All posts by Hulett Environmental

Psychology Benefits From Study of Insect Aggression

Psychology Benefits From Study of Insect Aggression

Researchers at the University of Montana are taking a novel approach to studying neurological disorders. They placed two male fruit flies in a cage together, provide them with one prize, and watch them duke it out. How is this supposed to reveal insights into neurological disorders you ask? The researchers are genetically modifying the flies’ neurons in an effort to understand which neurons increase aggressive behavior. They test out various genes to see how they affect the fly’s aggression in the arena. Sometimes the prize is a female fruit fly, which the males must fight over. They have already been able to identify a number of neurons that link aggression with outside information. This research could be adapted to benefit humans due to the similarity in how the brain functions in all organisms. The researchers are hoping that their results could help treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

What do you think of this possibly groundbreaking study? Do you think it could be used to help humans with neurological disorders?

Unbelievable Insect Trivia

Unbelievable Insect Trivia

Did you know that insects don’t feel any pain at all? Insects don’t have the Nocicepters in their brains to communicate the feeling of pain to them.

Do mosquitos have a preference when it comes to blood type, gender, etc.? They do! Studies have shown that mosquitos prefer the blood type O to any other. They’ve also been shown to prefer men as to women.

Did you know that caterpillars have over two times the muscles humans have? While humans are made up of 639 muscles, some caterpillars have 4,000 muscles in their entire body.

Scientists have developed a clock that runs on nothing but dead flies. The main technology that makes this possible is called a microbial fuel cell. The fuel cells contain bacteria that feed on dead insects. Every time they are fed they release electrons from the chemical reaction that takes place. These electrons are collected and converted into electricity to power the clock.


Do you know any crazy facts about insects?

Plant and Insect Predictions for 2016

Plant and Insect Predictions for 2016

What will insect populations look like in 2016? How will plants respond next spring if the dormancy triggers are not fully met?

The insects that will survive this year’s winter above ground have survived because they can tolerate temperatures below zero, which means that the insect populations going into 2016 will not be any different.

If mild winter weather patterns continue, insects that are not winter hardy will already be here rather than traveling up from the south or other warmer parts of the country.

Plants normally go dormant during winter based on the day length and when they come out of dormancy is based on the temperatures. Dormancy is how plants survive below-freezing temperatures in order to trigger next years’ blooms.

Gardeners may expect to see some erratic blooms in 2016, in terms of uneven blooming or perhaps being later or earlier that we typically expect.

What kind of plant and insect populations are you wishing for in 2016?

Ants Veer to the Left When Exploring, Study Finds

Ants Marching Left

Left comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “lyft”, which means weak or broken. The word left or being left-handed has often carried a negative connotation throughout history. A left-handed complement” is actually considered to be an insult. A “left-handed marriage” an adulterous encounter.” In many cultures left-handed people have been characterized as being crippled, defective, and associated with underhanded dealings or even ill-omened. To add insult to injury, many lefties are hurt each year by products designed primarily for righties, such as scissors or common tools.

Veering left however for ants, a new study finds might just be the right way to go!

All Ants to the Left

In late 2014, scientists at the University of Bristol (as written up in the Smithsonian Magazine) found that ants show a marked tendency, as do birds, rats, and humans, to go in one particular direction. That tendency is known as behavioral lateralization.

Just as the scientists involved in the U.K.-based study from the University of Bristol drive on the left instead of the right, so, in a matter of speaking, do ants. While 9 out of 10 humans are naturally right handed, it appears that ants are naturally left oriented.

Going Left May Mean Safety and Survival

While scientists aren’t entirely certain exactly why ants prefer making left turns when placed in settings that are new, they suspect that one possible reason may be basic common sense: if an ant is lost, consistently turning in one direction again and again will result in the ant eventually finding an exit. As PhD student Edmund Hunt suggested, ants exist in a predominantly maze-like environment, so if they consistently turn in the same direction, they will more efficiently be able to exit these mazes.

Another possible reason for the tendency towards a left-oriented behavioral lateralization is that it may be a means to keep all worker ants together as a cohesive unit. “Perhaps leaning left is more shrewd than sinister,” states Hunt, as turning left may help ants keep a protective eye out towards nest mates.

Still a third possibility is survival: the research team suggested in a statement made to Smithsonian Magazine that the ants may use the right eye to navigate, while searching for potentially dangerous predators with the left eye.

The Future of Leftie Ants

Why is this study from the University of Bristol so important? For one thing, future studies based on this research could reveal previously hidden truths about the origin of behavioral lateralization across many different species.

Cocooned Wasp Larvae

Cocooned Wasp Larvae

Bathyplectes anurus’s (parasitoid wasp) larvae are known to spin cocoons and jump up to 5 centimeters while still inside of them. Scientists have just now believed to have figured out why…

Researchers have found that the larvae jump in their cocoons to find shade. Yoriko Saeki, lead researcher, and her team examined many different effects of light intensities, temperatures and humidity levels under laboratory and field conditions.

The researchers discovered that cocoons in light jumped 3x more often than those kept in darkness. The jumping activity also increase during rapid temperature increase, and where 60% higher in conditions of low humidity.

They also found that when the cocoons were allowed to jump freely, majority of them ended up in shady areas. The cocoons in the shady areas were also more likely to survive, compared to those left out in brighter light.

When researchers put Japanese giant ants into the mix, they found that the cocoons jumped and moved about 83% more when they were placed next to the ants. The Japanese giant ants are known predators of this time of larvae. When the ant made direct contact with a cocoon the frequency of movement decreased.

