Government spending in excess of seventy million dollars has failed to turn up any effective method of eradicating a nonnative insect pest that has farmers and wine producers panicking. The universally hated invasive insect in question is called the “light brown apple moth (LBAM),” and if this pest is not eradicated it could wind up costing farmers one hundred and thirty three million dollars per year in damages. In desperation researchers are turning to the use of radiation to render these troublesome creatures sterile.
The LBAM has caused extensive crop damage since the moth was first discovered in the United States in 2007. The moth is native to Australia. Since this month’s destructive tendencies were first observed several years ago, scientists have been laboring to find a way to eradicate the moth from US soil.
Recently researchers have demonstrated that the moths can be rendered sterile by introducing small amounts of radiation into the moth’s habitat. Preventing these moths from reproducing marks the first promising step towards eradication of the moth species from US farmland. Now researchers are focusing on how much radiation is necessary to eradicate the moth population while ensuring that the radiation levels will not result in adverse health consequences for consumers.
How could the light brown apple moth have arrived in North America if it is native only to Australia?
Researchers at the University of Exeter have found that older male burying beetles make better fathers than younger beetles. Researchers have observed that older male burying beetles demonstrate a greater frequency of protective behavior and overall parental care towards their offspring than their younger counterparts show towards their offspring. In other words, older male beetles invest more time into raising their offspring, whereas younger male burying beetles tend to be dead-beat dads that show little interest in the welfare of their offspring.
The reasons for this unequal participation in the upbringing of their offspring is rather simple. The older male beetle is past his prime, and he does not experience as many opportunities for reproduction as he did when he was younger and more fertile. Therefore, the older beetle has no other way of spending its time than to tend to the needs of its offspring.
The younger beetle, on the other hand, likely spends much of its time engaged in the act of reproduction, and therefore has fathered many different offspring. Naturally, the younger and more fertile beetle will produce such a high number of offspring that it cannot possibly tend to the upbringing of all of his young.
The researchers also noted that the older male beetle continued to nurture young beetles even if the older male beetle was unsure if the younger beetles were born from his seed. So apparently, older male beetles tend to become comfortable with the idea of adoption. The younger male beetles, with their superior swagger, proceeded to immediately abandon any young beetles that were not confirmed to be his offspring, and instead indulged in mate-seeking behavior.
Despite the noble decision on the part of the older beetles to nurture young beetles, the young beetles do not stand to gain any benefits from being reared by a nurturing father. Nor do the young neglected beetles demonstrate behavior that is in any way different from their nurtured counterparts. This is due to the fact that young beetles do not, by nature, depend on, or desire, the nurturing care of their fathers. Rather, the mother to the young beetles is solely responsible for fulfilling the role of nurturer to her offspring. The researchers involved with this study believe that the female beetle will ultimately prefer the older male as a mate since the older male is not concerned with the quantity of mates, and can therefore retire their need for sex in favor of the need for nurturing and support.
If Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest is true, then wouldn’t the female beetles in the above described study prefer the younger and more fertile males?
A new study conducted by researchers at Oxford University has shed some light on how scorpion venom became the deadly toxin that it is well known for. To put it simply, one small genetic mutation made a harmless and non-toxic protein become a dangerous and highly toxic venom.
Scorpion venom has its roots in a type of antimicrobial protein that eventually mutated into a dangerous toxin. The antimicrobial proteins being discussed in this short paper are known as defensins. Defensins are proteins that are found in plants and animals, and their purpose is to ward off viral, bacterial or fungal pests.
Discovering how a protective protein could mutate into a dangerous substance turned out to be rather painless. First researchers examined insect defensins thinking that insect’s defensins would be the most likely source of an insect venom. What they found was that the insect defensins could be converted into the toxic scorpion venom solely by one single genetic deletion event. This is the first study to demonstrate a link between insect defensins and insect venom.
Did the scorpion develop a toxic venom because the scorpions environment pressured the development of a toxin for the sake of the scorpions survival? Or was the toxin created completely randomly with no influence from the outside environment?
In an effort to gain a better understanding of how drug addiction functions on a neurological level scientists study the brains of ants. Luckily for scientists drug addiction is now easy to study in insects because the fact that ants have neurological pathways similar to mammals has been proven.
Studying ants is even more beneficial than using rats as a model. This is due to the fact that ants are quite similar to humans socially, whereas rats are significantly different. When it comes to observing the effects that drugs have on an ant’s ability to function socially, humans can learn much more about how drugs affect their own social functioning.
Researchers took note of the much greater number of ants that clamor towards the source of morphine than the number of ants that make visits to the source of sugar water. The researchers then used advanced techniques to observe the levels of the pleasure and reward chemical dopamine. Understandable the junkie ants showed much higher levels of dopamine. It is likely that even ants can ruin their lives with drugs.
