Why The Oldest Insect Fossil Is Baffling

July 28th, 2016

The oldest insect fossil ever found is three hundred and ten million years old. The insect is most likely a type of Mayfly. What is interesting about this fossil is the fact that there are no insect prints leading to the fossilized insect, and there are also no wings. So how did this insect reach the particular spot where it was found?

The ancient insect may not have prints or wings because it is related to modern mayflies. Modern mayflies fold their wings in a manner very different from other flying insects. Also, the fossil shows that the ancient insect lands in a squat position with its abdomen pressing against the ground and its legs sprawled outward.

This fossil is of great use to insect science since it will show how early insects moved around. Most bug fossils that are even half as old as this fossil normally only show preserved wings, making this particular fossil a rarity.

Do you think that it is possible that the fossil discussed above did not have prints leading to its body because the prints were not preserved in fossil form?

Which Bugs Bites You Should Worry About

July 27th, 2016

For the most part bug bites are just an annoying nuisance. They itch like crazy, and you might get a swollen red bump, but you’re not going to die. However, there are some insect bites you do want to avoid, especially with the increase in insect population that came with the warm and humid summer weather.

For the most part mosquitos are generally just a nuisance. However, two things you need to consider are the Zika virus and West Nile virus. These two viruses can be caught from the Asian tiger mosquito and the Aedes aegypti mosquito. With the Zika virus you might get some flu-like symtpoms, but it is most dangerous for pregnant women, as it has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly. West Nile virus doesn’t generally cause severe symptoms, but you could possibly experience fever, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, disorientation, paralysis, and even coma, as well as possibly permanent neurological effects. Unfortunately the two mosquito species are the ones that stray from the path of most mosquitos and like to bite people all day, and the Asian tiger mosquito is more aggressive than other species. So, wear that insect repellent.

Two other nasty critters I’d stay away from are the horse fly and the black fly. These guys will hunt down any blood meal. They’re not picky, and their bite can seriously hurt, leaving behind painful welts. You also want to stay away from deer ticks, which can transmit Lyme disease. Lyme disease is hard to diagnose at first because it mainly causes flu-like symptoms, along with the hallmark rash some of the time. It can be treated and cured for most with antibiotics, but if it’s left untreated, you could develop arthritis, meningitis, as well as other serious illnesses. Again, you really want to wear your insect repellent when going outside.

What other insects do you know of that cause painful and dangerous reactions or diseases?

The Strange Circulatory System Of Insects

July 26th, 2016

Humans possess what is referred to as a “closed circulatory system,” which means that our blood is contained within veins, arteries, capillaries and the heart. Insects, on the other hand, are quite different, as they do not have all these blood transporting networks. Instead, insects, and all arthropods, have what is called an “open circulatory system” in which their blood sits freely within their bodies. Every one of their organs are bathed within this pool of blood.

Like humans, the insect circulatory system provides its organs with nutrients. On the other hand, the insect’s circulatory system could be thought of as more advantageous than ours. This is because an insect’s blood will clot if their bodies were to become impaled. A human may bleed to death if he/she is impaled or cut on a part of their bodies where blood cannot be stopped. But an insect does not have to worry about bleeding to death in this way due to the fact that their blood will clot at the part of their body where they become injured. This is just one of the many reasons why insects are more resilient and are better adapted to their environments than we humans.

In what ways could the humans closed circulatory system be more advantageous than an open circulatory system?

Cheating is Severely Punished in the Paper Wasp Society

July 25th, 2016

Humans are great liars. We practically depend on our ability to lie when it comes to the survival of our species. Both men and women lie and deceive in order to improve their chances of finding a good mate, getting a good job, and achieving a good social position. Let’s be honest. We’d be screwed if we couldn’t lie. So, naturally, one thing scientists are curious about in insects is if they also lie to get ahead in life. Specifically, Elizabeth Tibbetts of the University of Michigan asked, “Why don’t animals cheat by signaling that they are strong when they are actually weak?” Well, it seems that in the insect world cheating is severely punished. If a paper wasp for example gives an inaccurate signal, they will then have to face a host of damaging social and physiological effects.

One unique characteristic of paper wasps is the black patterns on their faces. These patterns actually communicate a wasp’s fighting ability. The more fights a wasp has one will reveal itself through them having more black patterns on their face. This signals to other wasps that you don’t want to mess with this wasp. In a rather mean experiment Tibbetts and her team painted some wasps faces with extra black patches to erroneously signal that they had a higher fighting ability. They were then paired with other honest wasps in a fight. They found that the cheating wasps were treated more aggressively by their partner, receiving a good old fashioned butt-whooping. This wasn’t the only punishment they received, however. Even their own bodies were negatively affected by the cheating. After being severely beaten by the honest wasp, the cheater’s juvenile hormone levels, which is linked to their levels of aggression, fertility, and dominance, was drastically lower after the fight. This means that their own body slumped in defeat, admitting they were losers who aren’t as cool as the other wasps. Adversely, the wasp that won against the cheater experienced an increase in these hormones. This just proves that cheaters never prosper…ya hear!

Do humans exhibit any physiological clues that reveal when they are lying?

Another Common Species of Mosquito is Found to Spread the Zika Virus

July 22nd, 2016

Since the ZIka virus began rapidly spreading last year scientists have only cited the mosquito species Aedes aegypti as the culprit behind the transmission of the virus to humans. However, a recent study found that another common species has also been doing its part to spread this nasty virus. Brazilian scientists collected hundreds of Culex quinquefasciatus mosquitos and found that a large number of them were carrying the Zika virus. However, other studies performed on the species suggest that while these mosquitos can carry the virus, they are probably not as likely to spread the disease. Something in their biology makes them less effective at transmitting the virus to humans through their bite. They also exhibit more normal mosquito behavior such as feeding outside in the evening as opposed to during the day like the Aedes aegypti, making it easier for us to avoid them. This new finding does complicate their efforts to control this epidemic, as most of the work done to find ways to fight this disease have focused solely on the Aedes aegypti mosquito. It looks like there’s a new wrench in this already complicated situation.

