The rhinoceros beetle

The rhinoceros beetle is well-known for its massive pitchfork-shaped horn, but how did it get its wonderful weapon?

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When a rhinoceros beetle male wants to reproduce, he first has to acquire a feeding site (sap leaks on trees). The problem is these sites are very in-demand, and he will usually have to fight other males for them. If he has a large horn, he’s likely to win – if he doesn’t, he stands a poor chance of passing his genes on.

Horn size is highly variable between males, ranging from minuscule to two-thirds the size of their body. Previous research found that a male beetle’s fitness can be seen from his horn (horn cells are extremely sensitive to nutrition signals). A healthy beetle has a larger horn. What’s more, this is an “honest signal” – a male with poor health can’t fake it and grow a big horn.

The benefits of such a weapon are obvious, but what about the costs? It seems carrying a huge object two-thirds the size of your body on your head would create some serious flight problems. Sexually-selected characteristics can become costly to their bearer – for stalk-eyed flies, having huge eye stalks is attractive, but males with larger stalks actually experience flight problems.

Not the rhinoceros beetle though. The horns are actually very lightweight, and as the beetles fly at slow speeds with a high body angle there’s little effect on flying. Even the largest-horned males only have to increase the force needed by 3%. Horns also don’t appear costly in resource allocation, survival or immune costs, meaning they are less constrained by natural selection and can diversify without impeding the beetle’s survival.

Photo credit: W. Freihofer.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/21747494

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/18955652

http://www.livescience.com/27851-rhinoceros-beetle-horn-evolution.html

FOXNews.com: Could A Roach Save Your Life? Michigan Researchers Build Roach Bots

 

FOXNews.com: Could A Roach Save Your Life? Michigan Researchers Build Roach Bots

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Cockroach research may provide engineers with the key to search-and-rescue robots that will be more capable of operating in challenging uneven or rocky terrain.

The research team — led by Shai Revzen, an electrical engineering, computer science, ecology and evolutionary biology professor at the University of Michigan — revealed that when running cockroaches are shoved sideways, they start to recover their balance and movement before their nervous system directs a response from their legs.

By understanding cockroach movement patterns, the team believes it could improve how machines and their “neurology” work together.

“The fundamental question is, ‘What can you do with a mechanical suspension versus one that requires electronic feedback?’ The animals obviously have much better mechanical designs than anything we know how to build,” Revzen wrote in Biological Cybernetics.

“But if we could learn how they do it, we might be able to reproduce it.”

Approximately 70 percent of Earth’s land surface cannot be traveled using the wheeled or tracked vehicles. Revezen believes a legged approach may open up operations in this terrain.

In 41 trials, his team used a squad of 15 cockroaches running one by one across a small bridge onto a placemat-sized cart. The cart was pulled back, like a slingshot. As the roach ran they unleashed the cart, which hurtled toward the cockroach and slammed it sideways to destabilize it.

“The force was equivalent to a sumo wrestler hitting a jogger with a flying tackle … [but] cockroaches are much more stable than humans,” Rezven said.

In the team’s experiments, the roaches maintained their footing by using their momentum and the biomechanics of their legs. If the cockroaches relied on impulses from their central nervous system instead, it took three times longer than the researchers expected.

“What we see is that the animals’ nervous system is working at a substantial delay… for some reason, the nervous system is waiting and seeing how it shapes out,” Rezven said.

The results of these experiments may mean brains adapt their gait only at a “whole-step interval” rather than at any point in between steps.

In robotics, a computer often guides the machine’s movements by providing continuous feedback from feet sensors.

Rather than using a continuous feedback approach, their research suggests bi-pedal robots may benefit from more stability while using less energy by capitalizing on a periodic feedback approach like cockroaches to execute walking.

Huge Florida mosquitoes: Monster insects are called ‘Gallinippers’

Huge Florida mosquitoes: Monster insects are called ‘Gallinippers’

Huge Florida mosquitoes the size of a quarter are set to invade Florida — if the rainy season is wet enough.

By Marc Lallanilla, Live Science / March 9, 2013

This perfectly ordinary mosquito is shown at high magnification. The huge mosquitoes poised to invade Florida are nearly this big without magnification — they’re about 20 times larger than ordinary mosquitoes.

Pat Wellenbach/aP

One of the most ferocious insects you’ve ever heard of — it’s the size of a quarter  — is set to invade Florida this summer.

The Sunshine State, already home to man-eating sinkholes, invading Burmese pythons, swarming sharks, tropical storms and other disasters, can expect to see an explosion of shaggy-haired gallinippers (Psorophora ciliata), a type of giant mosquito, according to entomologist Phil Kaufman of the University of Florida.

Gallinipper eggs hatch after a rainstorm or flood, and the state saw a big jump in the numbers of gallinippers last summer after Tropical Storm Debby dumped its load on Florida. Eggs laid last year could produce a bumper crop of the blood-sucking bugs this summer if Florida sees a soggy rainy season.

“I wouldn’t be surprised, given the numbers we saw last year,” Kaufman said in a statement. “When we hit the rainy cycle, we may see that again.”

