Protecting Your Family From Pests Since 1974!
Scarab Beetle larvae Survive Unnoticed Within Termite Nests
As far as many insects are concerned, termites live the easy life. While most insect species are forced into the same habitat as their predators, termites get to retreat into their relatively safe nests. As it turns out, there are many different species of insect and arachnid that also want to enjoy the benefits of living within a well-built termite nest. Most insects that are looking to casually move into termite nests are rejected by the live-in termites. However, some insects are either welcomed into a termite nest by the termite-inhabitants, or they successfully dwell unnoticed within termite nests. These types of insects are referred to as “termitophiles”. This blog has mentioned termitophiles before, and scientists have long been aware of many different termitophile species. Now, for the first time in history, a type of scarab beetle has been found to dwell within termite nests. This was an interesting find to researchers as scarab beetles were only thought to coexist with other social insects, such as ants and bees. Scarab beetles have never been found dwelling within termite nests before.
There are over four thousand different scarab beetle species known to mankind. Of this four thousand species, only seven have been documented as cooperating with social insects. These social insects include harvester ants, leaf cutter ants, and honey bees. The species of scarab beetle known as Leucothyreus suturalis is a kind of chafer leaf beetle that has recently been found to live within active termite nests. Termite nests belonging to Cornitermes cumulans and Silvestritermes holmgreni termite species can also contain the larvae of chafer leaf beetles. These two types of termites are active in the country of Brazil, which is where the recent discovery was made.
The chafer leaf beetle larvae were found inhabiting areas of a termite nest that are not patrolled by termite soldiers. These areas exist on the periphery of nests where beetle larvae can remain hidden. Although scientists do not yet understand exactly why these beetle larvae prefer to dwell within termite nests, researchers believe that the larvae are feeding on some type of matter that is available in certain areas of termite nests. Most termitophiles feed on routes within termite nests, but this is not the case with the chafer beetle larvae. The larvae would become noticed by termite inhabitants if they fed on a nest’s routes. Instead, the larvae probably feed on a material that termites use to build their nests.
Do you think that the leaf cutter beetles in this study prefer to dwell within termite nests only during their larval stages?
A Former Farmer Invents A Drone That Spreads Predatory Insects Over Crops
When it comes to controlling insect pest populations within large-scale crops, drones are becoming more and more popular. The use of drones as a biological form of insect pest control is still in its infancy, and many countries have not yet approved of this form of insect pest control. Despite the lack of legal framework concerning the use of drone technology to fight insect pests, one former strawberry farmer from Australia has taken drone-related insect pest control into his own hands. Nathan Roy, has not only invented a drone that spreads predatory insects over crops, but he has also been using this technology with great success.
According to Roy, his drone technology will eventually become the only way of spreading beneficial insects across the natural environment. Instead of using his drones to dispense insecticides, Roy has programmed his drones to release predatory insects that, in theory, will eradicate insect pests from crops. Over the course of eighteen months Roy has tested his drone device on various regions of farmland. The drone is an eight bladed helicopter that features a device for spreading predatory insects. According to Roy, operating the drone takes practice, and he still does not have all of the kinks worked out yet.
Roy has devoted most of his time to finding the perfect altitude for releasing predatory insects over crops. If the predatory insects are released at an altitude that is too high, the insects will not reach the desired target. If the drone is too low to the ground when the predatory insects are released, then the target crop becomes saturated with too many predatory insects. Roy is still determining which time of day and which climatic conditions are most optimal for the release of the predatory insects. Despite a few lingering questions, Roy has used his drone with success on a few different farms located in Australia. Roy believes that his drone technology is the future of insect pest control in large-scale crops.
Do you believe that using drones to release predatory insects onto regions of farmland may pose threats to the public?
The World’s Rarest Insects Can Be Found At A Unique Insect Museum In Turkey
The world is full of insect museums, but a particular museum located in Turkey is perhaps the most notable of all. More than fifty thousand insect specimens can be studied at Turkey’s Atatürk University Faculty of Agriculture in Erzurum. This museum may not house the largest number of insects, but there is a good reason as to why entomologists around the world visit Turkey’s museum more often than others. Virginia Tech’s insect specimen collection includes four hundred thousand different insect species. Although Virginia Tech’s entomology museum is home to hundreds of thousands of insects, most, if not all, of the insect specimens located there have already been described in scientific literature. However, most of the insects at the Turkish entomology museum have never been studied before. Some of the strangest looking insects in existence today can only be found within the country of Turkey.
