A Jurassic Butterfly
An insect fossil found in ancient lakes in northeastern China has been found by a team of scientists to look and act very similar to the modern butterfly. The insect is known as a kalligrammatid and lived around 145 million years ago. This insect looks almost exactly like a butterfly, sporting the same large wings and similar coloration. It also fed on nectar like a butterfly, using its long tongue to find nectar deep within plants and pollinate them in return. However, unlike a butterfly, this flying insect fed on the nectar from a seed plant known as a bennettitale. While these difference may seem unimportant or miniscule, they separate the two insect species by millions of years.
So, are these butterfly-looking insects the precursors to our modern butterfly? Not even remotely. The first butterfly wasn’t flitting about collecting nectar from flowers until 40 to 85 million years after the kalligrammatid went extinct. The two species actually have no connection to each other whatsoever genetically. This is a phenomenon of two distantly related animals evolving separately to have similar physical features. Scientists call it convergent evolution, and this unique case proves that it can happen even across huge timescales. This reminds me of that theory that everyone has a twin somewhere on the planet…these twins were just born millions of years apart.
What do you think of this incredible scientific find? How do you think two completely unrelated but distinctly similar species can evolve millions of years apart?
When most people think of allergy and asthma triggers, they likely think of pollen, dust and animal dander. Hulett Environmental Services however, warns that cockroaches can also pose a threat to those that suffer from allergies and asthma. The saliva, droppings and decomposing bodies of cockroaches contain proteins known to trigger allergies and increase the severity of asthma symptoms.
Children are especially at risk for suffering allergic and asthmatic reactions to cockroach infestations. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences reports that one in five children in the U.S. have severe sensitivities to cockroach allergens. And, according to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), cockroaches spread 33 kinds of bacteria including E. coli and salmonella, six parasitic worms and more than seven other types of human pathogens.
The threat for accumulated cockroach allergens is elevated in the winter because not only is there a greater chance for cockroaches to invade homes in search of warmth, but families are also spending more time indoors and increasing their exposure to these indoor allergens. Hulett Environmental Services encourage homeowners to take proactive steps to prevent cockroach infestations this winter to help keep their families healthy and safe.
To help prevent infestations, we recommend that homeowners seal cracks around the outside of their home, vacuum frequently and keep counters and floors clean and free of crumbs that can attract the pests. Extra attention should be paid to kitchens and bathrooms – especially under appliances and sinks – as these areas are particularly vulnerable to cockroach infestations due to the presence of food products and moisture in plumbing fixtures.
If you suspect you have an infestation, contact a licensed pest control professional who will be able to recommend a course of treatment. To learn more about cockroaches and the health threats they pose, please visit www.bugs.com
The Scientist That Lets Insects Sting Him
Most of us avoid getting stung or bitten by insects. The results are usually not very pleasant. However, one scientist has made it his life’s mission to let insect sting him so that he can rate the level of pain. Entomologist Dr. Justin Schmidt has been stung more than a thousand times by 150 different species of insect. Why does this man willingly inflict excruciating pain on himself? So he can create an index of insect stings and rate them on a scale from one to four, which he calls the Schmidt Sting Pain Index.
So, how do the stings of different insects measure up? Well, the scale starts at one with the fire ant and the sweat bee, there bite/sting only causing mild irritation. At level four sits the bullet ant and the tarantula hawk wasp. Trust me, you don’t want to experience the bite/sting of one of these guys. They’re at the top of the list for a very good reason. Schmidt describes the bite of the bullet ant as a “pain so immediate and intense that it shuts down all illusions of life as normal. Imagine sticking a finger in a 240 volt electrical socket.” I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll pass on trying this little experiment out.
Can you believe a man actually had the guts to submit himself to that kind of pain, all in the name of science? How would you rate the bites and stings you’ve gotten in your lifetime?
Why We’re Just Hearing About the Zika Virus When It’s Been Around for 50 Years
Scientists have known about the Zika virus since the 1940s, so why are we just hearing about it now? Well, the simple answer is that it has never spread quite as rapidly as it is now, and its connection to microcephaly was previously unknown. The Zika virus was first discovered in Africa, but what would generally happen is someone would catch it and just experience mild symptoms such as fever, some joint pain, and perhaps a rash. These kinds of symptoms would obviously not cause a widespread panic when viewed on their own. The virus was only viewed as a minor threat, similar to the flu.
However, in the past year the cases of babies being born with microcephaly to mothers who contracted the virus has grown enormously. While before a couple dozen cases were reported, this last year that number has increased to the thousands. Scientists also claim that the explosion of the virus has to do with all of the right conditions for the virus to spread coming together in one area. It all hinges on whether the situation is ripe for easy transmission of the virus and enough people being susceptible to it.
