Six New Ant Species Part of Famous Vampire Family
In the tropics a tiny ant, so small it’s barely perceptive to the naked eye, lives in the dark recesses of leaves and below ground. Although not found in Transylvania, the new species are part of the known “Dracula” family of ants.
The Dracula ants to have a wide range of territory worldwide, but are limited to tropical climates. The six new species share traits with the Dracula family because they are bloodsuckers.
Scientists who named this group observed an unusual habit where the ants pierce the bodies of their younger family members and suck their blood. Entomologists have determined that this behavior is a means of transmitting nutrients throughout the colony.
The six new members of the genus Prinopelta were found off the coast of Africa in Madagascar and the Seychelles islands. The last discovery of a new species in this genus, found in Madagascar, was in 1924.
There are now 21 species of this ant known to be living in Madagascar, a major source for insect biodiversity.
The research was a result of support from the Madagascar Biodiversity Center, which helped provide funding for field research over the past ten years.
New York and the Year of the Rat
New York City is famous for many reasons, but two that top the list are its world class food and its indestructible rats. The city has even appointed a “rat czar” in its relentless campaign to wipe out all traces of the long-tailed rodents, or at least reduce them to a livable number.
Some residents are optimistic about the current approach, a variant of “integrated pest management” that uses several effective techniques in combination with one another. This more comprehensive approach does include pesticides, but also employs public education, infrastructure improvements, employee training, and psychology.
The new credo in the city is to think like a rat. Residents are told to secure trash, because rats are motivated, just like us, to procure some of the world’s finest cuisine. Yet, any food leavings are okay, too.
“New York’s rats are diabolically clever,” said Robert M. Corrigan, a rodentologist who has long advised the city. “It’s an opportunist, and it’s not fussy.”
Since before there were mayors, there were rats. And each administration comes up with a new plan to wipe out the rodents. So far, in the midst of tourists and Broadway shows and subway riding locals, the rats live on.
Last week, the New York City budget was settled, and 2.9 million is written in for rat control. This mayor, Bill DeBlasio, is optimistic that his administration will win the war on the rat.
Spidey Lacking Some Actual Spider Powers
Of all the superheroes, perhaps Spiderman is the most unusual. Unlike batman, who uses technology (and unlimited financing) to mimic the talents of his animal spirit, Spiderman has actually become more spider-like. Yet he is missing a few very handy spider skills.
Spiderman doesn’t have camo. Real spiders can accomplish amazing feats of camouflage. Crab spiders can change color to match whatever flower they are perched on, waiting to catch a clueless insect.
Spiderman doesn’t draw or paint. His real-world cousins create webs, according to researchers, that are on the scale of world class artists. Spiders weave extremely intricate and beautiful patterns for housing and fun.
Spiderman can’t employ “kiss of death.” But the Goliath bird-eating spider will, and mercilessly, as any contact with it will irritate the skin, leading to certain demise for its insect (and bird) prey.
Spiderman can’t walk on water. The fishing spider, which lives near bodies of water throughout the U.S. does indeed fish for tadpoles by scampering across ponds.
Spiderman can’t grow more arms or leg. But this trick certainly seems handy (pun intended) when fighting crime. Forget about nabbing the criminals, most villains would run screaming just at the sight of someone sprouting an extra limb or two.
Mice Use Built-In Compass
Only mole rats and bats, who live almost entirely in the dark, are known to use specialized navigation tools. Both types of mammals have an inner compass that helps them utilize the Earth’s magnetic field to tell where they are, and where they are going. But little research of this type has been conducted on other mammals – until now.
A zoologist at Germany’s University of Duisberg-Essen, Pascal Malkemper, spent months in the remote Czech Republic forests catching and studying wild mice. He learned that wild mice nest consistently in a north-south configuration, demonstrating their use of magnetic fields for orientation.
The finding is consistent with studies done on lab mice. Malkemper trapped 45 mice, one at a time, and set them up in their own cylindrical containers. They made nests and, after releasing them the next day, the researcher measured the orientation of the nests. The result was always the same: materials piled up at the walls in north-south arrangements relative to the cylinder’s circular floor area.
Speculation on how this occurs relates to what is known about “inner compasses” that some creatures carry, which rely on spinning electrons.
The theoretical model postulates that light enters the eye, which then activates certain proteins in the retina, temporarily separating a pair of electrons within the proteins. The electrons, now apart, become more sensitive to magnetic fields, which begins a chemical reaction similar to a switch.
The exact way the mice “see” the traces of the electronic field is not fully understood.
Scaling Up Tree Protection Uses Most of City Budget
In Powell, Ohio, scale insects have made a comfy home and show no signs of moving on. A homely, wingless creature, they attach themselves to the honey locust and there, silently, do enough damage to eventually kill the tree.
This intruder is the scale insect, which begins to appear as tiny bumps all over the trunks of trees.
Powell officials are taking a pro-active approach and spending money up front, rather than deal with dead trees in five or ten years that need to be replaced. The total yearly budget for tree replacement is $10,000 and pest control efforts to rid the honey locusts of bugs will cost $8,300.
Tree service companies inject chemicals into the soil to kill the scale insects. Since the insects can’t fly, they must make contact with dirt as they climb their intended target.
If the tree is untreated and the pesky bugs infiltrate it, they form a protective coating that is nearly impossible to penetrate with normal pest-control methods. An untreated infestation will usually lead to a stunted tree, and often a dead one.
Earwigs Use Rotting Flesh Odor to Deter
It works with lizards, and probably on humans, too, but earwigs can’t successfully use disgusting smells to repel other insects. New research has found the earwig – a creepy looking, long-bodied creature with a dual-spiked tail – has more than one defensive maneuver.
Scientists used lizards to test out how edible earwigs can be, but the little green reptiles immediately spit the bugs out of their mouths. Within microseconds, earwigs squirt a horrid smelling substance much like rotting flesh into the lizard’s mouth. Not only were lizards reactive, they didn’t go near the earwigs again.
The ability of an insect to use a vile odor as a way of discouraging predators has not been thoroughly documented before.
Plants use odors to attract insect life, even what we might consider rancid or repugnant smells. The corpse flower, for example, uses an odor much like animal feces to attract a particular variety of fly. After feeding, the fly will spread fungal spores that benefit the plant.
But the earwig’s defense system is a new discovery, and investigators have found that the rotten smell is used to deter mammals, reptiles and birds. Other insects do not react to it, although the dimethyl sulfide released by earwigs may have another role for insects - it can act as a neurotoxin.
Carnivorous Plants Choose Their Bug Meals
In swamps and wetlands around the world a fascinating variety of flora known as carnivorous plants flourish. The most famous is probably the Venus-Fly Trap, know for its penchant to lure, trap and consume the – you guessed it – Venus Fly.
Research on pollinating insects has uncovered an interesting fact about carnivores – they know how to lure in both pollinating and non-pollinating insects but eat only the latter.
The plant wants the pollinator to carry their own pollin, so the plants use three separate systems to make sure they can tell the difference in insect types.
Carnivorous plants use different attractants (lures) for different types of bugs. On their flowers, they use nectar; near their traps, they use a specific scent or color pattern.
The plants also employ both time and space in their quest to catch their meals while making sure their pollin lives on.
They bloom first, before they’ve created a trap, so pollinators won’t come anywhere near the dangerous areas. They also make sure to build traps far distant from where the plants flowers are. Flowers are high off the ground for flying insects, but traps are near the earth to lure crawling bugs.
Shocking: Woman Finds Scorpion Burrowed Under Her Organic Bananas Sticker
Imagine your shock when one day, as you reach for that piece of organic banana you just bought at the supermarket, you uncover something totally unexpected -- and bloody dangerous, living on the fruit you were about to put into your mouth.
Such was the case for this woman from Victoria BC when, having just woken up on a lazy Sunday morning, she headed for her fruit bowl to grab some bananas for breakfast.
But when Christy Smith pulled the Del Monte organic sticker off that banana, she got the shock of her life.
“When I pulled off the sticker, all I saw was big bug moving legs and my ninja reflexes just grabbed whatever I could. I just immediately was like ‘Oh my God’ and smacked it,” described the 32-year-old Smith.
“I opened the sticker again and saw it was a scorpion in there.”
Smith recalls the scorpion was about the size of a penny, and that when she had first uncovered it from under the sticker, she was pretty sure it was still alive.
Now we don’t know about you, but uncovering a scorpion from under an organic food sticker, a sticker attached to a food you were about to eat, is not a normal daily occurrence.
How on earth could a scorpion possibly have made its way on that fruit? Much less under that fruit sticker?
Smith reveals that she bought the said bananas about a week ago from Fairfield’s Thrifty Foods market.
Since these bananas have now been identified to be actually store-bought, surely those who transported, cleaned, and packed the food would have noticed something as odd as a scorpion? Weren’t the bananas washed, stored and handled properly?
Erin Coulson, Thrifty Food’s spokeswoman, responds: “They’re washed reasonably well, but there’s always a chance something is stuck up there in a tight nook or cranny.”
According to Coulson, 5 million cases of bananas get imported every week to North America.
“After they arrive here in B.C., they go into a seven-step ripening process and even then, yes, it’s possible something could linger.”
Despite rigorous washing and storage measures, Coulson clarifies that, in 5 million cases of transport a week, it is inevitable that a few well-hidden creatures may indeed survive undetected.
Our advice? No matter how groggy you may be after a hard day’s work or after sleeping in, always double-check your food before putting them in your mouth. It’s either looking out for yourself, or implementing better pest control measures.
Beetle Threat Means Spraying in Yards, Too
Governor Brown has made another tough decision in the context of climate change and drought, and this time it involves spraying that goes beyond agricultural fields.
The active chemical being sprayed into some residents backyards will be carbaryl, a known carcinogen, but in the diluted amounts being used it is considered safe for humans.
The state simply cannot take chances when it comes to the current pest invasion by the Japanese beetle. The fairly large, black and green-iridescent beetle eats just about every plant that grows.
While it does devour some unlikable plants such as poison oak and crabgrass, the voracious beetle also eats apples, alfalfa, plums, peaches, grapes, wisteria and strawberries. This pest will also destroys trees, including walnuts and elms.
If an infestation does occur, California crops could be quarantined, adding another burden to the already beleaguered agricultural economy of the state. The drought has caused extreme stress to what is a 40 billion dollar industry, and inability export California fruits and veggies could bring economic disaster.
Without any practical alternative, the state is extending the spraying to 41 privately owned properties in Fair Oaks and 247 in Carmichael.
University Professor Schools Kids on Bugs
Instructor Michael Eskelson hosted an entomology session Wednesday at the University of Nebraska West Central Research and Extension Center to teach students about insects in the area.
The professor from the University of Nebraska Extension Center wants kids to understand the insect world, and gave a talk at the Center last week, inviting only a young audience.
Kids from the surrounding areas lined up to learn bug facts and took a trip to the fields to start their own collection.
The lecture began with an overview of the world of insects, the most diverse set of creatures on our plant.
Eskelson started with the facts. “There are almost 1 million species of known insects on the Earth, about 80 percent of all living creatures,” Eskelson said. “Some of them are harmful — about 5 percent — but most of them help us and are needed.”
He lectured his audience about the definition of an insect, how to identify the different types, and what the most helpful ones are for farmers. Ladybugs and pollinators are two of the most common beneficial bugs, and Eskelson explained that ladybugs eat aphids that are destructive to crops, while pollinators stimulate food production.
Students collected insects with a net in an adjacent field and placed them in plastic bags. A cotton ball laced with acetone in the bags killed the bugs, which were then pinned for a collection.
“I learned that bugs have their skeletons on the outside of their bodies,” said student Kason Bruns. “That is the reason they make a crunchy sound when people step on them.”