All results suggested that the larvae responded to environmental stressed by jumping into more favorable habitats of which allowed them to develop unrestrictedly. Overall, the jumping behavior comes at a cost as it required more energy use.

Become an Entomologist!

Become an Entomologist!

Have you ever though about quitting your job? What about to become an entomologist?

An entomologist is someone who studies insects. Some entomologists even get to travel to cool places around the world for research. A typical day involves a real mix of things. One of the main things is conducting research, spending time in the field and recording different insects. You also have to work on identifying different species, lab work, talks and presentations.

Dr. Andrew Sallsbury is one of those people who started his career in entomology. He is a principal entomologist at the Royal Horticultural Society. Most of his research is specific to Coleoptera: beetles’. He says it’s their sheer diversity that is what has always gotten him. His favorite beetle is the scarlet lily beetle, which is bright red and the adults even squeak!

Sallsbury originally became interested in bug in primary school where one of his teachers kept a menagerie of creatures. He started off collecting caterpillar and watched them as they turned into butterflies.

Have you ever though about being an entomologist?

99 Million Year Old Beetle

99 Million Year Old Beetle

100 million years ago, a tiny beetle flew into a coniferous tree and was overcome in its resin. The resin fossilized into amber and encased the beetle.

Machael Caterino, director of the Clemson University Arthropod Collection, said, “This is an extraordinary 99 million-year-old fossil in Burmese amber. We can see all the details of the external sculpturing of the wing covers and the head. We can see the mouth parts, which enable us to predict that this was a predator much like its modern relatives.”

This ancient insect is art of the Histeridae family of beetles, which still thrive today with more than 4,000 species.

Caterino co-authored a research article with colleges from Germany’s Stuttgart State Museum of Natural History about the discovery and was published in the journal Zootaxa.

Weird Looking Insects

Weird Looking Insects

Check out these top 10 weirdest looking insects below!

Number 10: Tailed Emperor Butterfly Caterpillar

This butterfly can be found in Australia during the springtime. The body of this caterpillar resembles a normal caterpillar, however its head is covered in armor and pointy horns. Truly bizarre in the insect kingdom!

Number 9: Puss Moth Caterpillar

Considered one of the must toxic insects in North America, the puss moth caterpillar resembles a Persian cat, perhaps where the name “puss” came from.

Number 8: Giant Prickly Stick Insect

This giant insect is native to Papua New Guinea. The giant prickly stick insect is not only giant, but it also blends seamlessly in with its surroundings. When threatened, the prickly sick released a chemical that smells like peanut butter.

Number 7: Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar

This caterpillar feeds on the plant Aristolochia, which is also known as pipevine. After resembling a red licorice, these caterpillar transform into beautiful black and blue butterflies.

Number 6: Hickory Horned Devil

The hickory horned devil is covered in spikes in order to ward off predators. Eventually this caterpillar transforms into a gorgeous Regal Moth.

Number 5: Spiny Flower Mantis

Bright and happy looking, the spiny flower mantis, like other mantids is a cannibal. Females measure up to just under 2 inches!

Number 4: Scorpionfly

The scorpionfly is not as dangerous as it looks; the scorpion “stinger” is actually a part of the bugs’ genitalia. Some scientists believe that is related to both moths and butterflies.

Number 3: Antlion

This Antlion, also known as a doodlebug, can be found throughout Europe. This insect’s appearance is covered in fur, giving it a “lion” look.

Number 2: Goliath Beetle

The goliath beetle is about the size of an adult human hand, however they are thankfully harmless!

Number 1: Brazilian treehopper

The Brazilian treehopper has several “globes” on top of its head, and scientists are still stumbled as to why. These bugs feed off sap from plant stems, maybe the bulbs have something to do with that?

Check out some pictures HERE!

An Insect that can Feed on Coffee Beans and Survive

An Insect that can Feed on Coffee Beans and Survive

Researchers have recently discovered how the coffee berry borer is able to feed on coffee beans and survive (which can be lethal to some insects). According to Nature Communications, the bacteria in the borer’s gut are what allow the insect to break down the caffeine.

Coffee berry borers were analyzed from seven different coffee producing regions: Guatemala, Hawaii, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Researchers found that 14 bacterial species degraded caffeine and detoxified caffeine.

In order to confirm that the bacteria degraded the caffeine, they gave the beetles an antibiotic to wipe out the bacteria. They ended up finding that the caffeine passes through the beetles’ digestive tracts without degrading. Unfortunately for the beetles, those who survived were 95% less likely to produce eggs and larvae.

Overall, researchers found that the bacterium is key to the detoxification process of beetles.

Coconut Trees in Jomoro Getting Destroyed from Insects

Coconut Trees in Jomoro Getting Destroyed from Insects

A coconut plantation in Apolonu in the Western Region has been invaded and destroyed by insects identified as Hemophilus Catori.

The damage caused to the affected plantations have been assed by a team of National Disaster Management Organization and Agricultural officials.

Hemophilus Catori cause the fresh coconut to fall prematurely which affects its yields and threatens the local economy. Kenneth Addai Boadu, Jomoro District Director of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) says that unless this situation is brought under control, most farmers will eventually lose their source of livelihood.

Recently, officials from the Regional Coconut Research Institute of the Crop Research Institute of Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Institute in Sekondi visited the scene, however said that the insects are migrating away from the area, which does not seem to be the case.

According to Boadu, the situation requires spraying before the situation gets out of hand. This especially holds true before the staff at the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Department, headquarters in Accra, go on Christmas holiday.