We humans can be pretty intense about making sure our borders are secure, so we don’t get any stragglers from other countries crossing over and joining ours without our knowledge. It turns out there is another species out there that are even more strict about their border control.
Scientists have discovered two millipede species that have created a mysterious line in Tasmania, Australia that separates the two species, and the two groups rarely cross it. Scientists can’t find any explanation for the strict border other than that the two species have an agreement to each stay on their respective side. The line wasn’t naturally created due to specific land formations such as a river, but rather crosses rivers and goes up and down hills. The sharpness of the line can only be explained by some biological arrangement between the two species.
The boundary is 230 km long, and border crossing is so infrequent that it is much more effective than any borders we humans have created.
Why and how do you think these two species created this strict border?
Researchers have recently made a breakthrough in understanding exactly how the Zika virus harms the brain and causes infants to be born with underdeveloped brains. This could potentially lead scientists to develop a treatment for the virus.
Numerous studies have already confirmed that the Zika virus infects neural progenitor cells in developing infants. These are the cells responsible for the development of the brain and head. A research team from the University of California, San Diego found that the TLR3 receptor molecule is the key to how the virus affects the brain’s development. They found that the TLR3 molecule, which is responsible for the key immune response against viruses in the body, was activated when the Zika virus attacked the cells in the body. The TLR3 increases the production or proteins to fight off the virus. However, TLR3 also regulates numerous other genes such as the ones responsible for brain development. Unfortunately, when the TLR3 activates this immune response, it also causes the early neurons to die off, causing the developing brain to shrink.
On the bright side, the researchers also found that by controlling the amount of TLR3 activated they can control how much the brain shrinks. When they inhibited the TLR3 in a miniature 3D brain-like model that was infected with the Zika virus, the shrinking of the brain was reduced. So, it all comes down to this TLR3 molecule. The researchers believe that they can now develop a treatment that will block these TLR3 molecules and prevent the harm the Zika virus causes the developing brain.
Do you think this discovery could lead to a treatment being developed in the near future? What kind of effect could this have on the fight against the Zika virus?
This is One Sick Serial Killer of a Bug
It is called The “Assassin Bug,” and one of this bug’s favorite activities is to murder other bugs and then where the corpses of their victims on their bodies as though they are trophies. So although Assassin Bugs may not be too well liked by other bugs in the insect community, they would be pretty well appreciated by humans if humans knew of how Assassin bugs make their lives easier.
Assassin bugs often kill insects that feed off of vegetation intended for human consumption. So an Assassin bug could be considered and insect insecticide, as well as a cannibal as they are not interested in vegetation. Assassin bugs are particularly attracted to ants, and ants serve as an assassin bugs prey. And sadly for the ants, they do not have much of a chance when it comes to defending themselves from the assassin bugs.
When an Assassin bug encounters an ant the assassin bug will suck out the ants entrails and proceed to where its hollowed carcass as a form of camouflage. This carcass wearing also fools ants into thinking that all those dead ants covering the assassin bug are fellow ants in whom they can approach and become friendly with.
If only ants were a little more intelligent they would probably find it strange that their own kind are all hollowed out and lifeless and probably should not be approached. However, the assassin bug always manages to find ants with very little hunting on their part because ants are indeed dumb enough to not find anything strange about their dead friends. Inevitably live ants will approach the Assassin bug and quickly be devoured, or rather they will be hollowed out to be worn as an ornament to attract other live ants to this mean spirited Assassin.
What do you find most frightening about the Assassin bug?
Scientists have recently discovered that insects are able to build internal bandages that act somewhat like a human cast when they break their “bones.” David Taylor, Professor of Materials Engineering at Trinity College Dublin, and his team of researchers published a paper about their study that assessed the biomechanics of repair in insects.
Insects have an amazing internal “DIY cuticle repair kit” that kicks into action when an insect is wounded that patches up the wound enough so that they move and function almost as well as they could before they were injured. When an insect gets a cut on their leg or some other kind of injury to their tissue, their body automatically begins patching up the injury by forming a layer of new cuticle underneath the injured area. This “bandage” seals and protects the wound, while also boosting the structural strength so the insect can continue using the injured limb.
In the case of locusts, these insects are highly dependent on their legs for survival, as their highly loaded legs help them jump and escape predators as well as find food in the wild. The new cuticle used for bandaging wounds was found to immediately restore an impressive two thirds of the limb’s original strength. That’s quite a bit more than helpful than the hard casts we get when we break a limb.
Do you think humans could one day create some kind of device that could perform as well on human injuries?
The Largest Bug Ever Has Just Been Found!
Ever heard of a stick insect? Well they are pretty huge. There are over three thousand different varieties of stick insects, and you may have seen one but did not know it was a great big bug.
These “stick insects” look a lot like their name. Even the bug expert who found the longest ever stick insect did not at first realize that he was looking at an insect, he just thought it was a tree twig. Although this “expert” did not immediately know what he was looking at, we cannot really blame him. After all, the insect is only as thick as an index finger and is a half meter long.
The researcher, Zhao Li, had been notified by locals that a huge insect had been seen occasionally in a wooded area. After searching for the insect for 6 years he finally found it. Apparently, they have remarkable camouflage capabilities, as you can imagine. The new subspecies will be named after Zhao in his honor.
What would you do if you suddenly realized what you thought was simply a tree branch was actually a giant insect?
Why Do Some Insects Sting?
So when a wasp or a bee stings us are they just being jerks? Although, as many of us know, getting stung by an insect sure feels as though we have been done a wrong in which we have little chance of reciprocating. But perhaps we should cut those stinging insects a little slack.
