New research from Susquehanna University biology professor Matthew H. Persons, published in the the November 2014 issue of “Ethology, shows that female wolf spiders increase their dragline silk advertisements to attract uninterested males. “Previous studies have assumed that females passively produce silk and that males exploit these cues to search for and locate the female,” Persons stated. “We were interested to know what kinds of silk females are making, and if they change how much or what kinds when they see males in the area, or if they change how much or what kinds they make based on what the male is doing.”
Persons and his team scoured corn and soybean fields for wolf spiders. “Most of the time you can collect about 50 per hour and you only need to step a couple of feet into the edge of a soybean or corn field to do it,” he said. “For this study, I think it took maybe a couple of afternoons to collect our study subjects.”
According to Persons, females placed in a petri dish were moved to a larger “arena” that contained a male that they could see but not touch. “Some of the males had access to female silk and would court vigorously. Other males didn’t have access to female silk and so didn’t court much. We then measured the kinds of silk and how much females deposited on the ground while watching these males,” he added.
Over time female spiders were mostly interested in attracting male attention when the males were ignoring them. “What we found was that females produced a lot more silk when they watched males that were not courting compared to when they were. This indicates that they are using silk to try to get a male’s attention.”
Persons reported that the females deposited three different kinds of silk: dragline, cord and attachment disks. Each probably corresponds to a different kind of communication. His study shows that sex pheromones or female-produced silk aren’t produced at a constant rate. Instead, this production is dependent entirely on the male’s actions. The female spiders are actively seeking out mates. The silk is not “a passive cue for males,” but rather an “active sexual advertisement or courtship signal that females are sending to males,” Persons concluded. This revelation is changing the way researchers view the mating habits of spiders.
Monarch butterflies, known for their massive migration that results in millions descending upon California and Mexico each winter, may be in danger. North American monarchs are the only butterflies that will travel up to 3,000 miles each fall to get ahead of cold weather that will kill them if they don’t leave.
Monarch butterflies may soon be added to the Endangered Species List. Fifty two members of Congress have signed a petition urging President Barack Obama to support this inclusion. Monarch population has decreased by 90 percent over the last twenty years. The letter was sent to President Obama with Representative Chellie Pingree spearheading the Endangered Species List effort.
“The loss of habitat and devastation of the Monarch population should be a wakeup call. If we keep applying ever increasing amounts of chemicals to farm lands it’s going to have an impact on the environment,” Representative Pingree said.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is mandated to issue a “12-month finding” on the Monarch butterfly petition that will propose protection under the Endangered Species Act. The Center for Biological Diversity, and the Xerces Society filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pushing for the Monarch butterfly to be deemed “threatened” and added to the Endangered Species List. The 2014 petition cited the significant threat to the habitat of the butterfly when pushing for protection.
Center for Food Safety Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell said of the efforts to save the Monarch butterfly, “Listing Monarch butterflies as a threatened species is essential to their survival. An iconic species is on the verge of extinction because of our chemically intensive agricultural system. This petition is the scientific and legal blueprint for creating the protection that the monarch so direly needs. We thank Representative Pingree for her stalwart support and hope that this sends a strong signal to the Obama Administration.
Researchers in Belgium have discovered that cockroaches have personalities. At the Universite Libre de Bruxelles scientists tested the behavior of the American cockroach by strapping microchips on 300 roaches and placed them in an arena of bright light. Because cockroaches have developed an aversion to light, they were observed in order to see how quickly they sought shelter. Roaches that immediately went under the cover of a dark circle were considered cautious, while the ones that explored the arena were considered to be more daring.
Scientists also observed the cockroaches to see how they sought shelter. If all cockroaches had the same undifferentiated personality then they would exhibit identical behavior. Researcher Isaac Planas-Sitja reported that the cockroaches’ “amazing ability to reach a consensus could be explained by the bugs affinity for protection of the group. The cockroaches that sought shelter sooner could have been signaling to others what to do,” he said.
Continued collaboration and research could explain the cockroaches’ apparent inability to die out. Some explore the group’s surroundings while others hang back to see if it’s safe. Further research could also explain how so many roaches can invade a cramped New York City apartment at once. Cockroaches have no queen or solitary leader. This, in turn, suggests they have no followers either. They are individuals able to make their own decisions just like us.
This research has uncovered, once again, what extraordinary insects cockroaches are. Cockroaches are very resilient and exhibit odd behaviors and survival methods. For example, cockroaches spend 75% of their time resting and can withstand temperatures as cold as 32 degrees Fahrenheit. A cockroach can live for a week without its head. Because of an open circulatory system and the fact that they breathe through holes in each of their body segments, they do not need a mouth or head to breathe. Most cockroaches can hold their breath for 40 minutes. They can survive being submerged for half an hour. A cockroach can run up to three miles in an hour, which means spreading germs and bacteria throughout a home can happen quickly.