Do you think that nearly every type of animal can become intoxicated by drugs use?
The Naupaka is a shrub that is native to the Hawaiian islands. Unfortunately, these beautiful plants are disappearing, and the ones that remain seem to be missing several petals. This is due to the dwindling numbers of their primary pollinators, which is a yellow faced bee species belonging to the hylaeus genus. On September 30th the US Fish and Wildlife Service added seven different bees from the hylaeus species to the endangered species list. These bees are the first to ever appear on the list.
The yellow-faced bees were once Hawaii’s most abundant insects. However, habitat loss, invasive species and climate change have all contributed to their now small population. In 2010 a non-profit company named submitted a petition to have the yellow-faced bees federally protected. In an effort to reestablish the once sizeable yellow-faced bee population, an entomologist has invented an artificial nest that is designed to keep invasive insects out, thus saving the lives of many bees that would otherwise die. Hopefully, this artificial nest can be put to use before it is too late.
If the artificial nest is used on a large scale, do you think that nature will still find a way to reduce the population of yellow-faced bees?
Probably since the very beginning of human crop production farmers have been struggling to destroy all harmful crop-eating insects that gather around weeds growing wild within the crop in order to allow their harvest to reach a healthy maturity. However, the problem here lies in the use of pesticides. Pesticides are every farmer’s best friend, and exterminators love and depend on them as well. Not to mention the consumer who regularly feasts on crop-produced vegetation without worrying about eating bugs along with their carrots. Long story short–insecticides are a good thing. However, insecticides may protect the consumer, and insecticides serve as a tremendous convenience for farmers looking to raise their vegetarian food stuffs without having their product undergo damage caused by crop-eating insects, but how can a farmer manipulate his farming practices so that the good bugs live, while the bad bugs and bad weeds die. This is the modern farmer’s dilemma.
The squash bee is perhaps the most beneficial insect to a crop that is growing squash. The squash bee, as can be guessed, pollinates squash. If insecticides were to kill harmful crop-critters, like aphids, then that would be seemingly beneficial, as the insecticides make it so that your family will not have to share their crop-born veggies with aphids and other unpleasant insects that accessed crop produced food before it even reached the dinner table. However, insecticide use will also kill the squash bee that is responsible for nourishing squash until it reaches maturity. If insecticides are used on squash crops, then the bees will die before they get a chance to pollinate the squash, and, therefore, no squash!
Luckily experts have found a solution, and that solution is mulch. More specifically, mulch that is made of shredded newspaper and grass clippings. By spreading this mulch concoction on over the soil where the crop is growing, harmful weeds will not be able to penetrate the mulch barrier, and consequently, the weeds will not grow through and penetrate the special mulch concoction, as regular mulch does. Also, this unique mulch concoction allows for squash bees to nest beneath the shredded newspaper and grass clippings. Once the squash bees establish their nest, they will be able to successfully pollinate the squash. And since the mulch will prevent the growth of unwanted weeds, then naturally no harmful pesticides will need to be used to kill the weeds, therefore saving the essential population of squash bees. It‘s a win-win.
Do you think using this new type of mulch to protect crops and bees is a good option for farmers to use? What possible downsides might it have?
By now we have all heard of Zika, and the devastating effects the disease has on those who have contracted the virus, especially newborn infants. However, the Zika carrying mosquito is not the only menace of the skies that you have to watch out for this fall. Of course I am talking about the notorious bug known as the “invisible oak leaf itch mite.”
If you have never heard of this strangely named insect, then you are not alone, as these bugs have only recently been introduced to the Midwest United States from Europe. These bugs are invisible as their name clearly states, and they will make you itch like crazy, as, once again, their name clearly states. The mites spend their summers nesting on oak trees and consuming other smaller bugs. It is only during the fall that they jump from their oak tree homes and land on unsuspecting victims. The itching that these mites cause is reported to be even more bothersome than poison ivy, and hospitals located in the Midwest report outrageous numbers of itch mite victims seeking treatment right up until the first freeze during the winter season.
For a significant period of time many Midwesterners were not even aware of what it was that was causing their profuse itching. This is due to the fact that these mites are not even meant to be roaming American soil. During the ‘90’s these mites were introduced to the Midwestern US environment, and there they have stayed ever since. It was not until 2004 that researchers responded to mass outbreaks of itching, only to eventually discover that the itching was caused by this rare European mite. However, the mites are not life threatening, and if you or someone you know suspects that they have been bitten by one or more of these mites, then simply applying some anti-itch cream could go a long way. In any case, if you have been bitten…then you can expect some suffering.
How do you think the invisible itch mite was introduced to the USA?