A new study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, is among the first to link parasites to cannibalism. It seems that according to researchers at the University of Leeds, that some parasites can make an animal more likely to eat its own kind.
There is sufficient evidence that certain parasites can influence and even directly control the behavior of those they infect. Mandy Bunke of the University of Leeds and her team assert that both parasites and cannibalism are ever-present in nature and documented in more than 3000 species, including humans.
“Increased demand for food by the parasites may drive the host to be more cannibalistic,” Bunk said. Co-author Mhairi Alexander of Stellenbosch University added, “We do know that parasites can affect foraging behavior and also vulnerability to predation in a range of species.”
During the study, researchers focused on the shrimpGammarus duebeni celticus, native to waters off Ireland. A tiny parasite called Pleistophora mulleri lives off of the shrimp.
Bunke and her team collected the shrimp from Downhill River at County Antrim, Northern Ireland. “We found that parasites had a surprising effect on their shrimp hosts, making them stronger cannibals,” Bunke said. “Adult shrimp with parasites ate more young shrimp of the same species than the uninfected shrimp did.”
Although the parasites are just 5 micrometers long millions of them invade the host’s muscles. Once inside, the parasites severely damage the shrimp’s muscles and continue to crave more nutrients. The host becomes hungrier too.
According to senior author Alison Dunn of the University of Leeds, “being more cannibalistic might help the host to deal with the cost of the infection as it gains more food.”
“Interestingly,” she continued, “we have also found in earlier work that infected shrimp may be able to catch and eat less prey of other animal species, so perhaps cannibalism of smaller shrimp is the only way these sick animals can survive.”
Darth Vader Meets Bugs
What do you get when you combine a mask of Darth Vader and a bunch of bugs? Surprisingly, a really brilliant and unique piece of art!
Artist Klaus Enrique was sketching a tarantula one day when he realized how similar the spider looked to the mouth and noise of the Darth Vader mask. He decided to explore what other insects he could use to create his own Darth Vader mask.
Accroding to Wired.com, Enrique spent four months arranging dead butterflies, moths, scorpions, and millipedes along with a fly and a cicada on a plasticine bust. The finished product is amazing and shows this iconic character in a light we have never seen before; a blend of beautiful, yet scary. The finished product took nearly 300 hours and used over 150 different insects sourced from around the world.
Enrique said of his creation, “When I saw [the finished statue] I was like ‘I think this Darth Vader happens to be even scarier than the real Darth Vader.”
What other iconic movie characters would you like to see made out of insects? The possibilities are endless!
- Subterranean termites are by far the most destructive species of termite as they eat 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Each year, termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage.
- Termite colonies can have upwards of 2 million members.
- Termites are present in 70 percent of countries across the world and their population outnumbers human beings on a ratio of ten to one.
- The queen termite can lay up to 40,000 eggs per day.
- Install screens and weather stripping on windows and door sweeps on doors.
- Fix any cracks in siding and walls, especially where pipes or wires enter the home.
- Store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house.
- Wear heavy gloves when moving items that have been stored for a long period of time.
- Inspect items such as boxes of decorations and grocery bags before bringing them indoors.
- Store clothing inside plastic containers and check shoes before putting them on, as spiders often hide in these items.
- If you suspect that a spider has bitten you, contact your primary care physician for medical advice.
- If you have a spider infestation in your home, contact a licensed pest professional.
Spring is officially here and with it comes one of the most persistent warm-weather pests—ants. As temperatures rise, Hulett Environmental Services warns that America’s number one nuisance pest will invade homes across South Florida in search of food. While most species present problems in people’s pantries and kitchens, some species can deliver painful bites while others inflict property damage. According to a survey from the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), more than half of consumers list ants as their top pest concern.
Although ants can be difficult to control once they have entered a home, the following preventative measures can play a major role in helping to avoid infestations:
- Wipe up crumbs and spills immediately
- Store garbage in sealed containers and remove from the home frequently
- Keep food packages closed or sealed and store products in air-tight containers
- Avoid leaving food out on the counter or pet food out on the floor for long periods of time
- Repair holes or gaps in window and door screens
- Seal cracks and holes on the outside of the home including entry points for utilities and pipes
- Keep tree branches and shrubbery well-trimmed and away from the house
- Replace weather-stripping and repair loose mortar around basement foundation and windows
- If you suspect an ant or any pest infestation in your home, contact a licensed pest professional to inspect, identify and treat the problem
IT’S NATIONAL PEST MANAGEMENT MONTH! ARE YOU PREPARED FOR SPRING PESTS?
This April, Hulett Environmental Services is proud to celebrate National Pest Management Month, a public observance formally recognized each year by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) to acknowledge the pest management industry’s commitment to the protection of public health and property from household pest threats. Additionally, as spring is an especially busy time for pest-related activity, <Company Name> encourages homeowners to take proactive pest proofing steps in the coming weeks.
We are proud to be members of an industry which plays an important role in people’s everyday lives and are committed to helping homeowners protect their homes and ensuring public places and residences are free of disease-carrying pests.
As pests emerge from their overwintering spots, we encourage the public to tackle simple home improvement and landscaping projects that will make a big difference in staving off infestations during the warmer months.
Pest experts at Hulett Environmental Services recommend the following tips to pest-proof the home this spring:
- Seal any cracks on the outside of the home with a silicone-based caulk, including entry points for utilities and pipes.
- Replace weather-stripping and repair loose mortar around the foundation and windows.
- Keep tree branches and shrubbery well trimmed and away from the house.
- Repair fascia and rotted roof shingles.
- Keep mulch at least 15 inches from the foundation.
- Eliminate sources of standing water around the house, including birdbaths and in clogged gutters.
- Keep basements, attics, and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry.
- Store garbage in sealed containers and dispose of it regularly.
- Avoid leaving pet’s food dishes out for long periods of time.
- Contact a licensed pest professional if an infestation is suspected.
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.