New Orleans is town known for big parties, great music, diversity and excellent food. Having bounced back from Hurricane Katrina it has become a shining example to all American states how to be resilient in the face of adversity. But toasted guacamole with grasshoppers! Really? Perhaps when Orleanians bounced back, some of them bounced on their heads.
Johnny Sanchez, a new taqueria that serves modern Mexican food, has chapulines or toasted grasshoppers with their guacamole on their menu. Miles Landrem, executive chef at Johnny Sanchez reveals that this off insect treat is quite common in Southern Mexico. “In Oaxaca, Mexico, you’ll see little kids eating them like chips or popcorn. They are actually a good source of protein. They are kind of like Mexican bacon bits. ”
Landrem wanted to bring the insects to America to serve as a topping for his guacamole. “When you put it on the table, everyone giggles, it’s a great conversation starter.” he said. In Mexico, there are three different sizes. Chef Landrem orders the small ones from his supplier in Mexico. “I don’t think New Orleans is quite ready for the large ones.”
And just when you think you’ve heard it all, toasted grasshoppers aren’t the only insects Johnny Sanchez has to offer. “We also have worm salt that we serve with our mescal. Mescal is made using agave plants and in those agave plants are worms which they use to make the worm salt.” The worm salt is used as a chaser after sipping on the mescal.
Chef John Besh and Chef Aaron Sanchez are the owners of Johnny Sanchez. The restaurant opened in October in New Orleans. There is another in Baltimore. Johnny Sanchez just started their Happy Hour specials on Sunday-Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. with half off drinks and $5 tacos. Johnny Sanchez is located at 930 Poydras Street.
Below are examples of what passes for romance in the world of bed bugs, termites, kissing bugs and fire ants:
- Bed Bugs: These pests are infamous for their ability to reproduce rapidly, creating major infestations in short periods of time. However, it is not their ability to quickly multiply that puts them on our list for strange mating rituals; instead it’s how they reproduce that makes people cringe. Bed bugs practice a mating behavior known as “traumatic insemination” where the male pierces the abdomen of the female to directly inseminate her body cavity. Male bed bugs often attempt to mate with other males, killing them in the process.
- Termites: Female termites release “mating pheromones” that act as a perfume to entice male termites. Once the males locate the female termites, they will break off their wings, symbolizing that they are a couple.
- Kissing Bugs: Despite their name, there’s nothing romantic about these bugs! Kissing bugs have a tendency to bite the faces and lips of humans while they sleep, not only causing welts and allergic reactions, but they are also capable of spreading the potentially fatal Chagas disease. They frequently defecate on or near the bite wound, allowing the parasite that spreads Chagas to enter the person’s blood stream. This blood meal is necessary for male kissing bugs to mate and for female kissing bugs to lay eggs.
- Fire Ants: In fire ant colonies, the queen ant is in charge of laying eggs and can even control how many male and female eggs she lays. The queen can live for up to seven years and produce more than 1,000 eggs each day. Male ants, called drones, are not so fortunate. Their only role in the colony is to mate with the queen and then die soon after doing so.
MARCH 15-21 IS TERMITE AWARENESS WEEK
Hulett Environmental Services encourages public awareness of termite threats during the spring season
As temperatures continue to increase and the ground becomes warmer, termites will emerge to launch an attack on vulnerable homes across the country. To promote public vigilance against termites, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) recognizes March 15-21 as Termite Awareness Week. Hulett Environmental Services is proud to take part in this annual observance by educating homeowners about the threat of termites and the possible signs of an infestation this spring.
Termites are known as “silent destroyers” because their constant gnawing can go unnoticed until significant structural damage to the home occurs. Termites can feed 24-hours a day, seven days a week on the cellulose found in wood and paper products.
Hulett Environmental Services offers the following signs that termites may be present in a home:
- Mud tubes (used by termites to reach a food source) on the exterior of the home.
- Soft wood in the home that sounds hollow when tapped.
- Darkening or blistering of wood structures.
- Cracked or bubbling paint.
- Small piles of feces that resemble sawdust near a termite nest.
- Discarded wings near doors or on windowsills, indicating swarmers have entered the home or swarmers themselves, which are often mistaken for flying ants.
If homeowners notice any of these signs, they should contact a pest professional who can best determine the extent of the problem and recommend a proper treatment plan.
For more information on termites, please visit www.bugs.com