Around Mason: Bugs, insects, and invertebrates of the Mason Nation


The Marvel universe isn't the only place where insects and other invertebrates have superpowers. Mason faculty, staff, and students are studying and explaining the many roles these creatures play on our planet, learning more about a bug's life—and the big world surrounding them—every step of the way. Here's a recap of some of those stories. 

A student wearing a George Mason University T-Shirt holds a monarch butterfly while Professor Joshua Davis reaches his hand out to explain how to tag the butterfly on its hind wing.
SMSC student Spencer Harman (left) holds a monarch butterfly for tagging with guidance from Professor Joshua Davis. Photo by Mariam Aburdeineh/Strategic Communications

Monarch butterflies teach us how to protect them through their grand migration

Many creatures migrate to warmer habitats for the winter, but no insect does so quite as uniquely and spectacularly as the monarch butterfly, an endangered species. Undergraduates from the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation‘s Wildlife Ecology and Conservation program tagged monarch butterflies on their journey south to help researchers better understand their grand migration. Read more

Honeybees on honeycomb from George Mason University's honeybee apiary.
Mason's honeybee apiary. Photo by Sierra Guard/Creative Services

Honeybees and their honey could help solve crimes

An unlikely collaboration between Mason’s Honey Bee Initiative and the new outdoor Forensic Science Research and Training Laboratory could yield critical advances in forensic science. Read more.




Side-by-side comparison of two images of a hand holding a wildflower with a color sample guide below. On-left, is the "human vision" spectrum, on right "bee-vision" is synthesized.
The image on the left shows approximate human perception of flower color, and the image on the right depicts the bee-perceived color. Photo provided by Anna Siegle.

Bees can see ultraviolet (UV) colors, which are invisible to the human eye

When a bee sees a flower, it knows where to land thanks to its ability to see UV color patterns on the petals. A team at the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation helps reveal what pollinators see, and why it matters for the future of conservation. Read more

Assistant Pprofessor of Neuroscience Ren Guerriero and a researcher look closely at a tray of fruit flies they are preparing to examine under a microscope
Ren Guerriero (left) and Mason student Matthew Perez study fruit flies in a neuroscience lab. Photo by Evan Cantwell/Creative Services

Fruit fly behavior may reveal the impact of genes and disease on sleep

Assistant Professor of Neuroscience Ren Guerriero's teaching lab in the College of Science is using fruit flies to learn about the impact of genes and disease on sleep. Undergraduate researchers are investigating novel sleep-related genes by manipulating them genetically to see how they affect sleep and activity behavior. Researchers are also increasing and decreasing sleep in Alzheimer's disease model flies to determine how this impacts their Alzheimer's symptoms. 


Worms are soil magicians

Worm bin composting in Mason's Greenhouse and Gardens turns biodegradable waste into healthy soil. Watch the video tutorial featuring Doni Nolan, Greenhouse and Gardens program manager.