Researchers Are Learning More About Birth Defects As A Result Of The Zika Virus

March 13th, 2017

Researchers are noticing a disturbing trend in the amount of birth defects caused by the Zika virus–they are increasing, substantially. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at the rate of birth defects among newborns before and after the Zika epidemic spread around the globe a couple of years ago. The researchers noticed that six percent of the general population of pregnant women who gave birth after the Zika virus spread had children with birth defects six percent of the time. This is a twenty percent increase in the amount of birth defects since the epidemic began.

The most common birth defects can be identified as microcephaly, however in some cases the disease can ravage the eyes and central nervous system of newborn babies born to mother infected with the Zika virus. As a result of this surprisingly high rate of post-Zika birth defects, health officials are urging pregnant women to avoid certain regions considered to be high risk.

Obviously public health authorities are paying the closest attention to the state of Florida, as well as the Gulf States. Certain areas in Florida as well as certain areas along the Gulf coast have reported cases of local Zika transmission, which includes two hundred and fifteen cases in Florida and six in Texas. Although the CDC declared the state of Florida to be a Zika-free zone, health officials are still urging pregnant women to use extreme caution when traveling the state during the spring and summer months.

It is advisable for expecting mothers to avoid visiting countries where the Zika virus is prevalent; these countries include Puerto Rico, Brazil and Southeast Asia, where Zika is endemic. If you have visited any of these areas during the past several months, then be sure to use condoms during sexual intercourse as the virus is transmitted through semen.

Have you encountered any newborn children who have been afflicted with microcephaly?

 

 

 

 

Flying Squirrels Can Soar Through The Cold Air Even When Temperatures Are Below Zero

March 10th, 2017

It is the time of year again when people rush outside during the late hours of the night to witness a grand airshow. It would seem like a safe bet to assume that this annual “air show” would showcase some interesting airplanes doing amazing aerial tricks. However, I am not referring to airplanes, rather I am referring to something much less common–flying squirrels. The late winter marks the flying squirrels mating period, and these squirrels don’t let temperatures of thirty degrees below zero stop them from finding a mate.

The northern flying squirrel is a particular flying squirrel that dwells largely in the upper Midwest, mostly Montana. During mid to late February the northern flying squirrel begins its mating season, which means that the males cannot resist showing off their cool aerial flying tricks in order to impress the females. These aerial maneuvers are erratic enough to make even a human onlooker feel queasy to the stomach. It is not everyday that you see a bird fly the way a northern flying squirrel does every February. Because of this unique spectacle, many citizens from the Midwestern states visit national parks in Montana in order to catch a glimpse of a flying squirrel trying to, well….find a mate.

On any normal night during the flying squirrels mating period each female is escorted through the forest by a large group of males that do not mind sparring for each female’s affection.

Researchers have been under the impression that there is not much more to learn about flying squirrels as they have been subject to several studies in the past describing their anatomy and flight behaviors. However, until recently, experts believed that flying squirrels were passive gliders. In other words, flying squirrels don’t really propel themselves into the air in order to sustain flight; rather they glide from location to location. This common belief within the scientific community changed when researchers decided to take a closer look at the northern flying squirrel.

It was quickly discovered by researchers that flying squirrels possess numerous aerodynamic physical traits that can be modified by the flying squirrels themselves in order to change direction or speed. In fact, in just one single “flying” episode, researches documented twelve different flight-control techniques. In stark contrast to previous scientific beliefs, the flying squirrel is not a “passive” flier at any point during flight; rather the squirrels are in more control of their airborne movements than you would think. Flying squirrels have more aerodynamic modifications than any other gliding animal.

Have you ever spotted a flying squirrel? And if you have did you notice that the flying squirrel was controlling its trajectory? Or did the squirrel appear to be doing nothing more than gliding?

City-Dwelling Ants Are Beginning To Crave Junk Food | Atlanta Ant Control

March 9th, 2017

City-Dwelling Ants Are Beginning To Crave Junk Food | Atlanta Ant Control

We all know that littering is bad. There are very few acts of irresponsibility that are more distasteful than mindlessly throwing garbage into the great outdoors. However, if you live in a big city, such as New York or Los Angeles, there may not be any harm in throwing your discarded food onto the ground. This is because big cities have plenty of ants that have developed a taste for junk food. The easy access that city-dwelling ants have had to discarded junk food over the decades has caused city-ants to prefer junk food exclusively.

The researchers discovered that a particular ant species, which dwells within the cracks of sidewalks, has developed a taste for junk food. The pavement-dwelling ants are known in the entomological community as the Tetramorium ant species. However, other species of city ants prefer to dwell within parks and grass lawns, and they do not seem to enjoy junk food with the same degree of enthusiasm as the Tetramorium species. So why does this difference in food preference exist in such a closely related group of insects?

It turns out that the bodies of sidewalk-dwelling ants possess higher amounts of a particular isotope known as carbon thirteen. This isotope is commonly found in sugarcane, corn and pretty much every type of processed food, including meat. Due to the high amounts of carbon thirteen found within the Tetramorium species of ant, it makes sense that these types of ants would require foods that contain carbon thirteen, or junk food, to be more precise.

