Serving all of South Florida

It’s not a nightmare! It’s just a spider web

It’s not a nightmare! It’s just a spider web

Hundreds of feet and entire trees have succumbed to a giant cooperative spider web in Texas.  It is speculated that thousands of spiders have worked together to build the massive mega-web. It looks like a giant communal based home for the massive amount of eight legged pests.

Local residents near Lakeside Park South in Rowlett, Texas have turned the spectacle into a touristy home to visit. One man brought his grandchildren with him to see the giant web because he wanted to make sure his grandkids did not miss witnessing such a rare sight. He was even quoted describing the web as “Amazing”.

Another local resident traveled during the miserable summer weather to visit the silk spun web. Even after going through the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension’s Master Naturalist program, all this resident could say is, “It’s just so cool, I don’t know, I am just a science nerd, I guess. I just love this sort of thing.”

The spiders have spun a web so long it’s like a natural net catching mosquitoes and small flies. Experts say that is likely the inspiration behind the cooperative web.

Residents have left the web alone stating this type of spider is not a threat. Residents went on to say that this is a very good lesson for people actually; “We can do amazing things if we set our minds to it and work cooperatively.”

For more information on the giant spider web click here

Giant ants invade Florida Museum

Giant ants invade Florida Museum

On July 7, two six foot nine inch, 1100 pound ants titled “X” and “O”, were installed via crane and put on display in Gainesville at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Sculptor, Susan P. Cochran, of Palm Beach cast the giant, bronze eye catching pieces of art. “X” and “O” were installed outside of the museum with a reception following.  These large scale ant sculptures have received international acclaim.

The Florida Museum of Natural History will remain home to the ants for the next year for viewing, as part of The University of Florida’s Creative B summer Program. This program targets the University’s artistic students for a consolidated and collective resource for participants to enjoy a wide range of artistic and cultural events.

For more on the invasion of the ants please click here

Flying insects powered by gyroscopes?

Flying insects powered by gyroscopes?

It’s not science fiction. Scientists are doing a collaborative research project to answer just that. Are wings on flying insects powered by internal gyroscopes and can they break that information down enough to better understand how, in an attempt to replicate the technology in smarter, more efficient aircraft for humans?

In this study, scientist use moths for a controlled study to monitor the behavior and nervous system to try to learn how they fly. We know how to MAKE things fly, but HOW they fly is a very different question. One researcher describes the process as if it were another language. The wing talking to the brain and vice versa, and we just need to learn that language to apply it to a larger scale, aircraft for humans.

By building robotics that mimic the actual movements of birds, insects and other flying animals; scientists are getting closer to being able to use the technology in even drones. While there are socially sinister uses of the technology in place such as surveillance and targeting and exploration, the possibilities of the technology being used to save lives are endless.

So, are insects powered by internal gyroscopes? That answer is unclear because we are unable to determine their senses at this point. We don’t know how the insect is able to determine velocity, rotation or orientation. Once that matter is pinpointed, moving forward may become much easier.

Studying flying insects in more depth can be found here

Wood, Termites and Lighters Don’t Mix

Wood, Termites and Lighters Don’t Mix

Have you ever been out chopping wood only to find a horrible termite infestation? What would you do to try to get rid of them?

That is exactly what happened to a young man and his father in East Jefferson on Sunday. The father and son duo were chopping logs together when the son noticed the infestation of termites. What happened next neither of them expected. The son used his lighter in an attempt to try to burn out the termites. Unfortunately, he was also standing in some very dry grass at the time causing a simple burn out to turn into an ignited brushfire that consumed approximately 1/10th of an acre before two separate fire departments were able to put extinguish the fire.

East Jefferson Fire Rescue was first on the scene, with neighboring Naval Magazine Indian Island firefighters helping in the attempts as well.

Neighbors to the location of the fire site noticed the blaze and a plume of smoke and called 911. With the hard work of these two fire teams, 11 firefighters from Navy, and four extra firefighting trucks, they were able to have the fire put out in approximately 15 minutes. They later overhauled the site. Any time there is a flame near wood and especially if that is also near dry grass, you are asking for trouble!

