction analyses and partial redundancy analysis to partition variation in assemblage structure into environmental, shared, spatial, and unexplained fractions. We found that dataset properties were more important predictors of beta diversity than ecological and geographical factors across multiple drainage basins. In the within-basin analyses, environmental and spatial variables were generally poor predictors of variation in assemblage composition. Our results revealed deviation from general biodiversity patterns because beta diversity did not show the expected decreasing trend with latitude. Our results also call for reconsideration of just how predictable stream assemblages are along ecological gradients, with implications for environmental assessment and conservation decisions. Our findings may also be applicable to other dynamic systems where predictability is low.

Appendix S1. A schematic figure showing the spatial level 1 of our analyses: across multiple metacommunities.

Appendix S2. A schematic figure showing the spatial level 2 of our analyses: within each metacommunity.

Appendix S3. Environmental variables available and the frequency of datasets in which they appeared.

Appendix S4. Relationship between Sørensen beta diversity and latitude for the five insect taxa.

Appendix S5. Frequency of environmental variables in datasets and frequency at which they were selected in RDA or pRDA models.

Please note: The publisher is not responsible for the content or functionality of any supporting information supplied by the authors. Any queries (other than missing content) should be directed to the corresponding author for the article.


Contents

True crickets are insects of the Gryllidae, a cosmopolitan family of around 100 genera comprising some 800 species, belonging to the order Orthoptera. [2] Crickets, like other Orthoptera (grasshoppers and katydids), are capable of producing high-pitched sound by stridulation. Crickets differ from other Orthoptera in four aspects: Crickets possess three-segmented tarsi and long antennae their tympanum is located at the base of the front tibia and the females have long, slender ovipositors. [3]

The life cycle of a cricket usually spans no more than three months. The larvae of the field cricket hatch from eggs in 7–8 days, while those of Acheta domesticus develop in 11–12 days. Development of the larvae in a controlled, warm (30 °C (86 °F)) farm environment takes four to five weeks for all cultivated species. [4] After the fourth or fifth larval instar the wingless larvae moult into the winged imago which lives for around one month. [5] Crickets are omnivorous, opportunistic scavengers. They feed on decaying vegetable matter and fruit, and attack weaker insects or their larvae. [note 2]

A male cricket "sings" by raising his wing covers (tegmina) above the body and rubbing their bases against each other. The wing covers of a mature male cricket have protruding, irregularly shaped veins. [6] The scraper of the left wing cover rubs against the file of the right wing, producing a high-pitched chirp. [7] Crickets are much smaller than the sound wavelengths that they emit, which makes them inefficient transducers, but they overcome this disadvantage by using external natural resonators. Ground-dwelling field crickets use their funnel-shaped burrow entrances as acoustic horns Oecanthus burmeisteri [sv] attach themselves to leaves which serve as soundboards and increase sound volume by 15 to 47 times. [8] Chinese handlers increase the apparent loudness of their captive crickets by waxing the insects' tympanum with a mixture of cypress or lacebark pine tree sap and cinnabar. A legend says that this treatment was discovered in the day of the Qing Dynasty, when the Emperor's cricket, held in a cage suspended from a pine tree, was observed to develop an "unusually beautiful voice" after accidentally dipping its wings in tree sap. [9]

Entomologists from Ivan Regen onward have agreed that the principal purpose of a male cricket's "song" is to attract females for mating. [10] Berthold Laufer and Frank Lutz recognized the fact but noted that it was not clear why males do it continuously throughout most of their adult lives, when actual mating doesn't take much time. [11] More is known about the attractive mechanism of a cricket's song. Scientists exposed cricket females to synthesized "cricket songs", carefully varying different acoustic parameters, and measured the degree of females' response to different sounds. They found that although each species has its own optimal mating call, the repetition rate of chirp "syllables" was the single most important parameter. [12] A male's singing skills do not guarantee him instant success: other, silent, males may be waiting nearby to intercept the females he attracts. [13] Other males may be attracted by the song and rush to the singer just as females do. When another cricket confronts a singing male, the two insects determine each other's sex by touching their antennae. If it turns out that both crickets are male, the contact leads to a fight. [14] [note 3] Crickets, and Orthoptera in general, are model organisms for the study of male-male aggression, although females can also be aggressive. [15] According to Judge and Bonanno, the shape and size of male crickets' heads are a direct result of selection through male-male fights. [16]