As insects go, gallinippers are particularly formidable. Their eggs lay dormant for years, awaiting the floodwaters that will enable them to hatch. Even in their larval stage, gallinippers are so tough they’ll eat tadpoles and other small aquatic prey.

And as adults, the voracious pests feed day and night (unlike everyday mosquitoes, which generally feed only at dawn and dusk). Their bodies are strong enough to bite through clothing, and they’re known to go after pets, wild animals and even fish, MyFoxOrlando.com reports.

“It’s about 20 times bigger than the sort of typical, Florida mosquito that you find,” Anthony Pelaez of Tampa‘s Museum of Science and Industry told Fox Orlando. “And it’s mean, and it goes after people, and it bites, and it hurts.”

The term “gallinipper” isn’t recognized by most entomologists, but over the past century, the word — and the insect — entered popular legend through Southern folktales, minstrel shows and blues songs, according to a report from the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida.

The earliest description of the pest comes from 1897 by a writer who called the insect “the shyest, slyest, meanest and most venomous of them all.” (Gallinipper bites don’t actually contain any venom — they just feel that painful.)

Will insect repellents help to protect people from the dreaded gallinipper? Maybe, Kaufman said, though the pests may be more resistant to bug repellents — even those containing DEET — because of their large size.

If there’s a silver lining to a possible invasion of gallinippers, it’s the fact that their larvae are so ravenous they eat the larvae of other insects, including mosquitoes, thus reducing the populations of those pests. And they’re not known to carry any diseases, though that may be small comfort to beleaguered Floridians.

South Florida Ant Control & Removal

Hulett Environmental offers the following tips for minimizing invasion by ants:

  • Keep wood and debris away from exterior siding
  • Keep kitchen clean: seal containers, wipe counters frequently, empty the garbage religiously, and avoid leaving pet food dishes out for long periods of time.
  • Eliminate sources of moisture or standing water.
  • Keep tree branches and other plants cut back from the house.
  • Seal up cracks and small openings along bottom of the house.
  • Store sugar, syrup, honey, baked goods, and other sweets in closed containers that have been washed to remove residues from their exterior surfaces.

For more information on other ant species and preventative tips visit

www.pestworld.org and www.bugs.com

That bug you stepped on today may be your dinner tomorrow

That bug you stepped on today may be your dinner tomorrow

Is all this horse meat turning up in burgers and tacos giving you a case of run-away-from-the-table? This story ought to restore your appetite. It seems 2013 is shaping up as the year of creepy crawly cuisine. Already considered tasty morsels in various parts of the world, caterpillars and ants and their insect buddies are poised to go mainstream. A United Nations organization has already compiled a list of 1,909 incredible edibles and will hold a conference this year, while London will stage “Pestival 2013,” featuring yummies from the grub-breaking restaurant Noma. Feeling squeamish? Then listen to chef Rene Redzepi: “Honey is the vomit of a bee. Think of that the next time you pour it into your tea.” [Source]

Hulett Environmental Services Earns Esteemed 2012 Angie’s List Super Service Awards at their West Palm Beach, Ft. Pierce and Lauderhill Florida Locations

Hulett Environmental Services Earns Esteemed 2012 Angie’s List Super Service Awards at their West Palm Beach, Ft. Pierce and Lauderhill Florida Locations

Award reflects company’s consistently high level of customer service

Hulett Environmental Services has earned the service industry-coveted 2012 Angie’s List Super Service Award, for both of their outstanding services in Pest Control and Lawn Spraying and Fertilization at their West Palm Beach, Ft. Pierce and Lauderhill Florida Locations.  This is an honor awarded annually to approximately 5 percent of all the companies rated on Angie’s List, the nation’s leading provider of consumer reviews on local service companies.

Randy Hulett, Marketing Manager, was ecstatic to hear of winning the Angie’s List Super Service Award. “The one thing we insist upon with our employees is impeccable customer service. When you get those efforts validated by one of the most well known proponents of great service in the United States, Angie’s List, it’s quite an honor. We are really thrilled!”

As a full-service, family-owned and operated, South Florida company, Hulett Environmental Services — with its customized Healthy Home programs — has taken the lead in providing family, pet, and planet friendly pest control solutions for over 40 years.

“It’s a select group of companies rated on Angie’s List that can claim the exemplary customer service record of being a Super Service Award winner,” said Angie’s List Founder Angie Hicks. “Our standards for the Super Service Award are quite high. The fact that Hulett Environmental Services earned this recognition speaks volumes about its dedication providing great service to its customers.”

Angie’s List Super Service Award 2012 winners have met strict eligibility requirements, including earning a minimum number of reports, an excellent rating from their customers and abiding by Angie’s List operational guidelines.

Service company ratings are updated daily on Angie’s List. Companies are graded on an A through F scale in areas ranging from price to professionalism to punctuality. Members can find the 2012 Super Service Award logo next to company names in search results on AngiesList.com.

 

Angie’s List helps consumers have happy transactions with local service professionals in more than 550 categories of service, ranging from home improvement to health care. More than 1.5 million paid households use Angie’s List to gain unlimited access to local ratings, exclusive discounts, the Angie’s List magazine, and the Angie’s List complaint resolution service.