For more information on this termite burnout disaster please click here

This Peacock Spider’s Dance Is Captivating

This Peacock Spider’s Dance Is Captivating

If you thought spiders weren’t already interesting enough critters just the way they are, wait till you see a peacock spider. You wouldn’t normally call a spider captivating, but in this case, even a self-proclaimed arachnophobe might venture to take a second look.

From the word clue “peacock”, you can already gain a clue as to what a peacock spider would look like. Nicknamed “Sparklemuffin” and “Skeletorus”, these peacock spiders were discovered in the 1800s and are native to Australia.

The sight of a male peacock spider’s bright, colorful back is odd if you compare it to conventional images of spiders, whose bodies are usually covered in darker, more sombre, dangerous tones. The peacock spider’s colors, on the other hand, are not dominated by grays or blacks, but of relatively “happier” tones, such as fiery oranges, brilliant blues, searing speckles of red, impressive purples, attractive yellows, and a few dark shades for dramatic effect, reminiscent of a male peacock’s tail, which is used to attract potential mates.

When it  comes to mating rituals though, a male peacock spider does more than simply display its attractive piece of nature’s artwork for a back. The creature also has a mating dance ritual that truly is captivating to watch, as it raises its various legs one by one like its own version of Hokey Pokey, moving them in staccato-like motion. It lifts its colorful back up and down and hops around, dancing to the beat of its own internal drum.

As of this writing, more species are still being discovered, which makes you wonder about all the other marvels of nature that are still out there, waiting to be seen and appreciated. As for our enchanting peacock spiders, here are some videos you can check to watch their dance captured in HD.

New Species of Spider Leads to Robot

New Species of Spider Leads to Robot

Somewhere in the Moroccan desert there is a new species of spider that was discovered to be capable of cart wheeling around everywhere in the sand, including up dunes. This flic-flac spider, named for its cart wheel move, is able to move across the desert at incredible speeds thanks to the gymnastics it performs. And the person who discovered it decided to put this spider’s ability to move across the sand into a robot.

The spider robot, called the Tabbot, performs the same function almost, rolling across the sand at a fast pace, both up and down, and because of its development, it might be something we use on other worlds such as Mars, which is known for having lots of red sand areas.

This interesting mode of getting around, isn’t just that too. The spider can also use this somersaulting to scare off predators by jumping at them, or to simply escape predators by moving faster and more erratically than them. The spider also works on creating little huts made of silk for the times when the desert heat is too much to even be moving.

Of course this isn’t the first spider to be discovered capable of maneuvering through the desert with gymnastic characteristics. However, it is the first spider that can do that going up and down sand dunes. Most other spiders that exhibit this behavior can only do it going down sand dunes.

Who knows what other mysteries and inspirations other parts of nature can unfold for us?

Teamwork and Leadership Taught by Crazy Ants

Teamwork and Leadership Taught by Crazy Ants

A single species of ant, known as the longhorn crazy ant, was recently studied for a science journal, which led to some unique discoveries about ants and how they work together, as well as a system they use that humans don’t when it comes to leadership.

The study focused on looking at a group of ants that need to move a specific object that is too large for one ant. This led to a group of five to ten ants working together to move the object toward their nest. By observing this process the scientists were able to determine that it is unlikely ants have some kind of hive mind or collective intelligence, because not only did they change which worker was doing what, but they changed leaders based on whether the ant knew where to go next or not.

This suggests that ants aren’t actually some kind of conformist creature that can only act in a group, and that they each actually have individual personalities and knowledge. Ants have just evolves over millions of years to work together while still maintaining their individuality.

The most unique thing that these ants do comes with their leadership change. The ants would change up who was the leader of the group carrying the object based on when the previous ant ran out of knowledge about where to go next. This suggests the ants choose a leader solely based on knowledge and only knowledge in that moment. There wasn’t any one ant that had the status of leader who wasn’t leading in that moment. A process that humans don’t exemplify due to the power that often comes with leadership.

Maybe there are a few more things we can learn from ants.