The fact that only males sing, and only males fight, means that females have little value as pets apart from breeding. Chinese keepers feed young home-bred females to birds as soon as crickets display sexual dimorphism. [17] There is one notable exception: males of Homoeogryllus japonicus (suzumushi or jin zhong) sing only in the presence of females, so some females are spared to provide company to the males. [17]

History Edit

The singing cricket became a domestic pet in early antiquity. [18] The ancestors of modern Chinese people possessed a unique attitude towards small creatures, which is preserved in present-day culture of flower, bird, fish, insect. [note 4] Other cultures studied and conquered big game: large animals, birds, and fishes. The Chinese, according to Laufer, were more interested in insects than in all other wildlife. Insects, rather than mammals or birds, became symbols of bravery (mantis) or resurrection (cicada), and became a precious economic asset (silkworm). [19]

Between 500 and 200 B.C. the Chinese compiled Erya, a universal encyclopedia which prominently featured insects. [20] The Affairs of the period Tsin-Tao (742–756) mention that "whenever the autumnal season arrives, the ladies of the palace catch crickets in small golden cages . and during the night hearken to the voices of the insects. This custom was imitated by all the people." [21] The oldest artifact identified as a cricket home was discovered in a tomb dated 960 A.D. [22] The Field Museum of Natural History owned a 12th-century scroll painted by Su Han-Chen depicting children playing with crickets. By this time, as evidenced in the painting, the Chinese had already developed the art of making clay cricket homes, the skills of careful handling of the insects, and the practice of tickling to stimulate them. [23] The first reliable accounts of cricket fights date back to the 12th century (Song dynasty) but there is also a theory tracing cricket fights to the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang (8th century). [24]

Singing and fighting crickets were the favorite pets of the Emperors of China. The noble pastime attracted the educated class, resulting in a wealth of medieval treatises on keeping crickets. The oldest one, The Book of Crickets (Tsu chi king), was written by Kia Se-Tao in the first half of the 13th century. It was followed by the Ming period books by Chou Li-Tsin and Liu Tong and early Qing period books by Fang Hu and Chen Hao-Tse. [25] According to Yutaka Suga, cricket fighting was also popular among the commoners of Beijing and they, rather than the nobles, were "the driving force behind the amusement" during the Qing period. [24] The court, in turn, forced the commoners to collect and pay their dues in fine fighting crickets, as was retold by Pu Songling in A Cricket Boy (early 18th century). In this story, which is set in the reign of the Xuande Emperor, an unfortunate peasant was given the impossible task of finding the strongest prize-fighting cricket. His cricket miraculously defeated all Emperor's insects the ending reveals that the champion was mysteriously guided by the spirit of his own unconscious child. [26]

One aspect of cricket-keeping, that of growing molded, custom-shaped gourds destined to become cricket homes, was an exclusive monopoly of the Forbidden City. The royal gardeners would place the ovary of an emerging Lagenaria fruit inside an earthen mould, forcing the fruit to take up the desired shape. The oldest surviving molded gourd, Hasshin Hyōko dated 1238, is preserved in Hōryū-ji temple in Japan. The art reached its peak in the 18th century, when the gardeners implemented reusable carved wood and disposable clay molds. The shapes of the gourds were tailored to different species of cricket: larger gourds for larger species, long-bottle gourds for the species known for long hops, and so on. Calabash, or "bottle gourds," were also used. Immature fruit easily reproduces the artwork carved into the mold, but also easily picks up any natural or man-made impurities. The finest craftsmen exploited, rather than concealed, these blemishes. Molded gourds were a symbol of the highest social standing. The ones held by Chinese royalty depicted in medieval portraits were actually prized cricket containers. [27] The Yongzheng Emperor held a gourd in his hand even when he was sleeping, the Qianlong Emperor maintained a private molded gourd garden. In the 1800s the Jiaqing Emperor lifted the monopoly on molded gourds, but they remained expensive even for the upper classes. [28]

At the end of the Imperial era Empress Dowager Cixi revitalized cricket fighting by staging contests between cricket breeders. [29] A cricket of her successor, the infant Emperor Puyi, became a plot device in Bernardo Bertolucci's film The Last Emperor (1987). Bertolucci presented the cricket's container as a magic black box that opens up the memories of Puyi. According to Bruce Sklarew, the cricket, mysteriously emerging from the box, carries at least three meanings: it is the metaphor of Puyi himself, it is the metaphor of his wisdom acquired through suffering, and a symbol of the ultimate freedom that comes with death. [30]

