Love in the Wacky World of Bugs
Below are examples of what passes for romance in the world of bed bugs, termites, kissing bugs and fire ants:
- Bed Bugs: These pests are infamous for their ability to reproduce rapidly, creating major infestations in short periods of time. However, it is not their ability to quickly multiply that puts them on our list for strange mating rituals; instead it’s how they reproduce that makes people cringe. Bed bugs practice a mating behavior known as “traumatic insemination” where the male pierces the abdomen of the female to directly inseminate her body cavity. Male bed bugs often attempt to mate with other males, killing them in the process.
- Termites: Female termites release “mating pheromones” that act as a perfume to entice male termites. Once the males locate the female termites, they will break off their wings, symbolizing that they are a couple.
- Kissing Bugs: Despite their name, there’s nothing romantic about these bugs! Kissing bugs have a tendency to bite the faces and lips of humans while they sleep, not only causing welts and allergic reactions, but they are also capable of spreading the potentially fatal Chagas disease. They frequently defecate on or near the bite wound, allowing the parasite that spreads Chagas to enter the person’s blood stream. This blood meal is necessary for male kissing bugs to mate and for female kissing bugs to lay eggs.
- Fire Ants: In fire ant colonies, the queen ant is in charge of laying eggs and can even control how many male and female eggs she lays. The queen can live for up to seven years and produce more than 1,000 eggs each day. Male ants, called drones, are not so fortunate. Their only role in the colony is to mate with the queen and then die soon after doing so.
Fleas are parasites that feast on any warm-blooded body, including humans,” said Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for NPMA. “Fleas and flea-infested animals were the cause of the Bubonic Plague, which wiped out much of Europe during the Middle Ages.” While the plague is an extremely rare disease today, fleas also transmit a bacterial disease, murine typhus, to humans through infected rats. Most commonly, homeowners with flea infestations will find themselves with itchy, painful red bumps resulting from fleabites.
If a person has a flea infestation, it is time to call a professional pest control company to treat the problem quickly and effectively. If someone has a severe reaction to flea bites, they should take precaution and seek immediate medical attention.
Hulett Environmental Services offers these tips to help your family and friends avoid flea infestations:
- Clean and vacuum frequently to help remove flea populations already in existence and discourage egg laying
- Keep your lawn groomed. Untended lawns provide hiding spots and food sources for rodents and other animals that may harbor fleas.
- Fleas hitch rides with mammals on the move, including rodents. If you have a rodent problem in your home or on your property, fleas may be soon to follow. Call a pest professional to rid your home of both.
- If you have pets, keep them leashed when outside. Visit a veterinarian annually, bathe and groom your pets regularly, and use flea treatments according to direction.
New Fruit Flies Discovered in Brazil
Two new fruit fly species belonging to the genus Rhinoleucophenga were recently discovered by Brazilian scientists. By fermenting fruits and vegetables to sample flies in the Brazilian Cerrado, the scientists discovered two specimens they could not identify. Although similar to other known species, this was a new species altogether. The new species as well as other significant findings are described in the Journal of Insect Science.
“One of the unknown species was similar to R. obesa, but the male genitalia were different,” they revealed in their report. “The second of the unknown species resembled Rhinoleucophenga stigma.” After comparing the specimens with ones in the Coleção Entomológica do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz in Rio de Janeiro, the scientists determined that they were indeed new species.
Fruit flies are common in our homes, restaurants, supermarkets and anywhere food is allowed to rot and ferment. Adults are roughly 1/8 inch long and usually have red eyes. The front of their bodies is usually tan and the rear is black. Fruit flies lay eggs near the surface of fermenting foods and other moist, organic materials. Once hatched, the larvae feed near the surface of the fermenting mass. Surface-feeding of the larvae allows damaged or over-ripened portions of fruits and vegetables to be cut away without having to discard the entire portion. The reproductive potential of fruit flies is staggering. An adult female is capable of laying 500 eggs, though the entire lifecycle from egg to adult is completed in about a week.
The best prevention against fruit flies is to eliminate their food sources. Produce which has ripened should be eaten, discarded or refrigerated. Cracked or damaged sections of fruits and vegetables should be cut away and discarded as eggs or larvae may be present in the wounded area. A single rotting piece of produce or forgotten juice spill can breed thousands of fruit flies.
Termite Prevention Tips and Termite Destructions Signs – Tips for Recognizing an Termite Infestation
Experts at Hulett Environmental Services propose several tips to avoid termite infestations for your home:
- As most termites are attracted to moisture, avoid water accumulation near your home’s foundation. Divert water away with properly functioning downspouts, gutters and splash blocks.
- Quickly repair house damage from a leaky roof or window as termites can thrive in this moisture.
- Never bury wood scraps or waste lumber in the yard, especially near the building. Remove old tree stumps and roots around and beneath the building.
- Most importantly, eliminate any wood contact with the soil. Maintaining a 1-inch gap between the soil and wood portions of the building is ideal.
Recognizing the destruction termites can cause, it is important to be aware of infestation warning signs:
- Swarming of winged forms in the fall and spring – termites can easily be confused with flying ants.
- Evidence of mud tunneling in, over and under wood structures
- Wooden structures exhibit darkening or blistering
- Damaged wood becomes extremely thin and can be easily punctured by a knife or a screwdriver
As termites are known to cause over $5 billion dollars in damage each year, virtually all experts recommend calling a pest professional to protect one of your most important investments, your home, from termite infestation.
Professionals offer the specialized skills necessary to rid a home of termite infestation: knowledge of building construction, an ability to identify termite species and the knowledge of applicable methods of termite control.
