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Insects Everyone Has Eaten
You many want to think twice before ordering mushrooms on your next pizza. You may have heard that mushrooms are more closely related to humans than to plants, but what you may not have heard is that mushrooms share a particularly close ancestry with insects.
A molecule known as chitlin, which is a complex carbohydrate found in both animals and fungi, is important to the development of the hard cell walls in fungi as well as the rigid exoskeletons protecting insects. This chitlin molecule is indeed similar to a molecule that plants produce to build cell walls, but it is chitlin that makes this structure more durable and harder to penetrate—Think about that next time you bite into a mushroom!
Not only do mushrooms and insects share a similar texture as a result of the same molecular components, but like all animals, fungi rely on outside food sources to sustain energy. Much like a housefly, fungi use a corrosive enzyme to breakdown nutrients for consumption. If you like mushrooms then don’t let this information deter you from eating them, instead consider the possibility that insects are quite tasty.
Are you going to order mushrooms on your next pizza?
U.S. Preparing for War Against the Zika Virus
Most people may not hear anything yet. I don’t. Do you? The soft hum of approaching mosquitos carrying the Zika virus across the border and into the United States is enough to keep scientists awake at night. Every morning by eight o’clock science experts in everything from infectious disease to birth defects congregate at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to man the agency’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), a kind of mission control center for public health. And they’re all trying to crack the code of the Zika virus before it hits U.S. soil.
This is the fourth time in history that the United States has activated its EOC to a Level 1. These scientists are doing everything they can to prepare for the coming of the Zika virus. They are studying all cases of the virus, examining our countries ability to protect itself, finding better and faster methods of diagnosing the virus, and studying pregnant women infected with the Zika virus. With all of this work, they have made some progress. They have confirmed the link between the Zika virus and microcephaly. Better diagnostic tools have been sent to state laboratories. They have set up studies of infected people in the United States and abroad.
Unfortunately, we still have a lot of work to do before we can say we’re prepared for the Zika virus. The U.S.’s ability to track the mosquitos carrying the virus is not adequate, as the only system we have called ArboNET is a good 15 years out of date. Mosquito control at the state level is also not up to snuff. Places with enough funding for full mosquito protection with teams with pesticide spraying vehicles are scattered throughout the country. So, we still have a ways to go before the country can be considered safe.
What more could officials do to prepare the country for the Zika virus? What can you personally do to increase awareness and help people prepare?
Most of us are familiar with the most well known insect predators such as wasps, spiders, and mantids. It’s pretty straightforward. They basically kill and eat anything that crosses their path. But you probably don’t know about insect predators that have super specific diets, lifestyles, and weird hunting techniques to top it off. These guys are just plain weird…period.
Paussinae beetles are a strange, rarely-seen species of tiny bombardier beetles. They’ve cornered the market on ants, living unseen inside their nests and prey on both the adult and young. These little killers have special terminal discs shaped like saucer on the end of their tails. They use these discs in various ways to catch their ant prey. Many of them will hide their body inside sand in the nest, and leave the tail out in the open. The disc then secretes an attractive odor that lures in prey, so they can get caught in the disc as it snaps shut, kind of like a second set of jaws. Others will burrow straight down into the soil, using their discs to plug their burrow. The disc then acts as a kind of trigger panel, alerting the beetle when an ant has stepped on it, so they can immediately attack.
A similar tactic is used by the larvae of tiny Brachyspectra fulva beetles. These larval beetles are completely flat, and have a single sharp spike on its rear end. Like the Paussinae, these beetles camouflage their presence on the ground, and lie in wait for their unsuspecting prey to trip over them. They also secrete a chemical that attracts their prey, mostly spiders, towards their hiding spot until said victim is standing right on top of them. They then quickly trap the victim between their jaws and tail.
Have you ever heard of these bizarre bugs? Have you ever seen any insect that reminds you of them?
Killer Ant Finally Understood
Scientists have puzzled over the trap-jaw ant and its vicious ways for decades. A new study, however, discovered how these tiny ants are able to take down prey a hundred times it sown weight, and why it’s the boss in the ant world.
The trap-jaw ant ambushes larger insects by first bopping them on the head, stunning the insect for a few seconds, and then waiting for its nestmates to arrive, who will then grab the prey in their powerful jaws and each pull backward until the insect is spread eagle. If that doesn’t conquer the insect, then the trap-jaw ants will use their stingers to inject paralyzing venom into the prey. They also have viselike mandibles that they sometimes use to tear a victim apart.
Interestingly, in the wild these ants live in relative peace among other territorial species. It turns out that they tend to be the boss wherever they settle down. Researchers have also witnessed the trap-jaw ants farm scale insect in the tree canopies they live in. The trap-jaw ants will provide the scale insects with protection in return for honeydew produced from plant sap. Most other ant species back down when trap-jaw ants settle in an area, following their rules in order to avoid a fight.
Do humans have any people who are like trap-jaw ants, bullying other ants and acting as the leaders of everyone else wherever they settle?
A photo posted by Certified Termite & Pest (@certifiedpest) on
Termites are known as silent destroyers because their constant gnawing can go unnoticed until significant structural damage to the home occurs. Termites feed 24-hours a day, seven days a week on the cellulose found in wood and paper products.
Certified Termite & Pest Control offers the following signs that termites may be present in a home:
If homeowners notice any of these signs, they should contact Certified Termite & pest who can best determine the extent of the problem and recommend a proper treatment plan.
For more information on termites, please visit www.certifiedtpc.com
Rodents can contaminate food sources and serve as vectors of many diseases, such as salmonella and the potentially fatal Hantavirus. Moreover, mice and rats can cause serious structural damage by chewing through insulation, wallboards, wood and electrical wiring. Use these tips to stay rodent free:
We’ve all seen cyborgs (half human, half computer) in science fiction movies, but did you ever think humans would really be able to create one? Well, a team of scientists from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University have done just that. The researchers took giant flower beetles and strapped tiny computers and wireless radios to their backs. By connecting wire electrodes to specific neuromuscular sites, the scientists were able to electronically stimulate the bug’s nervous system and actually control the beetle’s movements through a remote control device. The scientists can literally control the beetle as if it is some remote control car. With the remote control they controlled the beetle’s speed, walking gait and step length. What’s more, the beetle doesn’t even need a battery like a remote control car. They provide most of the energy. The only outside energy being used is what is needed to electrically stimulate the muscles, a mere tiny zap. While we’re not exactly sure what they are going to use them for yet, the possibilities are quite interesting. Millions of cyborg beetles could be sent out after a natural disaster to locate trapped humans and send a signal back to people who can then come a rescue them. That is pretty freaking cool! I’m impressed.
What other possible ways could we put the cyborg beetles to use? Are you geeking out as much as I am that scientists have actually made a cyborg?!