Expensive Bites

Do you have any idea of the damage a termite can cause? Termites can cause up to 5 billion dollars in home and property damage a year and much of this damage may not even be covered by your insurance. They will silently destroy support beams, stairs, floors and walls. This can be a very hard expense for you to chew on. These tiny pests have a very large appetite and will eat all day, every day. That’s right. 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They love to eat the cellulose in wood and what many people don’t realize is that cellulose is also in books and your wallpaper too. These pests will have no problem diving into your home library or believing your wallpaper comes from Willie Wonka’s factory. Your home is filled with tasty delights for them to graze away! The fact that damage happens at a very slow pace is good news for a home owner. This will give you the time needed to take careful precautions. An annual inspection can help not only prevent termite damage, but also stop them in action before it gets serious and causes un-repairable damage. An experienced, licensed inspector is recommended. For more information on termites click here  

Termites In Your Home? Here Are 3 Of The Most Important Things You Should Know

Termites In Your Home? Here Are 3 Of The Most Important Things You Should Know

The University of Kentucky has released an informative FAQ article of homeowners on termites.

Here is a low-down on the experts’ answers to homeowners’ most common questions, and we have rounded up three of the most important:

Why worry about termites?

Termites are reported to cause billions of dollars in damages every year. The list of things they can damage are not limited to wood. Aside from posing a serious threat to your home’s structural foundations, termites can also damage books, insulation, papers, important documents, memorabilia, and even pool liners and filtration systems.

How will you know if your home is infested?

When you see mud tubes about the width of a pencil and sometimes wider, extending from your foundations or in other crevices and surfaces of your home, it is most certainly a termite infestation. Termites build these mud tubes for traveling between their underground homes and to new territory. Hollowed-out wood with bits of dried mud or soil lining its galleries is also a sure sign of a termite infestation. Rippled or sunken traces behind wall coverings can also be signs that termites have been tunneling underneath it.

One thing you also have to brush up on is identifying termites from flying ants.

Can I treat a termite infestation myself?

If a termite infestation happens to a small, uncomplicated structure isolated from your house, such as a mailbox, a sandbox, or your dog’s kennel, for example, then it is possible a DIY measure can help. But if you’re going to be exterminating an infestation that has burrowed deep into your home — which is a much more complicated structure, then you will certainly need the expertise and on-hand equipment range of pest control professionals. Attempting a DIY termite extermination project can only result in creating even more damage to your home.

Anteaters and their Eating Habits

Anteaters and their Eating Habits

When it comes to ant and termite extermination there really is nothing that beats the power and stomach of an anteater. Even the very method that anteaters clean up a mound of termites just beats anything most exterminators could hope to achieve. Unfortunately part of the method that anteaters utilize is that they leave behind the breeding group of a termite or ant mound so that the anteater can then go back to that mound at some point and clean them out of workers and soldiers once again.

Anteaters utilize a simple system of an incredibly long tongue that is also immensely sticky, which serves as a method for them to get deep down into the mounds of ants and termites and they pull their tongue back up with ants or termites on it. Because they can also manipulate this tongue it lets them scouring around throughout the chambers and tunnels that termites and ants make until the anteater is satisfied.

This process can actually clean out entirely colonies if the anteater is truly hungry and doesn’t care about keeping the ant colony functioning so it can come back. But because they can consume somewhere around 30,000 ants in a day, they often spread this around to 100-200 different ant or termite nests. This means that if you really did want to clean out an entire colony of ants, as long as the ant network doesn’t extend more than directly around your house, you could actually use an anteater to clean the whole thing out.

Unfortunately anteaters aren’t exactly easy to get a hold of, and it would go against the very nature of the anteater to eat everything in a nest, especially in one sitting. Anteaters eat at one nest for only a minute or so, because the longer they are at the nest the more soldier ants they have to deal with and the less worker ants there are. This means the anteater has to deal with more defenses the longer it eats at one nest and it doesn’t like that, nor does it like the taste of soldier ants as much as workers.

So until we figure out some way to adapt anteaters as a method for cleaning out entire colonies, we will just have to stick with the normal ways of pest control.

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