Why do you think scientists haven’t found out about this other mosquito species until now?

High Flying Bugs

July 21st, 2016

Have you ever wondered what altitude insects reach when flying in the sky? Although there is much to be learned about insect physiology and how it handles high altitudes, scientists have developed a few techniques that help determine the height that certain insects can reach.

By putting bumblebees into a chamber that mimics high altitudes researchers found that bumblebees can reach altitudes as high a mount everest, which is almost 30,000 feet. This is an impressive height when you consider that the highest flying bird reaches 37,000 feet. Flies and butterflies can even reach heights of just under 20,000 feet.

However, higher altitudes means thinner air, and that means that flying insects will have to flap their wings much faster since the small amount of molecules in the air make it harder for wings to take advantage of lift. But the bumblebees will change the way they flap their wings to adapt to the change in oxygen. By studying the way insects fly at high altitudes we can learn more about engineering mechanisms of human flight.

Do you think that learning about how insects fly at extremely high altitudes could help humans develop more sophisticated airborne vehicles?

Bad Guy Bugs – The Northern House Mosquito

July 20th, 2016

When you are covered in mosquito bites after a long day outside under the hot summer sun do you ever wonder which species of mosquito bit you? Was your answer no? Well, don’t worry. You’re among the majority. Most people tend to lump all mosquitos together into one group when they’re thinking about avoiding their bite while outside. But, if you catch one of the diseases they carry, you might then want to know which species bit you. Specific mosquito species carry different illnesses. Not all mosquitos are created equal.

The Northern house mosquito has a rounded abdomen and is a dull brown color. These guys are pretty flexible when it comes to what they’ll eat. They don’t generally discriminate, happy to munch on humans, mammals, and birds. It’s the birds that they catch West Nile virus from before they pass it on to us. They tend to lay their eggs in small ditches and shallow ruts containing dirty water.

West Nile virus is now endemic throughout the lower 48 states, and has caused the deaths of over 1,700 people in the U.S. Most people that catch the virus don’t experience any symptoms at all, but it can cause flu-like symptoms.

DO you know anyone that has caught West Nile virus? What are you doing to protect yourself from mosquitos this summer?

Crushed Cricket Craziness

July 19th, 2016

One pair of guys got a nasty surprise when they crushed a cricket. Two men were filmed when one decided to step on a cricket and long worms burst forth. The men can be seen swearing in disgust when they spot the parasite crawling out. Apparently, the cricket was infected with hairworms, which thank god do not infect humans, so calm down. These parasitic worms are usually eaten by insects accidentally, and then snuggle in their new host, growing longer and longer until they decide it’s time to escape. Then they control the mind of the host, getting them to take a dip in some water as they happen to be aquatic, and burst free of their too-tight insect suit. The video was put on Liveleak, where 30,000 sad humans found it fascinating…gross. This proves that life is way too easy for us humans now…this should not be our entertainment. But, I guess I also found it, so I can’t really judge now can I. See if you can stand the sight of this…

Have you ever seen anything this gross? Can you top this one?

Man Sets Wife on Fire with Insect Repellent

July 18th, 2016

You can probably tell by the title that this story was just too good to pass up, especially with the focus officials have been putting on how necessary insect repellent is lately because of the Zika virus. It would seem that sometimes what could save your life might also bring about a horrible and excruciatingly painful death. Actually, it wasn’t insect repellent, but ethanol that was used, which the person thought would repel insects…not the brightest bulb, huh.

A family consisting of a man, his wife, and their 13-year-old son from Austria were enjoying an afternoon out on their deck when the husband thought that in a pinch he could just use ethanol as an insect repellent…yeah, really not the bright bulb. He opened up his bottle of 96 percent ethanol, which immediately burst into flames, spreading to his wife and covering her in fire. Officials believe that a lit tealight on the nearby table is what set the ethanol on fire.

Of course, the husband and son immediately rushed to put out the flames as soon as she went up in front of their very eyes. They ended up putting her in the shower and doused her with water. She still had to be taken to the hospital, but is alright and, surprisingly, not planning to call out a hit on her husband. Now that’s true love.

Have you ever had any fire related accidents while enjoying some time outdoors? What happened?

Spiders In Space

July 15th, 2016

A pair of Golden Orb Spiders that apparently have “the right stuff” left their fears on earth and took a ride on the Shuttle Endeavor to the International Space Station. Although the crew was concerned about how the spiders would fare during the stressful journey it turns out that the two spiders named Gladys and Esmeralda are adjusting just fine to the weightless cosmic environment.

If I were a scientist perhaps I would understand how exposing spiders to a weightless environment is beneficial to the advancement of science, but the researchers in charge of the study know what they are doing. The experiment is being conducted with the purpose of understanding how spiders respond to weightlessness, and more specifically, whether or not the spiders are capable of spinning competent webs while…well…floating

The spiders, so far, are doing a bang up job building their space-webs. The webs that they have built are just as detailed as the ones they spin on earth. The two fruit flies that were also launched with the crew into space are also doing well, that is until they are fed to the two spiders. I bet when those fruit flies were still of this earth they never would have imagined that they would meet their end in space.

Is the experiment to determine whether or not spiders could spin webs in space a scientifically beneficial experiment? And if “yes” then why?