Today, we’ve got a bit of a treat. Jay Hosler is a biology professor and cartoonist, and lucky for us, he’s combined those two things with spectacular results!
His newest graphic novel, Last of the Sandwalkers, was just released from First Second, and it is phenomenal. It takes you on a journey inside an intricate society of beetles, and believe me when I tell you: it’s well worth the journey.
I’ll be doing a full review of the book in the coming days, but today I’m more than happy to turn it over to Jay! The Roarbots is the penultimate stop on his blog tour, which has been amazing in that each stop has featured a different beetle.
Therefore, without further ado, take it away Jay….
- Character Name: Captain
- Species: Chauliognathus pensylvanicus
- Length: 13 mm
- Color: Golden with black markings
- Habitat: all over the place
- Superpower: very good at dealing with pests
On the top of a ridge not far from our campus is the Elizabeth Evans Baker Peace Chapel. Designed by Maya Linn, the chapel is a circle of large stones set into the ground. It’s a beautiful place and a very nice location to collect insects. I take my Invertebrate Biology class up there every year in the fall to roam the ridge and surrounding woods. Soldier beetles can be found in abundance in the area as they hunt, eat, and mate on the plentiful golden rod.
There are several species of soldier beetle. According to a variety of sources, the naturalist who originally identified one species felt that their bright red elytra made them look like British soldiers. The soldier beetles at the Peace Chapel aren’t red, but their coloration is no less suggestive of a threat. While the beetles are harmless to hold, their gold and black markings make them look a bit wasp-like. It’s enough to make any sensible collector pause to be sure they know what they’re grabbing.
Soldier beetles hang out on flowers and wait to ambush prey. If they’re feeling peckish while they’re waiting, they’ll eat some pollen and sip some nectar. This, however, does not seem to harm the plants. In fact, soldier beetles are considered reliable allies in the battle against aphids, caterpillars, and anything else that might want to nom on your garden.
Soldier beetles aren’t the only predators lying in wait to prey. There is a fungus found on many plants that can infect soldier beetles and turn them into zombies. Under the command of the fungus, an infected soldier beetle will climb to the top of a plant, clamp onto a leaf with its mandibles, and hang there with its elytra and wings spread. The fungus then grows on the back of the beetle’s abdomen and eventually sends it spores raining down on the plant to infect more insects. I first read the zombie story on Professor Michael Raup’s Bug of the Week web site. He has some terrific pictures and a video of these great looking beetles.
In Last of the Sandwalkers, soldier beetles serve Queen and Coleopolis. Their duties include flying on cyborg moths and monitoring blinking little devices that just might signal trouble.
Even though The Roarbots is one of the last stops on this blog tour (best for last!), please do go back and check out the other fantastic sites that were part of the tour. The complete list is below:
Tuesday, March 24
Seven Impossible Things
Wednesday, March 25
Great Kid Books
Thursday, March 26
The Brain Lair
Friday, March 27
Monday, March 30
The Book Rat
Tuesday, March 31
Wednesday, April 1
Mr. Schu Reads
Thursday, April 2
Friday, April 3
Monday, April 6
Tuesday, April 7
SLJ Scope Notes
Wednesday, April 8
Thursday, April 9
Friday, April 10