The ancient secrets of cricket handling and cricket-related crafts, only some of which were recorded on paper, were largely lost during the Chinese Civil War. From 1949 to 1976 [31] the Communist regime suppressed cricket keeping, which was deemed an unacceptable distraction and a symbol of the past. Cricket trade was banned altogether in the 1950s, but continued secretly even on the People's Square of Shanghai. [32] A dozen illegal markets emerged in the 1980s, and in 1987 the government formally allowed trading crickets on the Liuhe Road. By 1993 there were five legal markets, [32] and in the 21st century Shanghai has over 20 cricket markets.

Trapping Edit

The short life span of a cricket necessitates frequent replacement of aging insects. The crickets sold in present-day China are usually caught in the wild in remote provinces. Earlier, most crickets sold in major cities were caught in the nearby countryside, but in the 21st century a local catch, or dichong, is extremely rare. [33] The majority of crickets sold in Shanghai in the 1990s and the 2000s came from rural Ningjin County in Shandong, where cricket hunting became a second job for local peasants. [34] Practically all people of Ningjin—men and women of all ages—engage in the cricket business. [33] A peasant usually makes around 70 yuan per night, and 2000 yuan per season. [35] A very good season can bring a family over 10,000 yuan ($1,210). [36]

Cricket catching extends over August and September. Crickets are most active between midnight and dawn. [24] They are agile creatures, and when distressed they quickly hide into burrows or improvised shelter, or hop and even fly away. [37] Typical Chinese crickets hide underground, [note 5] so the catcher's first task is to either force or lure the insect out of its hideout. Trappers from the North of China use lighted candles to lure insects into their traps. Trappers from the South use iron cage-like lanterns or fire baskets to carry smoldering charcoal which forces insects to flee from the smoke. Other ways of forcing the insect out involve flooding their burrows or setting up juicy fruit baits. [38] The Ningjin trappers use a simple tool, similar to an ice pick, for digging earth and poking under stones. [39]

The trapper who has located a cricket must catch and contain the insect without causing it any injuries. Present-day trappers use zhao, a soft catching net on a wire frame, to contain the cricket on the ground. The captured crickets are then placed into a clay pot and stay there until being sold they are fed a few boiled rice grains per day. [40] Earlier, the Chinese used cage-like traps made of bamboo or ivory rods. [38] Pavel Piassetsky, who visited Beijing in the 1880s, described a different technique. The Beijing people used two kind of tools: a bell-like bowl with a hole in its bottom, and a tube several inches long. When a cricket was forced to leave its hideout, the trapper would quickly cover it with the bell. When the trapped cricket emerged from the hole, the trapper would present the tube, and the cricket would eagerly hide inside it. The plugged tube then became a convenient cricket cage. [41]

Logistics Edit

In his 1927 book, Laufer described seven species of crickets kept by the people of Beijing Oecanthus rufescens and Homeogryllys japonicus were the favorites based on their "singing" rather than fighting qualities. [42] The most common species sold by Chinese traders in the 21st century are Anaxipha pallidula, Homeoxipha lycoides, Gryllus bimaculatus. [43] Velarifictorus micado from Shandong is especially prized. [44] Ningjin peasants collect only the Velarifictorus species and discard the abundant Teleogryllus emma and Loxoblemmus doenitzii, which are not used in cricket fighting. [45] Peasants usually cannot even remotely estimate the probable market value of the catch. At best, they can sort crickets by size their objective is to sell the catch to the wholesalers as soon as possible. [46] They offload their catch at the local roadside markets (daji) in the early morning, immediately after the night shift. They frequently overstate their selling skills: many crickets remain unsold and are discarded. [35]

The trade is driven by urban consumers. [32] As recently as 1991, from 300,000 to 400,000 people of Shanghai engaged in cricket fighting, with around 100,000 crickets fighting every day of the August–September season. [31] Dealers from a large city normally control cricket haunts within 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) of their base. [32] The dealers and aficionados from Shanghai arrive in Ningjin in groups and lodge in the villages. Unlike the peasants, they are skilled in quick evaluation of the insects and have a stronger hand in bargaining. [47] They have complex systems of ranking crickets in up to 140 grades (pinzhong). [48] They quickly get what they came for and return to their home cities. The markets that normally sell bonsai and goldfish are suddenly overwhelmed with a mass of cricket buyers and sellers. [32] Shanghai is a clear leader but the same activity takes place in all major cities. [32] Local authorities encourage the trade and organize seasonal cricket fairs. [49]

