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Video Digest: July 20, 2007

The beauty of bugs when compared to man: Leafcutter ants use antibiotics; Rhinoceros beetles lift weights; Ugly moths frighten poor Meave; Bees break hearts; Christmas for the insects.

Like many of you, I’m a Nova kid. I remember sitting in the classroom, blinds closed against the Friday afternoon sun, staring transfixed at volcanoes exploding, crocodiles jumping for monkeys, a tiny unmanned submarine traveling the unexplored depths of the Marianas Trench. To this day, hearing Richard Attenborough’s voice puts me in a documentary trance. I can’t imagine anything more soothing than going to sleep while an older British man talks to me about the remarkable world of flora and fauna.

Big splashy nature documentaries are all well and good, but Shark Week’s never done it for me the way bugs do. Talk about remarkable! Humans had to evolve and evolve and evolve for anything exciting to happen, but insects have been tiny geniuses for millennia.

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One of my favorites, this is a clip of leafcutter ants from a story about the rain forest. My point is illustrated perfectly: there we were for centuries, inventing the wheel and the corset and the process of foot-binding, while the ants were happily marching back and forth, cutting their leaves and using antibiotics.

Next, please watch as the rhinoceros beetle walks a tiny treadmill with an enormous weight strapped to its back. Why? Because scientists do funny things sometimes to prove theories.

We kept moths at my elementary school—big, ugly, scary cecropia moths, which always laid eggs that never hatched, and sort of fluttered around their tiny terrarium looking depressed. Butterflies, though? Never will you see a depressed butterfly.

Back to thrills and chills. A bug’s greatest enemy? Perhaps its own greed. Check out this Sundew making a tasty lunch of a fly.

As a soft-hearted, animal-loving vegan, I am opposed to honey farming. Did you know that in some places, people use grubs to eat all the bee larvae out of the honeycomb after they’ve harvested it? It’s heartbreaking. Lucky for you, this is not that video, though it does involve bees.

Finally, a stop-motion film made by Polish filmmaker Ladislas Starewicz in 1913. It’s called “The Insects’ Christmas,” and it’s a little strange, but let’s end on a happy note, in a world where even bugs and frogs get a visit from Father Frost.

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