As can be guessed, insects possess stingers in order to secure food. For example, Parasitic Wasps will sting and therefore disable caterpillars to provide food for their young. This violent method of securing food may be a far cry from hopping in the car to make a trip to Trader Joes, but we can certainly understand the noble desire to feed our young. Bulldog ants will also subdue larger insects with their fear inducing stingers.
Of course providing sustenance is not the only reason insect’s evolved stingers. Lets consider the honeybee. Honeybees, as we know from their title, love honey, but so do bears. If there is one single source of honey, which animal do you think will fend off the other in order to enjoy that wonderful sweetness? Turns out bees will often deter bears from chowing on caches of honey by stinging them if they come near the sought after honey.
Although being stung by an insect is unpleasant, it may not be a bad idea to cut them a break since their stingers are their primary tool for defense and sustenance.
Have you ever been stung by a bee or wasp? Why did you think they stung you?
Less Bang for Your Buck – Insects That Decrease Your Home’s Value
Insects have become masters of invading our homes. While some are simply a nuisance, others can seriously reduce the value of your home. Whether you’re planning on selling your home anytime soon or not, it’s probably a good idea to keep an eye out for these expensive pests.
Termites are probably the most serious villain when it comes to destroying your property. They cause over $5 billion in property damage throughout the United States every year. What’s worse is that home insurance doesn’t generally cover termite infestations, meaning the money to fix it is going to come straight out of your pocket. Enough termite damage can cause floors and walls to sag because of the loss of structural integrity. And, you don’t want to try and deal with these guys on your own. If you have a termite infestation, immediately call in the professionals to take care of it.
Powderpost beetles are another pest that can seriously harm your home. They are small and black, specializing in boring holes into wood. This means that they will go for anything made of hardwood, including molding, flooring, cabinets, doors and other hardwood furniture. You can detect an infestation by looking for small, round holes in the wood that may have fine sawdust peeking out. These pests tend to infest newer homes. Removing the infested wood is really the only way to eradicate them.
Have you ever had to deal with a termite infestation or powderpost beetles? What did you do to get rid of them?
The Most Terrifying Ant of all Time
Many scientists are strongly convinced that no insect in the world can cause hallucinogenic affects in a human being. However, there exists a little known report claiming otherwise.
A scholarly article written by anthropologist Kevin P. Groark from UCLA suggests that there is indeed a strong possibility, as well as scholarly documentation, that suggest that Native Americans ingested what are known as California harvester ants in order to induce spiritual visions of a hallucinogenic sort.
Native shamanic tribes would consume as many as 400 ants, resulting in them passing out and probably having some pretty awesome dreams…but let’s remember this was done all in the name of having magical visions…
It is reported that the dreams that the ant-eating tribe experienced during unconsciousness involved being visited by spirits in the form of animals. These divine animals would dispense with advice on how to live a prosperous life. It was especially popular among the young men who believed that heavy consumption at a young age would result in a wisdom that could only be achieved over a lifetime. But this was not the only purpose that these ants served.
Due to the strict procedures involved in initiating a native inhabitant of Southern California into adulthood, a young boy would be forced to lie on their back and endure the pain of the California harvester ants excruciating bite. All while the elders incite the anger of the ants by prodding them toward the boy—supposedly for his own benefit…or perhaps because they secretly got a kick out of it.
Could this be the next drug fad? Can the government actually make this illegal? Would you let loose and…let tons of ants bite you, causing excruciating pain…to check out this insect high?
Your Worst Nightmare – Cockroaches That Bite
I think we can all agree that cockroaches are generally loathsome. However, in their favor, they don’t actually do anything to hurt us. They don’t bite or sting like some other insects out there. They are just generally gross and disturbing…right? Well, I’m here to tell you that, while it is not common, cockroaches have been recorded biting people. What makes me want to gag, though, is finding out that they enjoy eating little bits and pieces of dead humans.
Cockroaches are omnivores, so I guess it is not all that surprising to discover that they would consider munching on us. For the most part, you are safe from their hunger, but if you have an extreme infestation with a large cockroach population, they can end up outgrowing their food source. This is when they turn to nibbling on human fingernails, eyelashes, feet, and hands. These bites can cause irritation, lesions, and swelling, and can sometimes lead to infection.
Apparently the most serious cases happened on ships. In such a confined space the cockroaches are able to keep growing in numbers, while sources of food do not. So, they begin biting the fingers and nails of the people on board. There are even reports of sailors wearing gloves to protect their hands from being bitten.
Did you know that in these extreme cases cockroaches will bite humans? How many cockroaches are living in your house?
Be honest: Is your first reaction to seeing an insect in your home a screech or gasp? If you answered yes, you are not alone! Most people cringe at the sight of insects or others pests in their home, which is why they hire a professional pest control company to keep critters away.
But several photographers are asking us to take a step back and admire bugs for their beauty. This may sound like an absurd concept to some, but the intricacies of some insects can be very beautiful.
And this is what photographer Pascal Goet wants people to understand, “The inspiration behind this is to disconnect man’s repulsion for the insects and make them accept and at least, aesthetically, love them.”
You may be wondering, what is it about bugs that makes them so beautiful (at least to some!). According to Goet, “With insects you have strange shapes, you have behavior that’s very strange, you have extraordinary colors. And this is very, very special.”
What do you think? Do you find bugs beautiful? Or at least interesting? Would you be interested in having a photograph of an insect in your home?