All posts by Hulett Environmental

An Insect-Eating Plant Sealed In Amber

The first thing that comes to mind for most people when thinking of a carnivorous plant is a Venus flytrap. However, Venus flytraps are not the only type of Carnivorous plants that have lived on Earth. But until recently, not much was known about carnivorous plants which lived in the past. Human scientists only just discovered a pair of amber-encased leaves which revealed some of the secrets of how exactly carnivorous plants from the past really worked.

Originally alive thirty-five to forty-seven million years ago, this special type of plant lived in the area that we now call Russia. Scientists first classified this plant as a type of “Roridula plant”, as the fossilized leaves looked very similar to carnivorous Roridula plants that are still alive today. In order to survive, the plant focused on surviving by feeding on small insects. In order to lure the insects on the leaves, this carnivorous plant secreted a sticky fluid through tentacles placed throughout its leaves. Any small insect that touched the sticky fluid would immediately be stuck in place. What’s interesting here is that this plant didn’t simply eat the stuck insects. Roridula plants actually don’t make their own digestive enzymes, unlike other carnivorous plants such as pitcher plants or Venus flytraps. Instead, the Roridula plant would wait for a special type of insect, called “Roridula bugs” to eat the caught prey. The special species of insects are able to produce a slimy substance that lets them live on Roridula plants without getting trapped. After the unique insect would feast upon the stuck victim, the carnivorous Roridula plant would then feed off of nutrients excreted in the Roridula bugs feces.

In Germany, a group of several botanists and geologists from many different research institutes are still studying the amber-encased leaves. They believe that it was originally fossilized because a pair of the Roridula leaves must have gotten caught in tree sap which both killed the leaves as well as preserved them. They have reported that other organic material is still attached to the leaves, helping them even further their amount of research. Paleontologists have found different types of other carnivorous plant seeds, but there hasn’t been any actual evidence of how carnivorous plants actually trap their prey. It’s almost fascinating seeing the different forms of evolution and how simple plants have adapted over such long years. It makes you wonder how much plants will continue to mutate in the future, and how it will affect our environment.

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Bed Bugs… Repellent? Yahoo!

Although many of us are familiar with the popular rhyme, the bed bug is a pest that not a lot of people know very much about. According to the CDC, this may be because bed bugs have been customarily viewed as a pest problem in developing countries.  However, bed bug infestations have been spreading rapidly in parts of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe.”  The CDC also claims that they have been “found in five-star hotels and resorts.” In addition, where you find a bed bug has nothing to do with “the cleanliness of the living conditions.” These blood sucking pests are usually transported by travelers moving from place to place.

First, read the popular nursery rhyme.  Cute? Right?

Good night, sleep tight,
Don’t let the bedbugs bite,
Wake up bright
In the morning light
To do what’s right
With all your might.

And while bed bugs are not a medical risk and are not known to carry disease, their bites, while usually harmless, can cause serious allergic reaction. The idea of something sucking on your blood is just creepy. Fortunately, for bed bug victims, a biologist in Vancouver British Columbia has figured out a way to attract and repel bed bugs.

Regina Gries, a biologist at Simon Frasier University, has recently discovered that bedbugs communicate by odor. Through “painstaking” research, she was able to identify that histamine effectively repels bed bugs. In the process of allowing herself to be bitten 180,000 times, she also discovered five odors that attract bedbugs. These odors can be used to draw them into traps.

As a result of this ground breaking research, a British Columbia company called Contech Enterprises is currently developing what could be the first affordable bait and trap system for detecting and monitoring bed bug infestations. Yahoo!


No Tent Blues | Hulett Environmental Services

Termite Blues~ This commercial is part of the Hulett 2013 T.V advertisement campaign starring Greg Rice. Please be sure to tell us what you think in the comments box below!
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Chemical Cocktail Lures Bedbugs And Coaxes Them To Stay Put?

Scientists are often doing things that normal people would never dream of doing. Scientists may spend hours looking at a single cell, or they might mix dangerous chemicals together to create a whole new dangerous chemical. But one scientist recently took her research methods to a whole new level by allowing thousands of bed bugs to bite her! Scientist Regine Gries recently sustained 180,000 bed bug bites for the sake of science!

If you ask any New Yorker about bed bugs they will surely tell you that getting bed bugs is the most sure-fire way to ruin your sex life, lose your friends and pay a ton of money to have your apartment fumigated. Bed bugs will ruin your life, but many people aren’t even sure if they have them or not, because they will hide in the every nook and cranny of a house, from your old books to the seams of your mattress. This is exactly why Regine Gries allowed the bed bugs to bite her.