First Responder: Scorpion Fly
Over the years, Forensic Entomologist believed that blowflies were the first on the scene of a homicide. In fact, forensic investigators examine DNA in their guts and larvae they leave at the scene for clues to solve murders. But he idea that blowflie are there first may not be entirely true. At Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas forensic field tests using a human corpse rather than animals, such as pigs that are normally used, discovered a different first responder than was expected.
According to a new study recently released, what happened could alter what forensic investigators look for in human remains while trying understand how the victim died. The first animal on the scene wasn’t a blowfly. It was the scorpion fly, a predator of bugs thought to be harmless to humans. Not only did scorpion flies feed on the cadaver, they performed mating dances and copulated.
Scorpion flies that buzz gardens and the edge of woodlands were known to gravitate only to animal carrion, said the researcher, Natalie K. Lindgren, a student at Sam Houston who was the study’s lead author. “The interesting thing about scorpion flies on human cadavers is they showed up first and remained there for a while.” Lindgren said this important because “we already know who we expect to see first,” but the undocumented presence of scorpion flies on a human remains left on soft dirt in a sub-tropical bog in Huntsville is “expanding our understanding of decomposition ecology.”
These off looking insects are called Scorpion flies because the males of one family (Panorpidae) have enlarged abdomen and genitalia which resemble a scorpion’s tail and stinger. Scorpion flies have two pairs of wings and strong hind legs. Despite their double set of wings, scorpion flies fly slowly and in erratic patterns. Scorpion flies are not known to harm humans. They seldom breed in large groups and tend to live in single, mated pairs.
Working with humans can get emotional, Lindgren admitted, but “once you realize that person or family wanted the body used for research, you feel kind of good about what you’re doing, trying to discover things and making science stronger.”
Researchers have recently discovered that a tiny social wasp from Malaysia employs an additional security measure: facial recognition.
In order to prevent intruders from attacking their hives, wasps typically distinguish friend from foe by sniffing out foreigners. Outsiders usually have a unique scent that is not the same as the home colony. Because the wasps’ nests are found in large groups with as many as 150 built close together, each colony faces persistent landing attempts by outsiders from other nests. In order to find out why and how these Malaysian wasps employ both vision and scent to determine identity, scientists carried out a series of experiments on 50 colonies in the wild.
Close to the nests, the researchers dangled lures made of captured and killed wasps. The lures had been given different treatments. For instance, some lures made from nest mates were coated with a foe’s scent, whereas outsiders were painted with the colony’s odor. “The wasps pay more attention to facial markings than to scent when faced with a possible intruder,” the team reported online in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
In tests where the wasps could assess both an intruder’s face and scent, they relied solely on facial recognition and immediately attacked those whose faces they didn’t know thus ignoring their odor. “That’s the safest strategy,” the scientists note because the wasps can recognize another’s face at a distance, but need to actually touch another wasp to detect her scent.
According to national Geographic, Wasps are “an enormously diverse array of insects, with some 30,000 identified species.” We are most familiar with those that are wrapped in bright warning colors. They buzz angrily about in groups and threaten us with painful stings. But most wasps are solitary and non-stinging. They do far more good for humans than harm by controlling insect populations.
Fireflies in China
Efforts are underway to restore firefly habitats in Taipei parks according to the city’s Department of Public Works.
Mayor Ko Wen-je at Rongxing Garden Park to check on the progress of a new pond that will provide an excellent habitat for insects. He also communicated with volunteers from the Society of Wilderness who were working to increase the depth of the pond and excavate foreign vegetation and wildlife.
Ko, after touring the site and surveying its progress, shut a new gate across a former pond-side path, which will be closed to protect the pond’s wildlife by keeping pedestrians at a distance.
“Fireflies are an indicator species for a good environment because they are very demanding in terms of the water and air they require,” National Taipei University of Nursing and Health Sciences assistant professor Wu Chia-hsiung said. He added that, “while fireflies normally cannot survive in urban environments, the continued presence of fireflies in some areas is unique to Taipei.
“We should bring ecology back, not ‘create’ it,” Parks and Street Lights Office Director Chang Yu-huei said of the city’s plans to restore firefly habitats. She maintains that “fireflies can still be seen around the pond in April and May, but that numbers present have been sporadic due to the gradual deoxygenation and sedimentation of the still water, as well as alien wildlife being released into the pond by park visitors.”
There are about 2,000 firefly species throughout the world. These insects live in a variety of warm environments, as well as in more temperate regions. They are a familiar sight during warm summer months during evening hours. Fireflies thrive in humid regions in Asia and the Americas. In dry climates, they live near wet or damp areas and places that retain moisture.
Fireflies are familiar to most people, but few understand that they are beetles not flies. They are members of the family Lampyridae and are nocturnal. Most fireflies have wings. This distinguishes them from other luminescent insects of the same family commonly known as glowworms.
What can a homeowner do to prevent termites?
- The most common types of termites love moisture, if you have any moisture around the foundation of your home, take steps to remove the moisture and eliminate the source.
- Divert water away with properly functioning downspouts, gutters and splash blocks.
- Reduce humidity in crawl spaces with proper ventilation.
- Prevent shrubs, vines and other vegetation from growing over and covering vents.
- Be sure to remove old form boards, grade stakes, etc., left in place after the building was constructed. Remove old tree stumps and roots around and beneath the building.
- Most importantly, eliminate any wood contact with the soil. An 18-inch gap between the soil and wood portions of the building is ideal.
- It doesn’t hurt to routinely inspect the foundation of your home for signs of termite damage.