Insectarium: A new series from PBS Digital Studios & the American Museum of Natural History

Wednesday 20th December 2023

…a guest blog from the PBS Terra team

Insects rule the world.  Or, at least they have for the last few millions of years.  Their numbers are massive, their species are diverse, and their powers are great.  But they’re in trouble—facing the same big threats of extinction as the fuzzy, cuddly species we’re already worried about.

In the new online series Insectarium, entomologist and museum curator Jessica Ware will introduce us to insects that upend our expectations and a diverse group of scientists who are passionate about the six-legged critters all around us.  Forget about Pandas – we’re here to make you fall in love with mandibles!

Insectarium is produced for PBS Digital Studios by the American Museum of Natural History.

About the Host

Dr. Jessica Ware is a Curator of Invertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.  She’s a charismatic science communicator whose research focuses on dragonflies – and she just happens to work with one of the world’s largest insect collections.  Jessica studies the evolution of behavioural and physiological adaptations in insects, with an emphasis on how these occur in Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) and Dictyoptera (termites, cockroaches, and mantises).  She is the past president of the World Dragonfly Association (2021-2023) and the Entomological Society of America (2022-2023) and the founder of Entomologists of Color (EntoPOC), which is focused on increasing participation of BIPOC students in entomological societies.

Episode 1 – Fireflies’ Love Language Is Their Butts

On summer evenings in the U.S., the night comes alive with the blinking code of fireflies.  Each species of firefly has its own light language to find a mate.  Entomologist Jessica Ware helps us decode firefly flirting and meets a high school researcher on a quest to understand how we can help the love life of fireflies and keep our summers twinkling.

Episode 2 – What Makes Dragonflies So Extraordinary

Before bats, before birds, before pterosaurs, a dragonfly-like insect was probably the first thing to fly on Earth.  They also happen to be our host Jessica Ware’s all-time favourite insect, both because they’re impressive predators and evolutionary innovators.  Join Jessica to find out why dragonflies are the strongest flyers in the insect world—reaching speeds of up to 30 mph and among the few animals that can hover.  Then, follow scientists into the field to discover what mapping the dragonfly family tree is revealing about these incredible insects.

Episode 3 – Pssst: Ladybugs Have a Killer Secret

Ladybugs aren’t just cute nursery rhyme stars. Beneath the charming spots and vibrant colours lie killer instincts. They’re effective predators and sometime agricultural allies in their hunger for plant pests like aphids. Entomologist Sara Hermann, Ph.D. is investigating how ladybugs’ “perfume”—the chemical cocktail that makes up their odour—might even become a tool for sustainable agriculture.

Want to know more?

You can explore more on PBS Terra.

And follow along on TikTok (@PBSDS), Instagram (@PBSTerra or @AMNH) or Facebook (@PBSDS and/or @American Museum of Natural History)