Category Archives: Insects

Science Soars On Butterfly Wings!

“Only nature can paint the gorgeous colors and patterns on a butterfly’s wings. But scientists said on Monday that they have mastered the first steps and hope in time to control the entire coloring system, making it possible to design living butterfly wings. The patterning and colors on butterflies’ wings are governed by suites of genes. The new Crispr-Cas gene-editing technique now makes it much easier to figure out what a gene does by deleting it and seeing what happens. A  group led by Linlin Zhang and Robert D. Reed of Cornell University has found that a gene called optix has a remarkable role: It controls all the color in a butterfly’s wing. When optix is deleted from the Gulf fritillary’s eggs, the resulting adult butterflies, which are mostly deep brown, wear a ghostly black and silver livery.” N. Wade, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

The beauty of monarch butterflies in the sky. Credit- treehugger

Excerpt:  Genes Color a Butterfly’s Wings. Now Scientists Want to Do It Themselves. By Nicholas Wade, The New York Times

“That’s because in the absence of the optix gene, the butterfly’s scales produce melanin, a black pigment, instead of the usual chestnut coloring. The biologists had already suspected that optix played a role in activating the butterfly’s brown pigment. But they were surprised that the black pigment was turned on in the absence of optix.

A further surprise came when they turned off the optix gene in a second species, the buckeye. The butterfly’s usual browns and yellows disappeared, replaced by scales of a blazing iridescent blue.

The Buckeye Butterfly credit-Gene Hanson

A second group, led by Anyi Mazo-Vargas of Cornell University and Araud Martin of George Washington University, has explored the role of a gene called WntA, which plays a powerful role in the patterning of butterflies’ wings.

The standard pattern of nymphalid butterflies, a 90-million-year-old family of some 6,000 different species, consists of four bands, parallel to the body, that run between it and the edge of the wings. The second band, called the central symmetry system, contains the pattern in the middle of the wings, and the third band holds the eye spots.

A Morpho butterfly – credit-thelife-animal.blogspot.com

Dr. Martin’s team found that when they delete the WntA gene with the Crispr technique, the central symmetry system band disappears entirely from the wings of the speckled wood and buckeye butterflies.

A sara longwing butterfly with normal wing patterns, left, compared with a genetically altered specimen, right. Credit; Richard Wallbank:Smithsonian Institution and University of Cambridge

But in other species, the loss of WntA has very different effects, suggesting that the gene has been adapted many times to play different patterning roles as new butterfly species evolved.

Gulf fritillary lMOSI Outside –

In the monarch butterfly, for instance, loss of WntA affects an almost invisible white line that edges the distinctive black lines that delineate the wing’s veins. In the absence of WntA, the white lines expand into the areas between the veins, replacing the distinctive orange pigment.

Painted Lady butterfly. Credit-thinglink

‘A big question in evolutionary biology is how do you rewire these gene networks,’ Dr. Reed said.

A closer view of painted lady butterfly wings. A normal specimen, top, compared with a mutant with a deactivated WntA gene, bottom.Credit A. Martin:The George Washington University

Both Dr. Reed and Dr. Martin are enthralled by the ease and power of the Crispr gene-editing tool, invented in 2012. Before, they could infer what a gene might do but couldn’t prove it.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

KWL Chart

The K-W-L chart is used to activate students’ background knowledge of a topic in order to enhance their comprehension skills.

Directions: Have students use the KWL chart to list the information they already know about butterflies in general.  Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic.

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. “That knocked our socks off,” Dr. Reed said.
  2. The butterfly’s scales can produce melanin.
  3. There are many species of butterflies.
  4. One study shows how species evolve different forms.
  5. A DNA molecule specifies the 3-D structures of the body.
  6. When butterflies evolved they recruited a  different set of genes.
  7. The standard pattern of nymphalid butterflies had changed.
  8. Scientists found that when they delete the WntA gene the central symmetry system band disappears entirely.
  9. The white lines expand into the areas between the veins on the monarch butterfly.
  10. The monarch butterfly has a distinctive orange pigment.