Fighting and gambling Edit

Cricket fighting is a seasonal sport, "an autumn pastime" (qiu xing) that relies on the supply of wild-caught insects. [44] Young crickets must mature before fighting thus the high season begins near the autumn equinox. [50] Crickets are placed in individual clay homes sprinkled with herbal medicines, bathed in licorice infusion every three to five days and fed according to each owner's secret recipes. [51] The traditional diet of captive crickets, described by Laufer, consisted of seasonal green vegetables in the summer and masticated chestnuts and yellow beans in winter. The Southern Chinese also fed their crickets chopped fish, insects and honey. Fighting crickets were given a special treatment of rice, lotus seeds, and mosquitoes, and an undisclosed herbal stimulant. [52]

The owners closely watch the cricket's behavior for signs of discomfort, and adjust the diet to bring the fighters into shape. [53] The crickets are mated with females before the fight, as the Chinese believe that, unlike other beings, male crickets become more aggressive after having sex. [50] In Laufer's time the fighters were sorted in three weight classes present-day Shanghai aficionados have a system of nine classes from 0.51 to 0.74 grams. Both sides in a fight should belong to the same class, thus before the fight the crickets are weighed on high-precision scales (huang). The units of cricket weight, zun and dian, are not used anywhere else. [54]

The fights are held outdoors [55] in an oval ring (douzha), [54] which was traditionally a flat clay pot but is more commonly a plastic container today. Crickets are stimulated with a tickler (cao) made of a rat's whisker hairs (Beijing style) or of fresh grass strands (Shanghai style). [56] The handler tickles the cricket's head, then the abdomen, and finally the hind legs. [57] Each fight consists of three or five bouts the winner must score in two of three or three of five bouts. A bout is stopped when the triumphant winner extends his wings as a sign of victory, or when his opponent flees from the action. [58] Laufer wrote that the fights of his time usually ended in the death of one of the crickets: The winners physically beheaded their opponents. [57] Present-day fights may look vicious but are not lethal the loser is always allowed to flee from the winner. [44]

A winning cricket progresses from fight to fight to the rank of "the General". Laufer wrote that the people of Whampoa buried their dead fighting champions in tiny silver coffins. According to a local tradition, a proper burial of a "general" ensures a good catch of wild crickets. [59] Live champion fighters sell for hundreds, rarely thousands of U.S. dollars. [44] The highest price for a single cricket was recorded in 1999 at 100,000 yuan ($12,000). [36] The lowest price, of around 1 yuan, is for the mute and shy females that still have some value as consorts to the fighting males. The cheapest males sell for five yuan. [36]

Betting on cricket fights is outlawed throughout the PRC but widespread on the streets. In 2004 Shanghai police reported that it had raided 17,478 gambling places involving around 57,000 people. One such place specializing in cricket fights was located in an old factory building and had around 200 patrons, men in their forties and fifties, when the police arrived. [60] Bets at this place started at 5,000 yuan ($600). [60] According to an anonymous source of China Daily, secretive and elusive "luxury games" take place not in Shanghai but in the outlying provinces. [36] Official attitudes about fighting vary from region to region: Hong Kong banned fights altogether Hangzhou regulates it as a professional sport. [44]

Cricket homes Edit

Male crickets, whether held for fighting or for singing, always live in solitary individual homes or containers. Laufer in his 1927 book wrote that Chinese people sometimes hoarded hundreds of singing crickets, with dedicated cricket rooms filled with many rows of cricket homes. Such houses were filled with "a deafening noise which a Chinese is able to stand for any length of time". [61] Present-day cricket containers take three different shapes: cages are used for trapping and transportation, ceramic jars or pots are used in the summer and autumn, and in the winter the surviving crickets are moved into gourds. [62]