As you can surely guess, the species of ant that dwells within the parks and grasslands of big cities does not possess as much carbon thirteen within their bodies as their pavement pounding counterparts. Due to the relatively low amount of carbon thirteen in grass-dwelling ants, these ants cannot handle junk food as well as the Tetramorium species. This difference is a clear result of the sidewalk-dwelling ants need to locate any form of sustenance that they can find in order to survive, and in their case it was nachos and hotdogs. In the grass-dwelling on the other hand, food is far more abundant, s. So it is not bad enough that the United States has high obesity rate as a result of junk food consumption, now even some bugs in American cannot avoid this stuff.

Have you ever spotted a group of ants eating a large unhealthy food item along a big city sidewalk?

 

 

Bug Busters USA reminds families of health risks associated with cockroach infestations | Atlanta Cockroach Control

March 8th, 2017

In addition to being a culprit behind running noses, itchy eyes and wheezing, cockroaches also spread disease. According to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), cockroaches spread nearly 33 kinds of bacteria including E. coli and Salmonella, six parasitic worms and more than seven other types of human pathogens. They pick up germs on the spines of their legs as they crawl through decaying matter, which may be transferred to humans on hard surfaces and through food contamination.

Bug busters USA offers the following tips to prevent cockroach infestations:

  • Seal cracks and holes around the outside of the home including utility pipes.
  • Properly ventilate basements and crawl spaces to prevent moisture buildup.
  • Keep counters free of crumbs and vacuum the floors often to reduce the accumulation of cockroach allergens.
  • Keep garbage in a sealed container and dispose of it regularly to avoid attracting pests.
  • Pay extra attention to kitchens and bathrooms – especially under appliances and sinks – as these areas are particularly vulnerable to cockroach infestations.

The High Intelligence Expressed By City-Dwelling Raccoons Would Astound You

March 7th, 2017

Unlike the vast majority of earth’s organisms, raccoons thrive as a result of human expansion into their natural habitats. Some experts believe that raccoons became even more intelligent and cunning as a result of exposure to human activity.

Studies have shown that urban raccoons are significantly more intelligent than their rural counterparts. To illustrate this intellectual disparity between city and country raccoons a comparative psychologist from New York University, Suzanne McDonald, has spent years studying the behavioral differences between urban and rural raccoons, especially differences in intellectual capacity.

The result of McDonald’s experiments clearly demonstrated that country-dwelling raccoons are substantially dumber than their big city counterparts. When it comes to both raw intelligence, as well as general problem solving abilities, urbanite raccoons reign supreme. The fact that city-dwelling raccoons generally demonstrate superior intelligence when compared to country-dwelling raccoons is no big surprise when you consider the challenges that face city-raccoons on a daily basis.

Raccoons living in the city must become adapted to human activity if they are to survive. The obstacles that an urban raccoon faces regularly, such as traffic and human exposure, requires them to think of novel ways to survive in an environment that is unnatural to them. Contrast this urban raccoon life to the life of a rural raccoon. Rural raccoons do not face the constant challenges that urban raccoons face because they have an instinctual ability to survive in their natural habitat without having to face unexpected challenges at every turn, like the urban raccoon does constantly.

According to Harvard economist, Edward Glaeser, city life is particularly beneficial to raccoons because raccoons are naturally bold and curious, and these types of animals make for good learners. Past researchers have even established a link between animal “boldness” and learning speed. It turns out that boldness and the ability to learn information rapidly are two traits that are positively correlated. So who knows? Maybe within the next couple of decades this planet will be overtaken by super smart city-dwelling raccoons.

Have you ever spotted a raccoon in the city? And if you have, did it run from you? Or did it seem fearless while in your presence?

 

 

IT’S TERMITE SEASON! PROTECT YOUR HOME FROM AN INFESTATION

March 6th, 2017

 

Bug Busters works to educate homeowners of termite threats and offers prevention tips

Bug Busters and the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) are working to spread public awareness about termites during Termite Awareness Week, March 12-18, 2017. Bug Busters is proud to participate in this annual observance by educating homeowners on ways to make their homes less attractive to termite colonies.

As spring approaches, termites seek out moisture-damaged homes and can quickly chew through wood, flooring and even wallpaper undetected. Once a colony is established, the damage they cause can be quite severe. According to the NPMA, termite infestations cause more than $5 billion in property damage each year – an expense typically not covered by homeowners insurance.

“Termites usually emerge with the arrival of warmer weather in spring,” says Bug Busters Chief Operating Officer Court Parker.”

Termites can be difficult to spot with the naked eye, but homeowners should remain vigilant and make every effort to eliminate or reduce moisture around their home to help ward off an infestation.”