 

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

The WntA___ becomes ___in the ___stage, impressing its patterning ___on the ___wing structures. Dr. Martin sees the WntA___ as a sketching___ that the outline of the wing  -___and the optix gene studied by Dr. Reed’s group as a “paintbrush” ___that fills in the color.

WORD LIST: defines,  gene, design, embryonic, tool, information,  gene, active, caterpillar,  gene

Grammar Focus: Prepositions

Directions: The following sentences are from the news article.  For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.

Prepositions:  in, for, of, with, by,  on, at, to, as, into, across, around, over,  through, from, during, up, off,

The biologists had already suspected that optix played a role ___activating the butterfly’s brown pigment. But they were surprised that the black pigment was turned ___  ___the absence ___optix.  Dr. Reed hopes___ time ___understand the patterning mechanism so well that he will be able ___recreate the pattern ___one butterfly’s wings___those ___a second species. But understanding butterfly wing patterning is just a step___ addressing larger questions___evolutionary biology.

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups Have each group list 3  questions they would like to ask any person mentioned in the article. Groups share questions as a class.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Insects | Tags:

Warrior Ants: No Wounded Left Behind

“Leave no man behind. That’s an old idea in warfare — it’s even part of the Soldier’s Creed that Army recruits learn in basic training. And never leaving a fallen comrade is also the rule for some warriors who are ants, according to a report published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.” N. Greenfieldboyce, NPR

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Ant carries a wounded comrade back to the nest . Photo- newscientisttiff

Excerpt: No Ant Left Behind: Warrior Ants Carry Injured Comrades Home,–N. Greenfieldboyce, NPR

“These ants, Megaponera analis, hunt and eat termites. Scouts will go out, find a group of termites, and then return to the ant nest to muster the troops.

Biologist Erik Frank explains that 200 to 500 ants will march out in formation. ‘Like three ants next to each other, in a 2-meter-long column,’ he says. ‘It’s very peculiar and it looks like a long snake walking on the ground. When the termites spot this invading army, they try to escape, but the fighting is fierce. You have a lot of termites lying dead on the ground, and the ants start collecting the termites to return.’

A major worker with termite prey. wikipediatiff

Ants sometimes lose a leg or two, which makes it hard for them to walk. Or, they can be weighed down by a dead termite whose jaws had clamped onto them. Either way, they’re slower than uninjured, unburdened ants.

By marking these injured ants with paint, Frank learned that in nearly all cases, they made a full recovery after being carried home to recuperate. They learn to walk with fewer legs, and their ant buddies apparently will pull off stuck termites. It doesn’t take long for an ant that’s been hurt to once again be ready for action.

‘We saw them again, participating in hunts the next day,’ says Frank.

‘It’s not so far-fetched,  to compare these ant rescue missions to those performed by human soldiers.

One big difference I would say, though, is that these ants are not doing it out of the goodness of their heart,’ says Frank.

He says they’re just responding to a chemical signal from the injured ants, rather than being motivated by empathy.’

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.

Pre-reading Organizer By Scholastic

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Map for assistance.

  1. These ants hunt and eat termites.
  2. The ants send scouts out to find a group of termites.
  3. It’s  a very peculiar  formation of ants.
  4. Scientists are researching animal behavior and evolution.
  5. The injured  ants  were carried home to recuperate.
  6. We saw them again, participating in hunts the next day.
  7. Ants  that couldn’t march fast enough fell behind.
  8. The ants are not motivated by empathy.
  9. Bringing injured warriors home has huge benefits for the ant colony.
  10. They’re making this substantial contribution to the ant colony.

Word Map by Against the Odds

 

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

Does it ___me of ___helping? Well, not really…noting that the___don’t seem to be___ helping each other. One reason why one might___that they’re not is that if they ___that same___ ant on the way to the hunt, they ignore it…Wounded ants only get ___home if they’re ___after the battle.