Wooden cages made of tiny rods and planks were once the most common type of insect house. The people of Shanghai and Hangzhou areas still use stool-shaped cages for keeping captive grasshoppers. Elsewhere, cages were historically used for keeping captive cicadas. They were suspended outdoors, at the eaves of the houses and from tree branches. Their use declined when the Chinese concentrated on keeping crickets. Small cages are still used for transporting crickets. Some are curved to follow the shape of a human body crickets need warmth and prefer to be kept close to the body. The cage is placed in a tao, a kind of protective silk bag, and is ideally carried in the pocket of a shirt. [63] A special type of funnel-shaped wire mesh cage is used to temporarily contain the cricket while its main home is being cleaned. [6]

Ceramic jars or pots with flat lids, introduced in the Ming period, are the preferred type of container for keeping the cricket in summer. Some jars are shaped as a gourd but most are cylindrical. Thick clay walls effectively shield the cricket from excessive heat. Ceramic pots are used for raising cricket larvae until the insect matures to the point when it can be safely transported in a cage or a gourd. The bottom of the jar is filled with a mortar made of clay, lime, and sand. It is levelled at a slant angle of about thirty degrees, smoothed, and dried into a shiny solid mass. In addition to shaping the cricket's habitat, it also defines the acoustic properties of a cricket house. Inside, the jar may contain a cricket "bed" or "sleeping box" (lingfan) made of clay, wood, or ivory, and miniature porcelain "dishes". [64]

Pet crickets spend winters in a different type of container made of a gourd (the hard-shelled fruit of Lagenaria vulgaris). The bottoms of the gourds are filled with lime mortar. The carved lids can be made of jade, coconut shell, sandalwood and ivory the most common motif employs an ornament of gourd vines, flowers, and fruits. The thickness of the lid and the configuration of vents in it are tailored to enhance the tone of a cricket's song. [65] The ancient art of growing molded gourds was lost during the Cultural Revolution, when the old pastime was deemed inappropriate for Red China. 20th-century cricket enthusiasts like Wang Shixiang had to carve their gourds themselves. [66] Contemporary cricket gourds have carved, rather than naturally molded, surfaces. Molded gourds are being slowly re-introduced since the 1990s by enthusiasts like Zhang Cairi. [67]

The two species most esteemed in Japan, according to Huber et al., are the Homoeogryllus japonicus (bell cricket, suzumushi) and the Xenogryllus marmoratus (pine cricket, matsumushi). [68] [note 6] Lafcadio Hearn in his 1898 book named the third species, kirigirisu (Gampsocleis mikado). [69] The Japanese identified and described the most musical cricket haunts centuries ago, long before they began keeping them at home. [70] According to Hearn, the Japanese esteemed crickets far higher than the cicadas, which were considered "vulgar chatterers" and were never caged. [71]

The first poetic description of matsumushi is credited to Ki no Tsurayuki (905 A.D.). [72] Suzumushi is featured in an eponymous chapter of The Tale of Genji (1000–1008 A.D.) which, according to Hearn, is the oldest Japanese account of an insect hunt. [73] Crickets and katydids (mushi) were the staple symbols of autumn in haiku poetry. [74] The Western culture, unlike its Japanese counterpart, regards crickets as symbols of summer. American film producers routinely insert clips of cricket sounds to tell the audience that the action takes place in summer. [75]

Cricket trade emerged as a full-time occupation in the 17th century. [74] The poet Takarai Kikaku complained that he could not find any mushiya (cricket dealers) in the city of Edo according to Hearn this meant that he expected to find such dealers there. [76] Tokyo lagged behind other cities regular trade there emerged only at the end of the 18th century. [77] A food vendor named Chuzo, who collected crickets for fun, suddenly discovered considerable demand for them among his neighbors and started trading in wild crickets. [78] One of his customers, Kiriyama, succeeded in breeding three species of crickets. He partnered with Chuzo in the business, which was "profitable beyond expectations". [79] Chuzo was flooded with orders and switched exclusively to wholesale operations, supplying crickets to street dealers and collecting royalties from cage makers. [80] During the Bunsei period the government contained competition between cricket dealers by limiting them to thirty-six, in a guild known as Ōyama-Ko (after Mount Ōyama) or, alternatively, the Yedo Insect Company. [81] At the end of the 19th century cricket trade was dominated by two houses: Kawasumo Kanesaburo and his network supplied wild-caught insects, and the Yumoto house specialized in breeding crickets off-season. They dealt in twelve species of wild-caught and nine species of artificially-bred crickets. [82]

