Field of Science

Insects Go Pop

While flicking through my reference cabinet the other day, I came across something interesting from a few years ago:

Knowles, B., K. Rowlands et al. 2006. Promotion of entomological research through popular music. Science Outreach 1: 5-26.

Most of you will probably be familiar with Beyoncé Knowles and Kelly Rowlands, whose performances in the singing group Destiny's Child have led both not only to chart-topping musical success, but also to acting careers that deserve to be ranked with such luminaries as Susan Cabot and Barbara Payton. What does not seem to garner anywhere near as much attention is that both are also keen amateur researchers. In 2006, they released a pop single commenting on the demands of their research, together with the above article in which they discussed their intent in doing so. Unfortunately, the criminal inattention by the world of popular music to entomology meant that Knowles' and Rowlands' real intent went largely unremarked.

Knowles presenting a paper on size distribution of termite mounds.

Contrary to popular belief, when Knowles stated in the hit song in question that she needed a 'soldier', she was not expressing a desire to date a forthright individual who provide her with the comforts of life. Rather, she was discussing requirements for her preferred interest, the taxonomy of subterranean termites. As anyone who has worked on these animals could tell you, it is exceedingly difficult if not impossible to distinguish termite workers to species level; a complete ID requires individuals of the more specialised castes. Knowles has mentioned that, as well as its own inherent fascination, she finds her termite work a great help in maintaining her figure. Digging up ground in search of termite colonies can be hard work, especially when doing so in pumps.

Rowlands demonstrating one of her most vital pieces of lab equipment.

Rowlands, on the other hand, finds more to interest her in the lab. She never meant to reject those whose 'status ain't hood' but those that weren't hud: the gene product (hypo-uric dehydrogenase) whose effects she studies in Sophophora melanogaster*. Flies expressing higher than normal levels of hud have shown a distinct (and so far unexplained) tendency to cover themselves in flakes of mica and create a staccato drumming with their forelimbs.

*When asked for her comment on the recent ICZN application regarding this species, Rowlands sniped, "I don't think they're ready for this name-change".

Despite the lack of recognition given to their investigations, both performers remain devoted to biological research. Knowles has since moved into fashion, and has referred to a desire to model a line on the patterning of buprestid beetles: 'Cover Yourself in Jewels'.


  1. This kind of brings to mind the spiders named after Neil Young, Angelina Jolie and Stephen Colbert... If only those were jokes as well...

  2. And I thought this was going to be a post about Pheropsophus or Brachinus.

  3. I don't think we're ready for this royal jelly.

  4. Hilarious, and I learned a lot about the scientific credentials of ex Destiny's Child members.

    More Beyonce related humour: ... Russell Kane is hilarious and surprisingly a good dancer, but he didn't win the competition.

  5. Neil - Susan Cabot definitely wasn't ready for it.

    Mo - that was just painful.

  6. Best.April's fools. Ever.

  7. HA! Love it, especially the Sophophora reference!


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