WORD LIST: encountered, carried, injured, think, ants, remind, encounter, intentionally,  mammalian,

Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

It’s clear/clean that bringing injury/injured warriors home has huge benefits/beneficial for the ant/aunt colony. The number of ants that are saved/save by this behavior is about equivalent/equally to the number of ants that are born each day in that colony. So they’re making/make this substantial contribution to the ant colony.

III. Post Reading Activities

Graphic Organizers: Finding the main idea

Directions:  Have students use this graphic organizer from Enchanted Learning  to assist them with  discussing  or writing about  the main points from the article.

Comprehension: Ask/Answer  Questions

Directions:  Place students in groups and have each group list 3  questions they would like to pursue in relation to  the article. Have groups exchange questions. Each group tries to answer the questions listed. All responses are shared as a class.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Insects | Tags:

The Bee: Small Brain, Big Smarts!

“Never underestimate the power of the bee brain. In the latest triumph for one of humanity’s favorite insects, bumblebees learned how to push a ball to the center of a platform for a sugary treat.” J. Gorman,The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

photo- snapzu

Excerpt: Bumblebees Demonstrate the Power of Insect Brains By James Gorman,The New York Times

“That may not make them a threat on the chess board, but soccer or even Skee-Ball might be within their intellectual grasp — if it were scaled down in size, of course.

The new research finding is one more reason that scientists who study insects, of all sorts, would like to point out that just because a brain is small, doesn’t mean it is simple. Clint Perry, one of the bumblebee trainers at Queen Mary University of London, and a confirmed small brain partisan, said, ‘I’ve actually been asked if bees have brains.’

image The New York Times

Once, insects were thought to be little automatons, hard-wired to take certain limited actions. Now evidence is growing that the abilities, even of fruit flies, approach something that isn’t the same as human thinking, but isn’t pure hard-wired instinct either. They remember, they choose between alternative actions. They have a kind of internal map of where they are, an abstract representation in the brain of the external world.

photo-Flipboard

David Anderson at Caltech, who studies emotionlike states in fruit flies, declines to call their brains simple, preferring a description along the lines of more compact nervous systems.‘They are capable of doing remarkable things,’  he said. And bees are something else altogether with nearly a million brain cells, compared with about 250,000 in the fruit fly…In this experiment, which the researchers reported Thursday in the journal Science, Olli J. Loukola and Dr. Perry trained bees to do something even more removed from their natural behavior.

image- Flipboard

The task of pushing a little ball to the center of a platform was completely arbitrary. Bees don’t do anything like this in nature, where they seek out flowers for nectar and pollen. So it was a brand new behavior demanding some kind of general ability to learn.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming

Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about  Bumble Bees.  Next, have students look at the picture(s) in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article. Debrief as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use The UIE brainstorming chart (sample) for assistance.

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. People often underestimate the power of insects.
  2. Soccer or even Skee-Ball  are within their intellectual grasp.
  3. Dr. Perry is  a confirmed small brain partisan.
  4. Scientists have yet to define the limits of insects’ mental abilities.
  5. Now evidence is growing that the abilities, even of fruit flies.
  6. Some scientists call it cognition.
  7. Insects remember, they choose between alternative actions.
  8. Pushing a little ball to the center of a platform arbitrary.
  9. Ten out of of 10 bees solved the problem on the first try.
  10. That kind of imitation is social learning

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

Once, ___were thought to be little___ hard-wired to take certain___ actions. Now evidence is___that the abilities, even of ___approach something that isn’t the same as ___thinking, but isn’t pure hard-wired either.

WORD LIST:   human, fruit flies, growing, insects,  limited, automatons,  instinct,

 Grammar Focus

Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

The way/whey the bees learning/learned was important, too. They were pre-trained to expect/exit a treat/tweet in the center of a platform. But having to push a bell/ball to the center to get the treat was something they hadn’t seen.

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups Have each group list 3  questions they would like to ask any person mentioned in the article. Groups share questions as a class.

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading,  two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Insects | Tags: