Crickets with a Side of Fries?
There has been a lot of buzz lately about insects, particularly crickets, becoming a protein packed snack for Americans. Not only that, but an eco-friendly way to feed the nearly 9 billion people that will live on earth in 2050.
According to Time.com, “Because insects emit far fewer greenhouse gases than livestock and consume way less water, they have a comparatively tiny ecological footprint, and they’re thought to thrive on basically anything, even organic waste.”
However, studies show that crickets do not have nearly as much protein as foods such as chicken and beef, so don’t expect them to become a meal replacement anytime soon. Good news for those of us who aren’t craving crickets!
According to Tom Turpin, a Purdue University entomology professor, behavioral studies in insects show that, like humans, insect’s sense of taste includes the ability to detect sweet, salty, acidic and bitter tastes. Of these four, only sweet is acceptable to insects. Unlike humans, inse3cts have no interest in the other three.
The sense of taste in humans is facilitated by taste buds located on the tongue. Most humans have around 10,000 taste buds with each is replaced about every two weeks. As we age, all the taste buds aren't replaced. So as we age our sense of taste dulls. Insects', on the other hand, sense of taste is associated with mouth parts, but they also have cells that function in similar fashion to our taste buds that are located on the antennae, legs and the ovipositor. These insect taste buds can be in the shape of a hair, a peg or a pit.
Caterpillars, for example, have taste censors in their mouths. The insect must take a bite to tell if the item is a suitable food. Many adult insects also take bites to determine whether or not to eat a plant. Honey bees use their proboscis to determine sweetness. Some insects use their feet to determine if something is good to eat. If it is, the insect puts down its proboscis in order to begin feeding. Many butterflies and flies walking on something that is good to eat which prompts what is known among entomologists as the tarsal taste and proboscis extension reflex. In other words, if you are standing on good food, the tongue comes out!
In other cases, when a female butterfly stands on a plant, she can also determine if the plant is a suitable host for her offspring. If so, she deposits an egg on the plant. In the same way, a female parasitic wasp can use her ovipositor to taste if another insect is a good potential host for her young.
In nature there are supposed to be only five tastes that make up the human palette. There is sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and savory. Everything else about our taste experience is supposed to come from the texture, aroma, and aesthetics. Yet there are tastes that we identify outside of those areas. For example, there is a carbon taste, a burned food or a metallic “taste.” A recent study from MIT has found a unique mechanism of photosensitivity in the roundworm. These simple organisms have been shown to detect light by tasting it. So just what does light taste like? Bleach.
Roundworms taste light indirectly as they detect hydrogen peroxide and other reactive substances that often result when fragile molecules are damaged by light. This has implications not just for vision, but for our understanding of taste, overall.
Human beings have strong and primitive reactions to the tastes and smell of spoiled food, but for the worm its ability to taste active molecules seems to be serving double duty. Not only does hydrogen peroxide signal environmental hazards, but the molecule-blasting effects of ultraviolet light. Sunlight isn’t strong enough to harm the worm, but the peroxide signal lets the worm know when it’s at or near the surface of soil.
Roundworms are parasites that can infect human beings. They usually reside the intestines. There are different kinds of worms that can cause infection. They range in length from 1 millimeter to 1 meter. Their eggs or larvae live in soil and enter the body when they attach to your hands and you touch your mouth. Some enter the body through the skin.
Like other parasitic diseases, roundworm infections usually happen in warm, tropical climates. Ascariasis is the most common roundworm infection. It affects as many as 1 billion people worldwide.
Spider Bites 101
Do all spiders bite? All spiders have fangs and venom, but thankfully, it’s rare that the common household spider is poisonous. In fact, of all the spiders prevalent in the Unites States, only two types can cause harm: the Black Widow and the Brown Recluse.
This video by Pestworld does a great job discussing these potentially dangerous spiders. For example, male Black Widows rarely bite, but female Black Widows bite as a defense mechanism, particularly if she is guarding eggs.
So what happens when someone gets bitten by a Black Widow? Symptoms include fever, increased blood pressure and nausea. If you think you’ve been bitten by a Black Widow seek medical attention right away.
The Brown Recluse also bites in defense and can produce open, ulcerating sores in their victims. Again, if you think you have been bitten, seek medical attention.
What else can you do if you’re worried about spiders? Call in a professional exterminator to evaluate your home.
Have an old game console lying around? Instead of throwing it away, consider making bugs out of it!
That is what UK artist Julie Alice Chappell did. According to ign.com, “Chappell came across a big box of electronic components, and eventually started creating bug sculptures while enrolled on a Fine Arts degree.”
The “Nintendo Bug” sculptures are primarily made out of old circuit boards from discarded Nintendo consoles. And these sculptures aren’t just cool to look at: they also serve as an important reminder of the dangers of e-waste in our environment. They are also beautiful to look at with vibrant colors and intricate details.
What do you think? Will you be repurposing your old game consoles to create “Nintendo Bugs”?