There is an understandable reason as to why Turkey’s entomology museum is home to thousands of insect specimens that are completely unknown to science. Although the country of Turkey borders other countries, many experts consider Turkey to be an island where only the most exotic insects exist. Turkey is home to one hundred thousand different insects living in the wild. Since there are probably well over one million different insect species living in the world today, one hundred thousand insects may not sound like a lot. But the entire continent of Europe does not have an insect population as high as Turkeys. Of the fifty thousand different species that are currently stored in Turkey’s museum, only twenty thousand of them have been described by scientists. This leaves thirty thousand insect species that have yet to be studied. Some of the fifty thousand insects now stored at the museum came from countries other than Turkey. However, the majority of specimens are found only in Turkey and nowhere else. Turkey is a unique country in that its environment is more conducive to a wide variety of different forms of insect life when compared to neighboring countries. If you have ever wanted to discover an insect so that you could name it after yourself, then don’t bother with searching through your backyard; instead just visit Atatürk University in Turkey.
Would you be interested in visiting Atatürk University in Turkey in order to look at certain insects that have never been seen before by experts?
A Chef Finds Several Still-Living Bugs In A Sealed Box Of Cereal
Have you ever opened a brand new, sealed box or can of food and discovered more than just the advertised food is contained inside, mixed in with what you were hoping to be able to eat? It is unfortunately a more common occurrence than you might think for people to find insects buried in their box of food. One Miami chef, Jamie DeRosa, discovered a huge surprise when he opened what he thought was simply a box of Raisin Bran cereal. It wasn’t even the same cereal, and was full of creepy crawlies straight out of one of your worst nightmares.
DeRosa had initially believed he’d purchase a healthy box of Raisin Bran cereal, but was pleasantly surprised when he found a plethora of corn flakes, rainbow colored fruit loops and tasty marshmallows. There was no golden flakes and raisin to be seen. Thinking he’d won the cereal jackpot, DeRosa says, “I’m thinking we scored the golden ticket. I thought of those cereal variety packs you bought as a kid and thought it was some surprise mystery box.”
It wasn’t until after he’d poured a heaping bowl full of the sugary cereal for his daughter, and his wife arrived home to take a closer look at the cereal that seemed a little too good to be true. She noticed that the cereal smelled stale and decided to investigate. Upon closer inspection DeRosa noticed what looked like spider webs clinging to the sides of the bag. Thankfully, he noticed the extra protein included just before his daughter was about to take a bite of the bowl of cereal he had poured her.
DeRosa poured a larger bowl of the cereal and then began to notice movement amidst the marshmallows and fruit loops. He was looking at insect larvae wriggling amongst the cereal flakes. As soon as he saw this, DeRosa rushed his daughter to the hospital, as she has a number of food allergies. She ended up being fine, but DeRosa was concerned about other people purchasing boxes of cereal like his, so decided to post his findings on Facebook. He described it as “Fruit Loops, random stale marshmallows, Frosted Corn Flakes, and a web from a Spider.It literally looks like someone scooped cereal off the floor. That’s my impression of what went wrong in the cereal factory.” What’s more, both the box and the inside bag were completely sealed when he purchased the cereal. DeRosa believes that the insects made it into the cereal by way of cross contamination while it was being packaged.
Have you ever found insects or some other contaminant in a food product that you purchased?
The Plant That Dissolves Insects Before Consuming Them
Some people are really into gardening, but there are many more people who find plants to be rather boring. Plants may be largely stationary, and they may not be as fun to have around the house as a dog or a cat, but plants are just as alive and just as hungry as any other pet. It is difficult to imagine plants as consuming living animals, even animals that are as small as insects. But such plants do exist, and they are known as carnivorous plants. One of the most well known types of carnivorous plants is the venus flytrap, but the plant known as the sundew is far more brutal in its treatment of insect prey. Sundew plants consume insect prey by first melting them with a corrosive enzyme. Some species of sundew require near constant feeding which can wipe out nearby insect habitats.
