How A Certain Type Of Beetle Is Able To Digest The Hardest Wood

September 26th, 2016

The longhorned beetle is able to digest hard wood even during the larval stage due to a particular type of a little known fungus located in its gut. Researchers believe that this discovery could lead to more effective ways of controlling the insect pest as well as adding to our understanding of how plant bio-mass is broken down to create bio-fuels.

Scientists are already aware that an insect gut can break down cellulose from a plant, but little is known about whether it’s possible for the lignin of a plant to be digested by an insect as well. The lignin is the part of the plant that allows it to stand upright and protects plants from most forms of microbial attack. Lignin also serves as a barrier that blocks insects from retaining the sugars inside the plant. Scientists have traditionally assumed that insects feed on the sugars in a plant after the lignin degrades from enzymes produced by mushrooms located near the plants. The longhorned beetle is the first insect discovered that uses the enzymes of fungus located within its digestive system to break down lignin.

Do you think that insects with fungus growing within their gut are more common than scientists are aware?

Could Zika Reach Alabama?

September 20th, 2016

The FDA has recently advised blood centers in Miami-Dade County to discontinue their blood-drives out of fear of causing a further spread of the Zika virus. Naturally many residents in neighboring Alabama are concerned that the virus will spread to their state as well. Despite this understandable fear, some experts believe that the risk of Zika spreading to Alabama is low.

An Entomology professor at Auburn University believes that the possibility is slim that Zika will cross the border to Alabama since the population of the type of mosquito that carries Zika is much lower in Alabama, and human traffic is far less frequent. However, a local physician from Fairhope believes that the virus will appear in Alabama any day now. He states that the Alabama Health Department is asking that physicians screen all of their patients for symptoms of Zika. The doctor emphasizes the importance of taking preventive action, such as switching to yellow light bulbs, which mosquitoes find less attractive.

If Zika reaches Alabama do you think it will only be a matter of time before Zika reaches all US states?

Mass Anti-Mosquito Insecticide Is Finally Sprayed Over Miami

September 19th, 2016

Now that the Zika carrying mosquito has been located on Miami Beach, drastic measures must be taken to contain the virus. So far there have been fifty six transmissions of Zika in Florida, and the state has also seen five hundred and ninety six travel related cases of Zika. In response to the gradual worsening of the Zika situation, a plane carrying insecticides has showered Miami Beach with the hopes that all remaining Zika carrying mosquitoes have died.

Zika carrying mosquitoes are most active at dawn and sunset, which is when the aerial insecticide release took place. This is also and idea time to spray the beaches since very few people still congregate at the beaches during those hours. Despite some local protest over the safety of the insecticides, experts dismiss any concern since the insecticide is not harmful to humans or the environment. The experts also stressed that very little insecticide was used. In fact only two tablespoons per acre covered. Many residents of the Miami area feel safer now that the area has been sprayed.

Do you think spraying insecticide to protect people from the Zika virus should be practiced all over the United States?

 

 

 

How to Prevent Hitchhiking Bed Bugs

September 16th, 2016

Be On The Look Out For The Devastating Cannibalistic Super Slugs

September 15th, 2016

slugs are notorious for being disrespectful of people’s well-kept gardens. However, there is no slug that can match the devastation that the remarkably awful Spanish slug can cause. These slugs are feared all over Europe, and they have been spotted in the United States as well. Once a gardener spots a group of these little monsters in his/her garden there may not be much of a chance that his/her family will be enjoying homegrown tomatoes come fall.

The Spanish slugs originate in Europe and are colored brown and orange and can reach a length of five inches. These slugs are carnivorous, they can breed very quickly and they don’t have to fear any natural predator, probably because no animal could stomach eating such an ugly mistake of nature. A group of these slugs are capable of consuming every piece of food growing in a garden, including beans, potatoes, courgettes and leeks. In fact, these slugs have been blames for ruining entire crops in Germany and Scandinavia. The Spanish slug is also among the one hundred most invasive species in Europe, and it is easily the most invasive slug in the world.

To make these slugs a little more repulsive it should be mentioned that they are cannibals. If a Spanish slug should be found run over and dead on a road, then numerous other Spanish slugs will swarm the corpse in order to feed on it. Nature has gifted them the ability to produce chemicals that make them indigestible to frogs and other animals that typically feed on slugs. So how can they be defeated? Well, nobody knows of a surefire method yet as these slugs seem clever enough to avoid poison pest control pellets. It is only a matter of time before the few that exist in the USA reproduce and cause a major food crisis.

Have you ever seen one of these Spanish slugs, or has a friend of your seen one? How did you or them deal with them and try to save your garden?

How To Prevent Insects From Invading Your Home

September 14th, 2016

Nobody likes seeing bugs in their home, but according to one entomologist, keeping bugs entirely out of people’s homes is an impossibility. According to Jeff Whitworth, an entomologist, people will always have to deal with bugs in their homes, but one way to reduce the number of bugs that we see in our homes is to understand how bugs get in in the first place.