Here’s a handy room-by-room guide of specific things to do to keep pests at bay this spring.
Ants, among other common pests, are known to infest kitchen spaces because this room provides easy access to food and water sources. They often march one-by-one through the heart of the home while searching for crumbs left behind from dinner, sticky residue from liquid spills and overripe fruit sitting out on the countertop. Although you may make a concerted effort to keep the kitchen clean on a daily basis, there are still a few other projects you can do to make it less attractive to pests.
First, remove all of the items from your cabinets and pantry. Go through them and discard of stale spices and other dated items such as flour. These baking ingredients attract pantry pests, including several types of beetles, Indian meal moths and ants. Next, wipe down the inside of your cabinets and install fresh shelf paper. Then, pull out your appliances from the wall as much as possible and vacuum behind them. You might be surprised how much dust, dirt and crumbs you find! Lastly, give the kitchen counter and floor a good scrub-down. Wash them with a sponge and a squirt of dishwashing liquid mixed in a bucket of warm water.
Many pests like cockroaches and silverfish are attracted to moisture, so they are commonly found in bathrooms. Eliminating sources of water in the bathroom is the best way to prevent pest infestations, especially because this pest can only survive for one week without water. In addition to washing the shower curtain and liner, and cleaning out the medicine cabinet, you should check under the sink and around the tub and toilet to ensure there are no moisture issues from leaky pipes or faucets.
Rodents, spiders and a slew of other pests can make themselves at home in the basement. The main reason that pests often take up refuge in this underground space is because this room tends to harbor dark corners and clutter, which provides the ideal place for rodents and spiders to hide. Take some time to go through your valuables and eliminate clutter where possible. Steer clear from using cardboard boxes to store items, using plastic bins with secure lids instead. You should also be sure to seal any cracks or crevices with a silicone-based caulk that pests could use to enter your home. Remember, mice can fit through an opening the size of a dime and other small insects need only a paper-thin crack to gain entry.
Once you complete your list of tasks inside, conduct an audit of your home’s perimeter, taking stock of any damage done over the winter months. Start on the roof by repairing fascia and rotted roof shingles, as some insects are drawn to deteriorating wood. Then, clean out clogged gutters and downspouts to ensure they are properly functioning before the April showers roll in. You may also find you need to repair ripped screens, replace weather-stripping and repair loose mortar around the foundation and windows.
When landscaping, don’t forget to trim bushes and branches away from the home to prevent easy access for pests to move indoors. Also, remove rotted tree stumps and keep mulch at least 15 inches away from the home’s foundation – both of which could be magnets for termites.
The Bottom Line
The arrival of warm weather brings with it a renewed energy needed to tackle home improvements. Take advantage of this to maintain a healthy living environment for your family and deter pests from infesting your living space this spring.
A tractor-trailer carrying millions of honeybees overturned on a highway north of Seattle last week. According to post.jargan.com, there were 448 hives with 13.7 million bees on board.
As you can imagine, the company who owned the bees sent as many beekeepers as possible to the site to salvage as many bees as they could.
Company owner Eric Thompson said the beekeepers he sent recovered 128 hives before the sun came up but he said the damage would be hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment and future profit.
Luckily, everything was insured, but we’re sure the incident caused Eric a bee in his bonnet!
Researchers at Purdue University have identified a new class of chemical insecticides. This new class should provide a safer and more selective means of controlling mosquitoes. A new class is needed to key infectious diseases such as dengue, yellow fever and elephantiasis.
According to Catherine Hill, professor of entomology and Showalter Faculty Scholar, researchers used the mosquito genome to pinpoint chemicals that will be more selective than current insecticides, which bind readily to molecules in humans and non-target insects. Know as dopamine receptor antagonists (DAR antagonists), “these are sophisticated designer drugs,” she said. “They’re like personalized medicine for mosquitoes — but in this case, the medicine is lethal.”
Hill’s team showed that the “designer drugs” have high potency for both the larval and adult stages of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. This species of mosquito transmits yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya and Culex quinquefasciatus, West Nile virus and the disfiguring disease elephantiasis. Effective pest control measures are important as they slow the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. But “overuse of antibiotics and insecticides has led to the rise of drug-resistant strains of infectious diseases and the emergence of mosquitoes that can withstand conventional pesticides, a “double whammy,” Hill said.
“There’s an urgent need for new insecticides,” she said. “We are seeing a resurgence of infectious diseases that for the last 50 years we had the luxury of controlling with antibiotics and modern medicine. These diseases are increasingly going to become a problem for people everywhere.”
The team is mining a group of about 200 DAR antagonists to find the most promising chemicals for commercial products. The insecticides could be cost-effective compared with current products and would have low environmental impact because of their selectivity, Hill said.
Similar protein receptors are apparent in the African malaria mosquito, the sand fly and the tsetse fly. This suggests to researchers that DAR antagonists could be implemented to control these disease-transmitting insects. “We’re going after all the big ones,” Hill said.