Most people who do not make a living studying arthropods show little interest in bugs like ants. Rather, most people seem to be fascinated with more majestic looking bugs, like butterflies or ladybugs. However, Ted Schultz, an entomologist employed at the National Museum of Natural History, insists that ants are far more fascinating than people suppose. Schultz believes that if people would take a closer look at what a colony of ants can accomplish, as opposed to simply observing individual ants, then people would finally realize what amazing feats of nature many ants are capable of.

 

For example, sixty million years ago a single ancient ant evolved the ability to grow and feed off of fungus. This early ant was basically a fungi farmer, and now there are more than two hundred and fifty ant species that farm fungi. The first ant appeared on earth one hundred and fifty million years ago, and even the first ant was a social organism. Naturally, over the course of hundreds of millions of years, ants have developed highly intricate social behaviors that you won’t be able to notice unless you observe ant colonies up close.

 

To illustrate the complexity of a farmer ant colony it should be mentioned that every farmer ant colony begins with a queen. The queen transports spores from her mother’s home to the location of her soon to be colony. Next, the queen promptly mates to create numerous worker ants that will farm the fungi. The worker ants cultivate the fungi by fertilizing it with plant material collected from outside the colonies location. As the fungi grows the ants feed on it like a never-ending source of food.

 

Also, other farmer ant colonies have learned to subdue aphids with chemicals that the ants produce naturally from their feet. The ants collect and subdue aphids in order to procure honeydew secreted from the aphids, much like how humans milk cattle. As a result of all of this busy work on the part of ants, ants contribute to the shaping of the ecosystem far more so than any herbivore.

 

Are there any other types of insects that farm fungi?

Most people who do not make a living studying arthropods show little interest in bugs like ants. Rather, most people seem to be fascinated with more majestic looking bugs, like butterflies or ladybugs. However, Ted Schultz, an entomologist employed at the National Museum of Natural History, insists that ants are far more fascinating than people suppose. Schultz believes that if people would take a closer look at what a colony of ants can accomplish, as opposed to simply observing individual ants, then people would finally realize what amazing feats of nature many ants are capable of.

For example, sixty million years ago a single ancient ant evolved the ability to grow and feed off of fungus. This early ant was basically a fungi farmer, and now there are more than two hundred and fifty ant species that farm fungi. The first ant appeared on earth one hundred and fifty million years ago, and even the first ant was a social organism. Naturally, over the course of hundreds of millions of years, ants have developed highly intricate social behaviors that you won’t be able to notice unless you observe ant colonies up close.

To illustrate the complexity of a farmer ant colony it should be mentioned that every farmer ant colony begins with a queen. The queen transports spores from her mother’s home to the location of her soon to be colony. Next, the queen promptly mates to create numerous worker ants that will farm the fungi. The worker ants cultivate the fungi by fertilizing it with plant material collected from outside the colonies location. As the fungi grows the ants feed on it like a never-ending source of food.

Also, other farmer ant colonies have learned to subdue aphids with chemicals that the ants produce naturally from their feet. The ants collect and subdue aphids in order to procure honeydew secreted from the aphids, much like how humans milk cattle. As a result of all of this busy work on the part of ants, ants contribute to the shaping of the ecosystem far more so than any herbivore.

Are there any other types of insects that farm fungi?

Exposure therapy is generally agreed to be the most effective treatment for phobias. The idea behind exposure therapy consists in experiencing something you fear repeatedly despite the anxiety and discomfort the fear causes. This will desensitize the patient to the object of his/her fear. However, it is not uncommon that the patient will forget why he/she does not fear a particular thing, for instance spiders, and then he/she will begin to fear spiders once again. It is hard to unlearn frightening memories of spiders. Researchers have now developed a method of increasing the efficacy of exposure therapy so that even the more regular and vivid fear inducing memories cannot overpower and replace the desensitizing effect of the exposure therapy.