Gries and other scientists are working on discovering a method of detecting bed bugs earlier. This research has led them to some pretty gross stuff. They discovered that the bugs use a pheromone to tell each other where it is safe to nest. In order to isolate this pheromone the scientists had to collect literally thousands of samples of bed bugs’ feces and dead skin. From these samples, the scientists were able to create a trap that attracts the bed bugs, and keeps them around to be eradicated.

This promising new trap may save many of us from having to deal with bed bugs. So while we may hate our day job, we should all be thankful that our day doesn’t involve getting bit by thousands of bugs then collecting their feces and dead skin to create a trap that brings even more bed bugs! Or Does it? :)

What would you be willing to do for the sake of science?

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Robotic Cockroaches to Be Used in Rescue Operations

We know cockroaches as those tiny, annoying bugs that always gross us out. Whenever we try to get rid of one, it always scurries into those little nooks or crannies that our broom just can’t reach. However, scientists intend to turn this irritating aspect into something useful, as they prepare to modernize these insects in order to help mankind.

Surprisingly enough, cockroaches are extremely easy to ‘hack’, and recent studies have shown that we’re able to override their senses by implanting different types of electrodes or sensors. This means that we’ll be able to use these tiny critters to explore disaster scenes, such as rubble produced from an explosion. It’d be much easier and faster attaching a microphone and pushing a cockroach to go through debris, instead of using human manpower to sluggishly move it out of the way. We’d be able to find survivors and focus on key points of interest rather than having to clear everything out piece by piece.

Researchers at Harvard already are beginning constructing robotic cockroaches, which they hope will be used to gather data about ecosystems, or test for pollution. A basic ‘DIY Robo Roach Kit’ has already reached its Kickstarter goal, and hopes to available in the coming years for a low price of $99. This means that with controlling cockroaches to be more accessible to the general public, for a relatively cheap price, we’ll hopefully be able to begin using cockroaches to benefit our future.


Top 5 Most Venomous Spiders

  1. Redback Spider

The Redback Spider resides in the same family as the Black Widow, and is very toxic as well. It normally resides in Australia, and can easily be noticed from the dark red stripe running down its back. Serious symptoms of the bite are known to include seizures, comas, or even respiratory failure.








  1. Black Widow

When thinking of venomous spiders, most of us imagine this as the first thing that comes to our mind. However, a quite unknown fact about the Black Widow is that it actually eats its male partner after having intercourse. The Black Widow’s Bite is known to cause lactrodectism, or muscle spasms, throughout the body. It only needs a dosage of 0.0002mg/kg of venom in order to kill its prey.









  1. Sydney Funnel-web Spider

This is known as one of the most venomous spiders on Earth. Instead of giving smaller bites, a Sydney Funnel-web Spider is known to always inject a full amount of venom into their victim. Atracotoxin, a chemical in its venom compound, is very dangerous to primates, including humans. One child died within 15 minutes of receiving a bite from this hazardous spider.










  1. Six-eyed Sand Spider

Although still very dangerous, this spider is known to not usually live near humans. It’s not very aggressive either, meaning that bites are mostly uncommon. It’s a cousin of recluses, another species of spider, although the venom is much more potent. Their bite is known to cause necrosis, blood clots, and extreme bleeding which may even result in death.








  1. Brazilian Wandering Spider

In 2010, the Guinness World Records named this as the most venomous spider on Earth. It is extremely aggressive, and its vicious bite causes breathing problems and eventually asphyxiation. Oddly, its venom also causes priapism, which causes males to have long-lasting erections. Because of this, its venom is being studied in order to possibly combat Erectile Dysfunction Syndrome. Even after receiving an antidote, humans have still been known to perish after being bitten by this dangerous creature.








Are Ants Left-Handed or Right-Handed?

Most humans have a ‘favorite’ hand that they use in their daily lives. They may use their hand for something like holding an object, writing, or even interacting with different things. But new evidence suggests that even small insects like ants have a favorable side that they prefer to use.

Researchers tested an ant’s preference of direction by putting them in a small maze, and seeing which direction they went. Surprisingly, many more ants decided to begin with left, rather than right. It’s assumed that this behavior comes from the fact that many ant colonies are small labyrinths to begin with, so ants may try to solve the network of tunnels by going left until they find an exit.

Edmund Hunt, a biologist from the University of Bristol study, still isn’t sure why exactly ants prefer left over right. He says, “The ants may be using their left eye to detect predators and their right to navigate. Also, their world is maze-like and consistently turning one way is a very good strategy to search and exit mazes.” Research has already found that animals such as lizards, fish, and other vertebrates use their right eye for identifying prey, and their left eye to detect predators or escape. Crows are known to use sticks in their mouths as a tool, and even they have a preference of holding them on a certain side of their beak.