There are hundreds of sundew plant species in regions all around the world. Most sundew species are found in Australia, but the state of Florida is also home to sundew plants. Sundew plants vary dramatically in size depending on the species. Some sundew plants reach sixty centimeters in height. Sundew plants are covered with tentacles that appear to be water droplets or forms of dew. The appearance of these tentacles easily deceives curious insects. If an insect makes contact with the sticky tentacles that cover sundew leaves, they will likely not be able to escape. Once an insect is stuck in the tentacles, other tentacle-covered leaves come together in order to clasp the unfortunate insect, successfully trapping the it. The leaves slowly move together like hands squishing a bug. Sometimes one single leaf will roll up like a carpet in order to prevent an insect’s escape. The tentacles release an acid and an enzyme that liquifies the captured insect, which provides the plant with its required nutrients. Later on, the sundew leaf will unroll in order to discard the dead insects partially remaining outer shell.
Sundew plants can consume a variety of different insects provided that they are small enough in size. Some people cultivate sundew plants and feed them different types of insects. The most common insects fed to sundew plants include fungus gnats, fruit flies, ants, crickets and even small spiders. However, some ants and spiders may successfully escape a sundews plant’s dangerous tentacles. Sundew plants have even been used by farmers to control damaging fruit fly pests. Recent research has revealed that sundew plants compete with spiders for insect prey. In Florida pink sundew plants compete with wolf spiders for tasty arthropod meals. And the competition is reportedly quite intense.
Have you ever witnessed a carnivorous plant consume an insect in real life or on an educational program?
As humans we cannot vomit on attackers as a form of defense. Well, most people surely cannot anyway. However, vomiting as a form of defense during enemy attacks is common in the insect world. For example, caterpillars of the small mottled willow moth will not hesitate to projectile vomit on their hostile enemies. These caterpillars are also known as beet armyworms. Many caterpillars possess defensive hairs that are usually quite effective at fending off enemies. However, the beet armyworm covers enemies in a special vomit that deters enemy attackers. A variety of different ant species are the most common predators to beet armyworms. The beet armyworm vomit is particularly bothersome to ants, but it only deters them from attacking, it does not kill them. This vomit could be thought of as a sort of pepper spray used by beet armyworms.
When a small number of ants approach one or more beet armyworms, the armyworms will promptly vomit their digestive contents onto the nearby ants. The compounds in the armyworm vomit cause ants to frantically clean their heads, at which point their plan of attack fails. The compounds that are contained within beet armyworm vomit act as surfactants. For example, the vomit envelops over ant bodies, including their heads. In order to prevent death by drowning, the ants must frantically clean themselves of the digestive fluids. When the vomit covered ants become preoccupied with cleaning themselves of vomit, beet armyworms make their getaway.
Although this method has proven to be quite effective against ant attacks in laboratory settings, the vomit will obviously not suffice to protect the armyworms from large numbers of invading ants. However, the vomit does protect beet armyworms from a number of different solitary insects. Upon analyzing the caterpillar vomit, scientists found that it acts as a surfactant, which is a fluid that covers an entire object on contact, as opposed to simply dripping off like water. Insects make frantic efforts to remove this surfactant substance from their bodies after being attacked by beet armyworms. Surprisingly, researchers found that beet armyworm vomit acts as a surfactant no matter what the caterpillars eat. This is the first time an insect’s bodily fluid was found to act as a surfactant. But researchers believe that the method of vomiting surfactant substances as a from of defense may be widespread among insects.
Do you believe that surfactants would deter spiders from attacking caterpillars?
Parasitic Flies Can Save Your Garden
Gardeners are always looking for new ways to protect their cherished plants from hated insect pests. Many gardeners will try to create conditions that are conducive to the survival needs of particular beneficial insects. Insects that prey upon plant pests are always welcome into people’s gardens. One of the most beneficial types of insects to have hanging around your garden are parasitic flies. In fact, with the exception of parasitic wasps, no insect kills a larger variety of insect pests to plants than parasitic flies. There exists twelve known fly families, and they contain thousands of species. Some of these fly species are parasitic, but the parasitic fly family that is most beneficial to garden health is known as Tachinidae.
