Steve's Herpetological Blog

An insight into the life of Steve, his research and the many books he reads

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#SteveReviews: Bugs – Nature’s Little Superheroes

Following on from reading A Buzz in the Meadow, I decided to see if I could find a documentary on Amazon Prime Video regarding insects. You’ll be glad to know that I found one that caught my eye, not least because it was released on 26th April 2017 (the eagle-eyed among you will recognise that date as my birthday). If that isn’t a good enough reason to sit down and watch a 52 minute documentary, I don’t know what is! As I revealed in my previous post, I spent many an hour behind a microscope identifying insects for various projects whilst an undergrad so it’s great to see a documentary featuring insects that are alive, instead of swimming in ethanol.

This visually stunning documentary highlights the wonders the world of insects are still revealing. I think that now is as good a time as ever that demonstrates our need for novel therapies for diseases. Whilst the fight for a vaccine for COVID-19 rages on, we are in dire need of new antibiotics. Whilst I’m aware of the potential for such drugs in the venoms of snakes or the skin secretions of frogs, I was not aware of the research looking into new drugs derived from insects. The documentary follows the research of a team of scientists, trying to establish what makes the immune systems of ladybirds so great at fighting bacteria and how we can turn that to our advantage. Who would have guessed?

The other side of things is bio-mimicry and something I was more aware of. Using the science of how insects are put together and scaling it up to help solve our engineering problems. Sounds simple right? The issue in this is of course scaling the materials and structures up to the size we need them without compromising their weight or strength. There are various species of beetle (which I am assured with some degree of certainty) found in Europe that if you scaled up to the size of Volkswagen Beetle would be able to shrug off a .50 calibre round and only weigh a few kilos. Achieving this is the hard part. However, this field of research is always developing, with new techniques being adopted all the time. It was great to see this featured in Bugs.

If you’ve got a spare hour this week an you’ve got Amazon Prime, go and watch Bugs: Nature’s Little Superheroes and I guarantee that you will have a new found appreciation for the group of animals that we all take for granted. Who knows? One day they may even help to save your life!

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