Man may have created the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Great Wall of China, the Empire State building but termites are capable of building mounds so resilient that one is over 2,000 years old!
The termite mound was discovered in the Miombo woodland area of central Africa and measured in at 33 feet tall, complete with termite 'air conditioning'. Experts estimate that the mound is about 2,200 years old and was in use for hundreds if not thousands of years.
The only other ancient termite mound that comes close in age is one that has been dated 750 years old. Both ancient termite mounds were built by Macrotermes falciger, a native termite to the Miombo Woods in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The mounds were analyzed using carbon 14 dating, which is also a technique used to date bones and other natural artifacts. Moreover, researchers from the Ghent University in Belgium and the University of Lubumbashi gathered in the Democratic Republic of Congo to conduct the analysis.
Quite interesting, I just hope my regular Cincinnati pest control doesn't include carbon dating any termite mounds!
Spiders Among Us
All homes have cracks and crevices, dark places, and crumbs lying about – even the cleanest ones. And these are the features that real-estate searching arachnids crave. So if you want to reduce the presence of spiders in your space, take note of a few hints from the experts.
Only three types of spiders bite with venom that can injure humans, and they are the infamous black widow, the shy brown recluse and the hobo spider. Any of these lurking around your home should be disposed of, including destroying the eggs so they won’t reappear. A good method for this is to vacuum them up and then make sure all contents with the vacuum bag are killed.
The brown recluse is a small, spindly spider that lives in dark corners and is particularly fond of sheds and garages. Their bite is painful and will produce a significant lesion with skin necrosis. It can be treated with antibiotics, but even with treatment often takes a long time to heal. To reduce encounters with this venomous creature, remove old boxes from your shed and use sealed plastic containers instead. Be aware of providing a dark, lonely habitat and they will be less likely to move in.
The last of the three is the lesser known hobo spider. Similar to the brown recluse in appearance, habits, and bite, it can be handled in the same way: minimize dark corners and shady places in your home and garage.
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.
Trapping Bugs May Save a Few Good Trees
In Massachusettes, the Asian Long-Horned beetle is killing trees by eating them from the inside out. This pest is a particularly nasty one, so an aggressive trapping approach is being used to eradicate it.
The beetle comes from China and North Korea, but its point of origin is moot as it has taken up residence quite comfortably in the U.S. In appearance, it is black and shiny, with white spots and white stripes appearing on its “horns.” It has a rather boxy body and two very long horns that extend backwards to almost create an oval around the body.
Traps are set using Asian long-horned beetle pheromones combined with plant volatiles from host trees (or trees where others of the species reside). Typically, this insect will lay eggs inside the same tree from which it is born, and only seek out new territory when the tree becomes too crowded with beetles.
In one county alone, 34,000 trees have been removed as a result of the beetle invasion, out of 5 million trees surveyed. Officials are amazed that they have managed to conquer the beetle so far, by restricting it to such a small area.
Queen of the Stink Bugs Turns Passion Into Art
In Pennsylvania, there is a woman toiling away to bring stink bugs into a new light. She has discovered the many virtues of using these critters in paintings, jewelry, pendants, and more.
Maryel Henderson has been making art for decades, and has always been interested in the natural world. Prior to exploring stink bugs as a medium, she painted portraits of animals in non-native habitats, like polar bears in swimming pools or lizards on ceiling fans.
But she is now known, at least by her husband, as the “stink bug whisperer.” She experimented with using the shell of the stinkbug – a familiar yet unique shape that resembles a shield – on pendants. These sold well, and she’s branched out into a wider array of stink bug art. This month, Henderson has opened a new art space at Marketview Arts in York, PA, where she will display the gamut of stink bug creations.
The work ranges in price from $40 to $900, depending on the piece and size. Larger paintings go for more money, but stink art pendants start at less than $50.
Henderson can’t fully explain her love of stink bugs, but notes that it may have to do simply with their vulnerability and individuality. "They're just clumsy and cute and awkward, and they kind of walk around like they're going through life minding their own business," she said.
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.