Head in the couscous


[cue Elton John son]

In  an online Entomology for Teachers class at UGA this summer, I had to get some meal worms (Tribolium confusum), put them in a container with some food (oatmeal) and observe them through their life cycle.  What really happened was Todd bought all the components, set it up and I sprinkled in my meal worms and then ignored them for weeks.  Ok, not really, I made a few observations, enough to say that they graph below is accurate-ish.  I was scorning the academic rigor of it all.  But then it hit me, this is a beautiful and cheap model system in which to study all kinds of cool things.  


Things like “how to commit bugicide” using mold and apathy (initially)

So a month or so ago, the kids wanted to see it, so we went to the local pet store and begged Dad to buy us some  ferrets bought some meal worms.  At home, made some cultures at home (1 for the kids, 2 for me – comparing how they did on flour versus couscous.  couscous = less mess = winner).  Last week I took them to school and popped them into an 31 celsius incubator to speed up their life cycle (the beetles, not the kids). Found that in a GREAT paper published in 1934 PDF – a paper illustrating how much more gooder science papers were back then.  The nice thing is unlike cell culture or even plants, these beetles can be ignored for long periods of time.  Science on my terms, I like it.  Adult count (whats visible on top) = 11  Couldn’t find any larvae or pupae, but I didn’t look super carefully.  There aren’t many if they are there.

Tribolium 1

This is like a bunch of me’s walking around on millions of sour cream donuts. Well, sort of.

Growing them on couscous because it was in the cabinet and old.  Tribolium spp are stored grain pests, which brings up some interesting co-evolutionary questions.  The genome has been sequenced (here) and there is a fair amount known (for instance) – they are a valid model system for a  lot of questions.  What do I want to do with them?  Well, for now, make fun of them:


Little Dude, some days I am right there with you.

For now I am just expanding the culture.  Lots of ideas about what can be done.  But in the words of Francis Crick: “Just as important as having ideas is getting rid of them”.


About SubOptimist

I am an Associate Professor in the Science Department at Georgia Perimeter College, Clarkston. I teach introductory biology courses at both the majors and non-majors level in addition to microbiology. Previous to that I spent 7 years as a postdoctoral researcher on different viruses. While I don't miss being on the "grant treadmill", I think better when I write and miss writing up data for papers and grants; this blog helps me with that a little. And sometimes my kids' insanely funny and cute antics need to be shared with the world. Any view expressed in this blog is that of me personally and not Georgia Perimeter College or the GPC Clarkston Science Department.
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