Simply by introducing a slight tweak to the exposure therapy procedure patients were able to avoid retaining older fear-provoking memories. The researchers accomplished this improved result by having the patients return to the clinic the following day in order to view the same frightening pictures of spiders for a second time. By repeating the same fear-provoking stimulus after enough time has passed to process the first fear-provoking stimulus the new stimulus will become more ingrained in the patient’s psyche, and the memory of the positive exposure will become a fixture in the patient’s mind. It is amazing how much more fruitful the research became simply by making a slight addition to the scientific procedure.

What other types of therapy exist to help people cope with feelings of fear and phobia?

By now many of you know that this fall experts expect to see a significant influx of spiders invading homes. The warmer autumn season has caused a population overgrowth of many different species of house spiders. This overgrowth means that many more spiders than normal will be moving into people’s homes with the intention of finding mates. The invaders consist of male spiders looking for healthy large female spiders. It is during the fall that male spiders are willing to travel far and wide and take risks in unfamiliar environments just to produce offspring before they die as a result of the impending cold temperatures. This is frightening news for most people that are not big fans of welcoming mass amounts of spiders into their homes. And if this increase in house dwelling spiders is not troubling enough, it now seems that these extra large spiders are causing some serious shenanigans that have firefighters frustrated.

Apparently three different fire stations responded to an emergency call from an individual who alerted authorities over his blaring fire alarm. The homeowner was confused because he could neither see nor smell a fire, but he was nevertheless concerned. Well, as it turns out, it was just a false alarm caused by one of these dreaded house spiders setting off the fire alarm by crawling around inside of it. The amount of spiders inside people’s homes have become so numerous that they are now even setting off alarms and causing panic. Or maybe it was the only spider in the house and it set off the alarm for kicks since it was lonely, who knows.

Are there more spiders roaming inside of your house this fall? How do you deal with them?

 

 

The citizens of Florida dealing with the first cases of the Zika virus that have been transmitted locally in the U.S. are chomping at the bit for better protection against mosquitos, more insect repelling clothing in particular. The demand for clothing with Insect Shield has skyrocketed in the last few months, with sales having increased by 145% for the Gamehide company in the last six months. The people are about to get exactly what they want, as Expert Brand and Nobitech are teaming up to design a line of activewear made with insect repellent clothing to offer people in the country that desire protection against mosquitos as well as fashion forward apparel. The clothing line will be made from Nobitech’s Skintex technology, a way to embed clothing with the insect repellent Permethrin. The collection will include everything from hoodies and pullovers to pants and t-shirts treated with Permethrin. A few other clothing companies jumping on the bandwagon are Gamehide and OMNi Apparel Inc. You can now protect yourself from those nasty mosquitos all while sporting clothes that won’t make you want to hide under your bed.

How popular do you think this insect repellent clothing that is also fashionable is going to be in the coming months?

Spiders are correctly known for possessing brutal natures where just about anything smaller, and sometimes even bigger, would be considered food. In fact, spiders that make up the same species even kill and eat each other. And it is not just females eating males after mating as males will kill other males, and although it is rare, males will sometimes get away with killing and consuming females.

It seems that in the spider world just about anything goes. However, this may not be the case across the board as a team of scientists led by Lena Grinsted of Aarhus University in Denmark discovered a species of spider that was a product of interbreeding between two different spider species. This indicated that there must be some species of spiders that don’t get defensive when being coupled with an entirely different species.

The name of this unique specimen is Chikunia Nigra and the reason why some spiders are more tolerant of different types of spiders is not clear. Currently, there are only around twelve different species of spiders that appear to be relatively altruistic towards other spiders.

Why do you think that so few spiders are capable of existing without killing other spiders?