Scientists also claim that while the virus is spreading rapidly right now, it will eventually hit a peak and then die down. This will most likely happen when there are a large number of susceptible individuals living in an area where vector control is difficult, such as a big city. So, we won’t be worrying about this virus forever. Until that time you should take every precaution against getting bitten by mosquitos, and delay travel to areas where the virus is active if you are pregnant or may become pregnant.
Have you heard of the Zika virus prior to now? What precautions are you taking?
The Zika Virus: A Global Health Emergency
The World Health Organization has officially stated that the Zika virus is a global health emergency. They are urging countries to unite against this devastating virus and work together to find a way to stop it spread. The WHO has put the Zika virus in the same category as Ebola, calling it an “extraordinary event” that needs a united and coordinated response. With the WHO taking such an active interest in the virus research and aid are being given top priority and efforts to tackle the infection are widespread and well funded.
Margaret Chan, the WHO director general, stated that protecting pregnant women and their babies from this virus is taking top priority, with efforts to control the mosquito population spreading the infection coming in a close second. She advised women to delay any travel to areas affected by the virus, and for women living in those areas to seek advise from their physician and take all available precautions against getting bitten by a mosquito. Dr. Chan declared that it is time to take action against this virus before it becomes another incident like the Ebola outbreak.
Have you been paying attention to what the different health organizations have been saying about the Zika virus? Do you think it is too soon for the WHO to be declaring the Zika virus a global public health emergency, or just in time?
Zika Virus Buzz
There’s a new disease wreaking havoc upon innocent citizens, the Zika virus. You may have heard the name whispered around, but don’t know exactly what it is. The Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted virus that is relatively harmless unless you are a pregnant woman. Around eighty percent of people who catch the virus don’t show any symptoms, so it’s not going to kill you. However, if you are pregnant and catch it, the health of you unborn child is seriously at risk. The Zika virus has been linked to an alarming increase in the rate of the birth defect known as microcephaly. This defect causes a child to develop a debilitating small head and brain, resulting in them needing constant care their entire life. The CDC has posted a travel alert to all pregnant women, advising them to postpone travel to areas where the Zika virus is currently active. Officials also recommend that all pregnant women who have traveled to these areas get tested for the Zika virus. So far two women have returned to find themselves infected even though they experienced no symptoms. The best way to stop this virus from spreading is to use insect repellent, and keep mosquitos from biting you. Cutting down on mosquito breeding is one way we can prevent this and other mosquito-spread diseases. Empty any standing water in or around your home, as these mosquitos can breed in as little as an ounce of water.
Have you heard of the Zika virus? Are you taking care to empty containers with standing water in order to prevent mosquitos from hanging out in your area?
Lifehack – Apply Repellent Over Sunscreen
We have added one more virus to the list of those we are in danger of catching from mosquitos, and a proper defense is needed when you are outside amongst the enemy. But, are you applying it correctly? How you apply your insect repellent can make all the difference when it comes to protection against mosquito bites. When you are using repellent in conjunction with other skin products you might not be aware that how you layer them might matter.
The CDC recommends that you apply both sunscreen and bug repellent when going outside. When using repellent with another lotion such as sunscreen, you should apply the sunscreen first, followed by the insect repellent. You should also avoid using a product that combines the two, as you need to apply sunscreen more often than insect repellent. You also don’t need to pile on the bug spray. More doesn’t necessarily mean better protection. Only apply the amount suggested on the bottle. Reapply the insect repellent as the direction instruct unless you notice bug bites appearing on your skin. If you’re getting bitten, you can reapply sooner. While the bugs may be out to get us, that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy the outdoors. You just need to wear the proper protection and take care.
What do you wear when you go outside? Are you using both sunscreen and insect repellent to protect your precious hide?
Black Widow Blues
Black widows are one of those spiders you want to steer clear from. That little red hourglass on their body is a bright red warning light advising you to stay the hell away. Trust me, you don’t want to get bitten by one of these deadly arachnids. It hurts…a lot. You won’t die, but you might want to.
The major toxins in a black widow’s venom that cause the excruciating pain are called latrotoxins. The toxins actually hijack your nervous system and turn it against you. What is known as an alpha-latrotoxin inserts itself into the membrane of the pre-synaptic regions of your neurons, causing all of the neuron’s vesicles to dump their neurotransmitters. That dumping stimulates motor endplates, making your muscles cramp up. This is what causes the extreme pain.
So, why do these tiny creatures pack such a punch? Scientists think it has to do with the evolution of their diet. The venom allows the spider to catch larger prey (small mammals and reptiles) as well as smaller more typical prey…as well as their mates. Thankfully for humans, black widows aren’t very aggressive, so you really have to “bug” it for it to react strongly enough that it bites you. So, just watch those dark corners and you should be alright for the most part.
Have you ever seen a black widow in your home? Have you ever been bitten by one?