Perhaps we aren’t that different from most animals after all.


Robotic Insects?!

I’m sure we’ve all seen horror videos of giant insects or bugs which go around terrorizing people. But a large research group in Germany is currently working on a robotic insect named Hector – a literal walking and functioning mechanism based on a stick insect. And (luckily) instead of using it to frighten others, they’re using this bizarre experiment in order to help them research insects.

Hector sits at roughly three feet long, made out of an ultralight skeleton and six legs, which connect to eighteen elastic joints that help it cross any type of terrain. His creators are Bio-mechatronic researchers working from Bielefeld University over in Germany.  He’s the result of a 3 year research project overseen by 8 different research groups from Computer Science, Biology, Engineering and Physics. His main purpose is to help test different hypotheses on the types of insect movement. But even now that Hector is functioning, he’s still not complete. The researchers say that all of his sub-systems must be compatible at all times, otherwise he might end up lifting too many legs at once and possibly falling over. He already has sensors which are able to detect different obstacles and help readjust his travel course if needed, but the researchers are confident he can be used for even more. Their next idea is to start adding lateral cameras to his skeletal body, as well as feelers, all of which are inspired by insects.

It’s crazy to think that we’ve gone from studying the different types of animal movement, to actually taking steps to recreate them. Seeing projects like this gives you the feeling that we can start to overcome situations or even solve different problems if we’re able to change different variables in what we test. Scientists are already working on robotic bees in order to help the decline of the honey-bee population, and I personally cannot wait to see what else we’ll accomplish in the near future. I have the feeling that Hector is only the beginning of something big.

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The Weirdest Looking Insect You’ll Ever See

Treehoppers. We don’t even know how to begin explaining them, so instead, take a look at the following picture. Yes, that is an actual insect. And no, we don’t know why it looks like that.

Source: Patrick Landmann / Science Source

Treehoppers are some of the strangest looking insects that have ever been found, and scientists still don’t know their exact purpose. The big segment you see in the above picture is called a pronotum, which is the section behind the insect’s head.

Some scientists think that treehoppers model themselves after the Ophiocordyceps fungus, a type of fungus which takes control of its host, kills it, and then sprouts a flower through their head. The flower then erupts and spreads more fungal seeds all over the ground onto more bugs. Scientists believe that if some insects which know what the disease is may avoid attempting to prey on the treehopper because it doesn’t want to receive the disease. Other treehoppers may camouflage themselves as having poisonous colors in order to appear distasteful, which may save themselves from being eaten. Some species of treehoppers even mimic ants which have mandibles or stingers, so if a predator sees them it may get scared. But it’s all a joke – treehoppers don’t actually have any mandibles of stingers, and are actually pretty defenseless.

It gets weirder though. Treehoppers actually have a pretty nice relationship with ants, because they produce a sugary excrement called honeydew that ants and some other bugs absolutely love. This literally means that ants drink out of a treehopper’s rear end. Normally though, it won’t care too much. The treehopper feeds on the sap inside trees using a piercing spike which can suck the sap into their bodies.

The treehopper is definitely a strange insect. However, with our knowledge increasing rapidly, hopefully we’ll come to understand these weird bugs someday.


Rats Start Wearing Lingerie?

Recent studies are testing different variations of rodent sexual preferences, and one method might be a bit surprising. Scientists are beginning to start putting rats in lingerie.

Although it sounds weird, scientists at Concordia University in Montreal have been testing to see how wearing lingerie affects a rat’s sexual preferences. The way it is tested is by giving a female test subject a small ‘jacket’, and allowing males to mate with her. Afterwards, the males were given a choice of mating with a female who has a jacket on, or one wearing nothing at all. Astonishingly, the male rats preferred to have sex with the jacketed rats, and actually made more mounting attempts and even ejaculated quicker. According to the researchers, most of it depends on a rat’s early sexual preference. When the females were clothed, the male rats associated the jackets with the action of having sex, meaning that every time a male saw a jacketed female they immediately began having high amounts of arousal. This led to the jacketed females being chosen more often.

In another study, male rats were given jackets, and were allowed to mate with unclothed females. After the jackets were taken off, however, they had “severe disruptions in their sexual abilities (arousal, desire, and performance).” It’s known that we aren’t that much different from rats when it comes to our brains, and this is simply another example that shows how much we’re alike – even if we don’t look it.