This tradition, which peaked in the 19th century, is now largely gone but crickets are still sold at pet shops. [68] A large colony of suzumushi crickets thrives at the altar of the Suzumushi Temple in Kyoto. These crickets have no particular religious significance they are retained as a tourist attraction. [74]

European naturalists studied crickets since the 18th century. William Gould described feeding ant nymphs to a captive mole cricket for several months. [83] The European approach to cricket breeding has been popularized by Jean-Henri Fabre. Fabre wrote that breeding "demands no particular preparations. A little patience is enough." [84] According to Fabre, home breeding may start as early as April or May with the capture of a couple of field crickets. They are placed in a flower pot with "a layer of beaten earth" inside, and a tightly fitting lid. Fed only with lettuce, Fabre's cricket couple laid five to six hundred eggs, and practically all of them hatched. [85]

Crickets are a common subject of children's books on nature and advice on keeping pet crickets are plentiful. An ideal home habitat for a cricket is a large transparent jar or a small terrarium with at least two inches of damp soil on the bottom. There must be plenty of shelter where the crickets can hide children's books and industrial breeders recommend egg-crate shells. The top of the terrarium must be tightly covered with a lid or nylon mesh. [86]

Drinking water is supplied by offering crickets a wet sponge or spraying their container, but never directly: crickets easily drown even in small dishes of water. Crickets feed on all kinds of fresh fruit and greens [1] industrial breeders also feed bulk quantities of dry fish food – Daphnia and Gammarus. [86] Contrary to the Eastern approach of keeping males in solitary cells, keeping males together is acceptable: According to Amato, protein-rich diet reduces the males' drive to fight. [87]

Chinese breeders of the 21st century strive to extend the fighting season to the whole year. They advertise farm-bred "designer bugs" as super-fighters and agree that their technology is "completely counter to the natural process". However, they refuse to use hormones or the practice of arming crickets with steel implants. [44] As of 2003, these farm-bred crickets retailed for only around $1.50 a head, ten times lower than average wild-caught Shandong cricket. [44] Breeding is a risky business: Chinese cricket farms are regularly wiped out by an unknown disease. [44] Fungal diseases are manageable, [88] but crickets have no defenses against cricket paralysis virus (CrPV), which almost certainly kills the entire population. The virus was first isolated in Australia around 1970. The worst outbreak in Europe occurred in 2002. The cosmopolitan virus is carried by a multitude of invertebrate hosts, including drosophilae and honey bees, which are not affected by the disease. [89] [note 7]

Almost all crickets farmed in the United States are Acheta domesticus. [74] The American cricket industry does not disclose its earnings in 1989 Huber et al. estimated it at $3,000,000 annually. [74] Most of these crickets were not pets, but fish bait and animal food. The largest shipment, of 445 metric tons, was reported by Purina Mills in 1985. [74] A decade later individual cricket farms like the Bassett Cricket Ranch in Visalia, California easily surpassed the million-dollar mark. By 1998 Bassett shipped two million crickets a week. [90] The Fluker Cricket Farm in Louisiana exceeded $5,000,000 in annual sales in 2001 [91] and became a staple subject of American business school textbooks. [note 8]

The zoos of the Old World breed Acheta domesticus, Gryllus bimaculatus, and Gryllus assimilis. Their cricket farms usually rotate four generation ("four crates") of insects. One generation or one physical crate is used for mating and incubation of eggs, which takes from seven to twelve days. One male usually mates to three or four females. Females are discarded (and fed to zoo animals) immediately after laying the eggs: their life span is too short to give them a second chance. Three other generations, spaced by the same seven to twelve days, are for raising the larvae, which takes 4–5 weeks. Thus the zoos restock their live food supply practically every week. [92]

British zoos breed crickets in deliberate attempts to restore the nearly extinct wild populations. In the late 1980s the British population of Gryllus campestris shrunk to a single colony of around 100 individual insects. In 1991 the species became the subject of the national Species Recovery Program. Each year, three pairs of subadult crickets were caught in the wild and bred in a controlled lab environment to preserve the gene pool of the mother colony. The London Zoo raised 17,000 crickets the field biologists laid down seven new cricket colonies, four of which survived into the 21st century. The program became a model for similar efforts in other countries. [93] In the same period the London Zoo bred the more demanding wart-biter (Decticus verrucivorus), also resulting in the establishment of persistent colonies in the wild. [88]


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