Bug Busters offers the following termite prevention tips:

  • Divert water away from your home’s foundation by installing properly functioning downspouts, gutters and splash blocks.
  • Reduce humidity in crawl spaces with proper ventilation.
  • Trim vines, hedges and other vegetation to prevent them from blocking vents.
  • Remove old form boards, grade stakes, tree trunks and roots near a building, as they may attract termites.
  • Maintain an 18-inch gap between soil and any wood portions of your home.
  • Store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house and 5 inches off the ground. Check it for pests before bringing it indoors.
  • Routinely inspect the foundation of your home for signs of termite damage.

 

 

“Homeowners who notice signs of termites or potential termite damage should contact a pest professional who can best determine the extent of the problem and recommend a proper course of action,” added Parker.

For more information on pest prevention for all seasons, please visit bugbustersusa.com. For further details on scheduling an interview with a Bug Busters expert who can share ever more creepy crawly facts and pest-prevention ideas, please contactcourt@bugbustersusa.com or
1-800-210-6262

Science Has Finally Given Us A Robotic Flying Bat, But Why?

March 3rd, 2017

The National Science Foundation along with the United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research both want to develop a robotic bat. These two foundations funded research carried out by engineering scholars from several prestigious universities in the United States. The engineers seem to have done a good job of creating a prototype bat since the robotic bat is barely discernible from a real live bat, and it actually flies. So why would the military want to develop a robotic bat?

Researchers have been interested in developing robots modeled after particular animals found in the wild for quite some time, and many have succeeded. For example, there have been plenty of engineering projects that have aimed at creating robotic insects. It turns out, many animals serve as ideal models for the development of more sophisticated remote control technology that is meant to assist in search and rescue missions.

Buildings and various structures collapse around the world regularly, resulting in trapped people underneath mounds of rubble. Until now, search and rescue teams had no way of finding single individuals under tons of rubble. However, the robotic bat that has been developed recently is capable of flying through the narrow crevices located throughout piles of rubble in order to find injured people. Once the injured parties are located, only then can search and rescue teams begin to dig for survivors. Unless search and rescue teams know exactly where injured victims are located beneath rubble, these teams can easily cause even more injuries to victims. This is because without knowing where buried victims are located, rescue teams could possibly bury the victims even further underneath the rubble in an attempt to uncover and dig up injured individuals. Without a small remote control camera with sophisticated airborne maneuvers, victims of collapsed buildings are often without hope of rescue.

Despite the promising progress that engineers are making towards developing a prototype search and rescue-bat, there are still some improvements to be made before the bats become operational.

If I was stuck underneath rubble, the last thing that I would want to encounter is a bat flying towards me. I would bet that before victims buried in rubble realize that they are being rescued by a fake bat, the researchers and rescue teams monitoring the situation probably enjoy a good laugh in response to the initial reactions of the victims.

Do you believe that there are any other flying animals that are better suited as living models for the robotic development of agile search and rescue robots? Why a bat and not a bird as a model?

Termite Awareness week is fast approaching!

March 2nd, 2017

Termite Awareness Week

Why Have Scientists Given Up On Raccoons As Lab Rats As Opposed To The Favored Mice

March 1st, 2017

If someone asked you which type of animal is most often used as test-subject in scientific studies you would certainly guess the rat or mouse. It is true that rats are ideal test subjects since much of their physiology and neural functioning is similar to humans, and they are also relatively intelligent. So why not use any other rodent as test-subject? Does it always have to be rats?

Early psychologists living at the turn of the 20th century did not have rats or mice in mind as test-subjects for studying intelligence, rather they preferred a raccoon as a test-subject. The psychologists were mainly focused on the raccoon’s high intelligence. The intelligence inherent in raccoons was supposedly on par with monkeys.

There was one problem; the raccoons were unmanageable and downright troublemakers. The researchers at the time complained of raccoons eating themselves free from their cages only to make a home in the structures ventilation systems. Too smart for the scientists it seems.

Which animal do you think is best suited for scientific experiments, and remember that physical pain is often a part of being a animal test-subject?

It Has Been Demonstrated That The Zika Virus Can Cause Blindness | Mosquito Control Atlanta

February 27th, 2017

It Has Been Demonstrated That The Zika Virus Can Cause Blindness | Mosquito Control Atlanta

Researchers from the Wayne University School of Medicine has shown that there exists a link between blindness and the Zika virus. The Zika virus can replicate retinal cells in the eye to multiply, which causes major tissue damage and eventually loss of sight. The researchers used mice as models to demonstrate how this virus attacks retinal cells. Despite the bad news, researches believe that these animal models are sufficient to develop treatments that can prevent tissue damage to the eyes in humans.

The researchers conducting the study have already managed to identify ocular cells that the Zika virus attacks and destroys. The retina contains an enormous amount of cells that are layered at the back of the human eye. These cells send signals to the back of our brains that enable us to visualize images. Once these cells are destroyed there is no hope of restoring vision. Anti-viral molecules that can attack Zika’s presence in the eye are being developed at a rapid pace.

Are there that many people going blind as a result of contracting the Zika virus? Do you think that people who are infected with Zika now will develop blindness or ocular damage?