 

There is no doubt that it only took American citizens months and months of watching idly while the Zika virus rampaged across South and Central America and then finally reached U.S. soil weeks ago to grow concerned over this serious epidemic. No one was too concerned about how we might be affected until the virus was banging on our doors. Now that people are well and truly frightened the usual chaos is now ensuing, with many citizens running around like chickens with their heads cut off in a craze to protect themselves against the virus. This seems to often lead to sometimes disastrous mishaps.

A man started a fire on the deck of his apartment because he was a little too enthusiastic about making sure insects stayed far away from him. Authorities believe the blaze was caused by an ember that drifted from one of the insect repellent stakes that the man had burning on his deck. This reminds me of the incidents that happen to people that try to get rid of bed bugs on their own and start fires or even poison themselves in their crazy efforts to fight the bugs. We already have to deal with this horrible virus people. Let’s not add these kinds of ridiculous mishaps to our list of problems just because we’re finally panicking about how to deal with the Zika virus now that the danger is closer to home.

Do you think more mishaps like this one will happen because of people’s fear of the Zika virus and their chaotic efforts to protect themselves at all cost? Do you know of any similar thing happening near you?

Scared citizens in Singapore aren’t just having to deal with trying to quell the almost unstoppable force that is the Zika virus, now they also have to deal with greedy people hoarding insect repellent just so they can then sell it for a higher price when the item is in short supply in regular stores. These unscrupulous individual are suitably called “flippers”. With the stores currently experiencing major shortages in the area of insect repellent, a can of spray that would cost $8 is now being hawked for a whopping $12. That’s almost a fifty percent markup!

It’s sad when rather than unite in these dark times, people instead use this crisis as an opportunity to profit themselves off the misfortune of others. These flippers are depriving the people that need the insect repellent most during this epidemic, pregnant women. The allure of cold hard cash is more overpowering than the realization that more babies will be born with microcephaly because of hoarding practices like this. The pharmacies are at least trying to limit the extent to which people are able to hoard and then “flip” these products, some placing strict limits on the number of products one can purchase in order to guarantee there is enough for all. What is the world coming to?

Do you see this kind of greed taking hold of American citizens as the Zika epidemic spreads in Florida?

Despite all of the promising solutions aimed at the Zika problem there are experts who believe that the Zika virus will be around for a while. One reason to assume that Zika is on the way in and not out is that there is still much to learn about the virus, and this lack of knowledge does not make it possible to control Zika completely.

For one thing, scientists are still not sure if a mother who is infected with Zika will have children with birth defects. Most people keeping up with the news on Zika would insist the infected pregnant mothers will certainly give birth to babies with microcephaly. However, thus far researchers have only been able to demonstrate that mothers who are symptomatic birth babies with microcephaly. Since people can be asymptomatic for long periods of time, it seems uncertain as to just how significant a role infection plays in pregnant women and their unborn children.

Also, given the fact that so many people are asymptomatic there is no easy way to identify how many cases currently exist in the world. For example, there is no reason to believe that the number of americans that are infected with the virus is not much higher than presently assumed. Zika could turn out to be another dengue fever, which has been around for a long time and with no cure.

Which proposed method of Zika control shows the most promise thus

far?

 

It is no secret to anybody that there exists some very noisy insects as loud bugs exist in all parts of the world. Cicadas, locusts and crickets are just a few annoyingly loud bugs. It turns out that these loud sounds are worth something to humans since researchers believe that new and improved hearing aids can be created that are designed after loud bugs.

Currently researchers are focused on what it is that makes crickets so loud. When a cricket rubs its wings together loud sounds are produced from the friction between two very stiff patterns that are located on the crickets wings. For the experts developing the bug-inspired hearing aid, it is this “stiffness” that is key to producing the crickets loud sounds. A device that amplifies sound based on the crickets wings could be placed into a hearing aid to project sounds picked up in the environment by a microphone. The researchers hope that this improved hearing aid is only the beginning of more effective methods to help the hearing impaired.

Could these hearing aids be used by people without hearing problems in order to eavesdrop on conversations far away?

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