Most Tachinidae species are endoparasites, which means their larvae infect the internal bodies of their hosts. This fly larvae, or maggots as they are more commonly known, will eat their prey from the inside out. Female Tachinidae species will resort to various tricks in order to make sure that their offspring successfully parasitize other insects. Obviously, female flies want their developing offspring to be exposed to a large amount of food, therefore females will strategically place their eggs in certain areas so that other insects can eventually become infected with parasitic maggots. Some female Tachinidae flies will place their eggs on leaves in order to trick caterpillars into eating them, which will only infect them with the parasitic larvae once the egg hatches within the caterpillars body. Sometimes the females will even forcibly implant her eggs into their insect prey. In other cases, Tachinidae females will simply place their eggs on a host’s body. Once the egg hatches, the maggots will then bore into their host’s bodies where they will complete their development. Parasitic flies most often prey on insects that are in their early life stages. The most common forms of parasitic fly prey include beetles, butterflies, moths, earwigs, grasshoppers, sawflies, and true bugs.
Did you have any idea that flies were so beneficial to the growth of plant life, and the eradication of insect pests?
Based on several polls, large portions of the American public believe that the climate is gradually warming, and this warming is being caused by mankind. Most importantly, global warming is viewed as a negative trend that endangers both humanity as well as the rest of the animal kingdom, not to mention the state of the ecosystem itself. Since human-induced global warming is a phenomenon that is still being explored by scientists, it can be safely said that this trend will have negative consequences, some of which have not even been considered yet. It is not infrequent to encounter a study or an article that describes an aspect of global warming that has not yet been widely considered. For example, researchers have recently found evidence to suggest that global warming will lead to an overabundance of insects and less food for humans.
Most people have heard respected scientists claim that global warming may be responsible for killing-off many of earth’s animal species, particularly insects. For example, the recently discovered loss of insect species around the globe has been blamed partly on global warming. However, the relationship between agriculture and insects is complicated, and there is no quick answer to how global warming will affect the world’s insect species. Perhaps some insect species will benefit from global warming, while others will ultimately become extinct as a result of the trend. At the moment, insect pests are responsible for destroying up to 20% of the world’s crops, and this number will likely grow as global warming intensifies.
Researchers have analyzed how rice, maize and wheat will be affected by rising global temperatures. These crops provide 42% of humanity’s calories, making these crops particularly important for avoiding starvation. Unfortunately, as global temperatures increase, up to 25% of these crops will be destroyed by insect pests. This loss is due to the fact that insects require greater caloric intake in hotter climates. Also, insect populations in colder regions will grow substantially, as hibernation and insect death will become less frequent in warmer climates. An increase in overwintering insects and hungrier insects will lead to far less agricultural food products available to future generations, as crop-devouring pests will become much more abundant the future.
Do you believe that the most significant effects of global warming on humans will be related to how global warming affects insect populations?
Whether you have ever been a smoker or not, tolerating cigarette smoke used to be a part of everyday life for many people. If you are over the age of thirty, then you likely remember a time when it was ok to fill public spaces with toxic clouds. Luckily, fewer people are smoking these days, and that is a good thing, as nicotine can kill instantly in sufficient doses. High enough doses of nicotine can cause a human, or any animal, to experience involuntary muscle contractions that lead to paralysis followed by a quick death.
Any animal that possesses muscles can die from nicotine overdose. It is not uncommon for insects to die of nicotine overdose in nature, as some plants produce nicotine as a defense against hungry insect pests. Considering this, it should be obvious that the tobacco plant is well protected from most insect pests, but not all. For example, a particular moth species, the tobacco hornworm, is able to tolerate unusually high doses of nicotine that would easily kill any other insect species. When the tobacco hornworm is in its larval stage as a caterpillar, it feeds on tobacco plants, and this insect’s physiology is specialized for feeding specifically on tobacco plants. Not only can this caterpillar survive ingesting high doses of nicotine, but it can also save nicotine in order to use it for its own defense against other insect predators.
The nicotine that these caterpillars ingest can be emitted from their bodies in order to fend off, or kill, insect predators. These nicotine emissions are referred to as “chronic halitosis” by scientists who compare the emissions to bad breath.
This clever trick on the part of hornworms was discovered after scientists genetically removed nicotine producing genes from tobacco plants. Most of the hornworms that consumed these non-nicotine-containing tobacco plants were eaten by predators within a short amount of time, as they were no longer able to emit their noxious fumes as a defensive measure. The super fast wolf spider is the primary arthropod predator of these hornworms.
Do you believe that plants emit more than one type of toxic substance as a form of defense against arthropod pests?