Understanding how bugs get into your house is pretty tough to ascertain since most of us live in homes that already seem to be tightly sealed. However, when it comes to bugs in your home, you yourself may be partly responsible since for seeing them. It is not uncommon for bugs to hitch a ride into a person’s home. Bugs could be hiding in your jacket or a shoe, but once these bugs find a food source in your home they will be there to stay. You would be surprised how many bugs you can prevent from becoming fixtures in your home by inspecting yourself for bugs before you enter your home.

Have you ever noticed a live bug on you while you were out and about?

Florida Locals Oppose Plan To Release Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

September 13th, 2016

Residents of The Florida Keys are protesting an experiment that they think makes them into guinea pigs. The residents are afraid that the special mosquitoes will harm indigenous wildlife. Another worry is that the released mosquitoes may become too big of a problem for the residents, and bug sprays may not be enough to stop such a large amount of them.

The Food and Drug Administration has concluded that the mutant mosquitoes to be released in South Florida do not pose a risk to the environment. A non-binding referendum is scheduled for November 8th, which is an opportunity for residents to voice their discontent. However, the decision ultimately comes down to a five member panel that is responsible for mosquito control. Three of the five members have said that they will follow whatever the public decides. According to a panel member two other members are up for reelection while another is retiring. Although releasing the mosquitoes may, in the long run, help against the spread of Zika, it is highly possible that the residents of Southern Florida will prevent the release of the mosquitoes.

Do you think that the scientists releasing the mutant mosquitoes need to obtain consent from the residents who live in the area where the mosquitoes are to be released?

Fifty Million Year Old Fossil Perfectly Illustrates The Ancient Food Chain

September 12th, 2016

Who does not enjoy searching for interesting fossils in a fossil bed? Fossils are undeniably fun, and it is amazing to catch a glimpse of ancient scenes involving various animals caught for an eternity in petrified wood. The Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt recovered a fossil that perfectly demonstrates the food chain fifty million years ago.

During a 2009 expedition into the famously well-preserved fossil bed at Grube Messel in Darmstadt researchers recovered a fossil that showed a snake, a lizard and a beetle. However, what makes this fossil so interesting is that it is only the second fossil ever found to contain a direct presentation of the animal food chain. In other words, the lizard was found inside of the snake and the beetle was found inside of the lizard. This particular fossil bed located in south-central Germany is notorious for its ancient creatures being well preserved inside petrified wood. The first fossil that showed evidence of prehistoric food chains involved a horse that was so well preserved that even the grapes that the ancient horse had fed on were still visible within the fossil. However, the more recent “food-chain fossil” is no doubt much cooler.

Have you heard of any other interesting insect  fossils that show how they lived and perhaps an amusing situation they were caught in?

Insect-Like “Robobee” Is Set to Take Over the World

September 9th, 2016

Scientists have finally done it! They’ve designed perfect replications of a living organism, the humble bumblebee. Researchers from MIT and Harvard came together and designed a perfect copy of an insect, replicating its ability to “perch”, a mighty feat when taking into consideration the need to conserve energy in such a small device. In tackling this hurdle the team found a way to dramatically extend the operational life of the robotic bee. The robobee is able to use electrostatic adhesion through a mount made of shock-absorbing foam and a tiny electrode patch to latch onto upside down surfaces. When in this mode the robobee conserves a significant amount of it supply of energy, only using 1/1000 the amount of energy it requires to keep it airborne.

While this incredible little critters might seem small and seemingly useless, the robobee can actually solve a great many problems us too-big humans can’t handle. The robobee is capable of autonomously pollinating crops, meaning it will solve the pretty serious pollination crisis that has followed in the wake of the diminishing population of wild bees. The entire mission of the scientists that created Robobee was in fact a search for a solution to the disappearance of honeybees since the 2000’s. But that’s not all this incredible robotic insect can do. Robobee is designed to also map and monitor the traffic of weather and climate change with high resolution imaging. Other possible uses are as military surveillance, exploration of environments to dangerous for humans, and assisting in search and rescue operations after natural disasters. With one Robobee completed, the next step for the Robobee Project is creating a Robobee colony.

What other insects could be turned into robots and what possible uses could they have?

Zika Legislation Continues To Stall

September 8th, 2016

Now that congress has completed their seven week vacation they are once again debating particular measures outlined in the bill to grant funding to Zika relief. The new bill calls for 1.1 billion dollars be used to study and contain the virus.

This is the third time the bill to fight Zika has failed to pass. This time around it is the democrats who were responsible for halting legislation. The democrats took issue with the loosening of environmental regulations in order to use insecticides more liberally. The democrats also opposed the bill’s wording that suggested that Planned Parenthood would be denied funding to fight Zika in Puerto Rico where the virus is widespread.

Despite all of the bickering over the bill’s wording, many members of congress, both democrat and republican, are optimistic that agreements will be made and the bill will pass soon.

Do you think this bill will ever actually pass and what kinds of changes might have to be made to the bill before it is fully accepted?