All posts by Hulett Environmental

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

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.

What Happened at Bug Fest

What Happened at Bug Fest

You will never find more people so enthusiastic about bugs anywhere else other than bug fest, and that is because the Academy of Natural Science really gets some of the best people to help run it. The whole idea of bug fest is to take creepy crawlies and insects that most people might not be too fond of, and show them that these bugs really aren’t all that bad. In fact most often the bugs we are afraid of are actually the ones that present no real harm to us.

The bug fest focuses on a number of exhibits or games that you can play with an assortment of bugs which include bug racing with beetles and roaches, or live and dead specimen displays. But games and looking at a few bugs isn’t all that the bug festival is offering. We also find a number of interesting activities that are aimed for the young kids, such as a bug-based yoga or a bug walk.

The point of this festival isn’t just to get people to see bugs though. It’s all about getting kids interested in these insects so that we end up with adults who actually want to go into fields that deal with these creatures. There is still a lot we don’t know about insects, and new species are discovered every day, but if we don’t get people interested in the fields around bugs then we won’t be discovering anything new.

Unfortunately, Bug Fest has passed for this year, but luckily it arrives every year. So if you missed it this time, you can still catch it next year!

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.

 

 

 

Insects As Military Weapons: Yay or Nay?

Insects As Military Weapons: Yay or Nay?

Insects and military espionage aren’t usually placed in the same sentence, but news of the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recent military projects using insects as military weapons has become a cause that has concerned some citizens.

DARPA’s program aims to develop Hybrid Microelectricalmechanical Systems (HI-MEMS) to combine nanotechnology with the bodies of living insects; in effect, creating insect cyborgs. DARPA believes this can improve the military’s capacity, particularly in weaponry and reconnaissance.

Society’s apathy for insects

A 2014 paper in “Society and Animals” discovered society’s lack of compassion for insects. This apathy, in effect, led to insects being unintentionally neglected, leaving them lacking the same type of protection as other animals. This lack of protection has left the insect population open to exploitation and abuse without coming across much opposition, compared to when experiments are done on dogs or cats, for example.

When technology can take over the whole role altogether

But with the rapid development of technology, why is there a need to use live insects in the first place? Why need insect cyborgs? Can’t fully robotic drones do the job instead? Wouldn’t this be a more ethical and ecologically friendly solution?

An example of this position put in practice is the Pentagon’s development of a robotic hummingbird drone without having to use any real hummingbirds in the process.

Using the same technology vilified for these projects can actually free the insects from the burden of being unnecessarily used in these projects in the first place. But until the public takes notice and stands up for this position, this unnecessary and cruel use of insect life may go on unchecked.

 

Chinch Bugs

Chinch Bugs

Hot and dry weather is ideal for pests like chinch bugs. A few small dead areas in the lawn can quickly spread, killing large sections that are costly to replace. If you have a St. Augustine lawn, you likely know that the southern chinch bug is a big problem. Most people tend to overlook them because they are so small. Adults are about 1/5 inch long and are black with white patches on the wings. The nymphs range from 1/20 inch long to nearly adult size. Small nymphs are reddish with a white band across the back, but become black in color as they grow.

Chinch bug nymphs and adults can cause significant feeding damage. They remove plant fluids and inject a toxin that causes the grass to yellow, turn reddish brown and eventually die. Damaged areas often join together into large patches of dead, brown grass. These injured areas are more prone to injury because they are in hot spots along concrete or asphalt paved areas or in water-stressed areas where the grass is growing in full sun.

The majority of damage occurs from April through September. Left untreated, these areas get bigger as chinch bugs span out in search of their next meal. The suggested economic threshold (the density of a pest at which a control treatment will provide an economic return) for the chinch bug is 15 to 20 insects per square foot. Though chinch bugs prefer St. Augustine grass, they will also feed on other grass species.

http://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/chinch-bugs-in-home-lawns

http://jacksonville.com/entertainment/home-and-garden/2015-07-23/story/garden-help-those-unwelcome-lawn-tourists-are-back

How to Beat Mosquitos

How to Beat Mosquitos

A recent wave of air-sprayed insecticide has been sweeping through cities as the preferred method for eliminating issues with mosquitos. Most of the time this occurs in Florida cities as the weather and humidity of the air result in some of the perfect breeding grounds for these insects.

Of course there are other instances that result in mosquitos breeding in large quantities. The perfect breeding grounds for these insects are standing water. While you can’t always count on getting rid of standing water such as lakes and puddles of streams, you can take care of things like water building up in trash cans or dirt holes around your property which can lead to mosquito breeding and infestation.

In fact, it is recommended that you spend some time after each rainfall, cleaning out gutters, pool covers, garbage cans, flower pots, or anything else that could potentially house still water. It doesn’t matter what the water is in, if mosquitos come across it they will take advantage of it for breeding purposes.

Even if your city does resort to air spray insecticide to handle mosquitos, you still need to do your part to make sure your home isn’t being invaded by these potentially dangerous insects out for your blood. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to make sure areas around your house are clean of free-standing water and it could save you some hassle in the long run.