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Trap-Jaw Ants Soaring to an Escape

Trap-Jaw Ants Soaring to an Escape

A trap-jaw ant is named after its “spring-loaded mandible,” that when snapped shut can easily kill its prey. What is even more interesting to scientists at the University of Illinois however, is that they jaw can also be used as a predatory weapon

When a snap-jaw ant quickly closes their jaw against a hard surface (such as the ground), the reaction sends them flying. According to the University of Illinois, this ability allows them to escape their predators, ant lions. Ant lions, are known to wait at the bottom of pits they have dug as anticipate their prey to come sliding down the pit wall.

The trap-jaw ants jumping behavior was identified nearly 100 years ago, however, it wasn’t until about 10 years ago that Dr, Suarez and Sheila N. Patek acknowledged that this jump is an escape attempt. Mr. Larabee, a graduate student at the University of Illinois, ran some controlled experiments in a lab after collecting the trap-jaw ants and ant lions to test their defense. This was the first time that experiments like these have been run.


Mr. Larabee concluded that 50% of the time, the trap-jaw ants escaped the ant lion by running up the pit wall, and 15% of the time they hurled themselves away by snapping their jaws shut. He reported that his findings have added to existing studies, showing that this “behavioral trait evolved for predation” and has a “secondary use: escape.”


Have you ever seen a trap-jaw?

Burger King Popular with Hungry Rodents

Burger King Popular with Hungry Rodents

Managers at a Burger King in Clearwater, Florida – the home of the original franchise restaurant, founded back in 1953 – are probably dreaming of rats and mice. The restaurant has been overrun and is now on the media radar as a decidedly poor choice in dining.

Burger King corporate offices and health inspection officials have given conflicting reports about whether the restaurant was temporarily shut down on June 18th. But, given the evidence of rodents, perhaps it should have been if it wasn’t.

Several health code violations were nothing too unusual. Boxed soft-serve ice cream was being stored on the floor; liquid eggs were left on the counter at 56 degrees. But a string of other violations, like grease build up and soiled ceiling tiles, were also noted during the inspection.

Worst of all – and the reason for the alleged closing – were evidence of rodents. Hamburger buns had been gnawed when left under the front counter. In the same area, and near the sink and storage unit, were scattered rodent droppings.

Burger King head offices disputed the closure, but the health code violations are a matter of public record.

Bubblegum Babies

Bubblegum Babies

Most insects use taste to ward off other insects. They shoot out foul-tasting liquid or cover their eggs in sticky gross substances to keep away predators. The Extatosoma tiaratum, however, does just the opposite. It coats its eggs in a substance that is irresistible to certain ants. Why does it do this? Well, when the ants are attracted to the egg, they bring it back to their nest and eat off the coating, throwing the egg in the trash. When the egg hatches, the baby Extatosoma mimics the behavior of the ants and grows up within their protection.

But their odd habit of fending off attackers with delicious substances doesn’t end there. When an Extatosoma is attacked they squirt out a gooey substance that researchers claim smell like peanut butter. The insect basically adds a delicious topping for the predator to enjoy. I’m not entirely sure how this is supposed to protect it, or how this insect has managed to survive in the wild, but it is certainly unique.

Have you ever heard of a bug that covers its eggs in a substance designed to attract predators? Why do you think they squirt peanut butter goo at their attackers?

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches

I can’t say that I am a particular fan of cockroaches. Usually when I see one I slowly back away and call out for someone else to handle the disposal of the creature. Their encroachment on my territory is not something I look forward to. However, even I have to recognize when a critter is truly unique and fascinating. I wouldn’t necessarily want to come face to face with a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, but I do find them to be a more interesting example of their species.

The Madagascar Hissing Cockroach has a segmented body like other cockroaches, but has evolved to use its body in a unique manner. By squeezing its body together and contracting the segments, this cockroach can make a hissing sound to warn off predators. It can also flatten its body and make it more difficult for predators to eat it. As a final defense measure, if the cockroach does end up in the mouth of a predator, it has spiny legs to help it make its way out. And the hissing combined with those thorny legs can be pretty annoying when they’re inside an animal’s head, with the sound ringing in its head.

What do you think of the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach? Would you want one of those inside your mouth?

Ants and Bees Make Up Some of the Most Dangerous Insect Swarms


Some insects like bees and fire ants can be extremely dangerous by themselves, but when they get together in swarms is when you can really see some trouble. Just ask the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Oklahoma that recently picked up what appeared to be rain clouds over western North Texas.

This didn’t seem unusual until the forecasters realized that the clouds weren’t rain…the radar was picking up thousands of grasshoppers and beetles, very common in the agricultural area of Texas. Grasshoppers and beetles were flying between the ground and 2,500 feet, covering an area of about 50 miles. Even when the swarm isn’t raining down on you it is important to keep in mind that South Florida swarms can be just as problematic.


Bee Swarm The term “swarm” can quickly bring buzzing bees to mind. Swarming is the process by which a new bee colony is formed when the queen bee leaves the colony with a large group of worker bees. Typically bees swarm in the spring as they search for an ideal spot to establish a new colony. The swarm can contain 5,000 to 20,000 bees and may be as small as a softball or larger than a basketball. In the prime swarm, about 60% of the worker bees leave the original hive location with the old queen.

Seeing a large cloud of flying bees that seems to drift along through the air can be somewhat frightening for those that are unfamiliar. But the swarm experts at Hulett know that swarming bees are carrying honey from their old hive and are much less likely to sting than they would be if they were protecting the old hive. Large bee swarms in a nearby tree or around your home can be unnerving but don’t worry, Hulett has you covered and can safely manage any bee swarm.

Fire Ants

Fire Ant Swarm If you ask anyone who has been bitten, fire ants can be some seriously wretched creatures. A single fire ant bite is painful and can leave a red welt on your skin for days. But if you’ve disturbed one it’s almost certain that more are on the way. Fire ants get their name for their sting when the ant latches on with its jaws and injects a venom that causes pain which some have described as a burning pain. Although extremely rare, for those that are severely allergic, bites from a swarm of fire ants can cause death.

An ant swarm is one of the most efficient eating machines in existence as they attack en masse. Pretty much anything that they come across is ripped apart piece by tiny piece with their small but powerful jaws. Their cooperative nature means they can overcome almost any obstacle. In an interesting side note, effects resulting from climate change seem to be helping fire ants thrive like never before. Longer summers and warmer winters are allowing these ants to move farther and farther north without returning to the south for winter. Pretty soon even northerners may have to deal with fire ants in their pants.

If swarms are taking over your South Florida yard call the pest control professionals at Hulett today. We can get the swarm under control for you!

9 Killer Insects to Watch Out For

9 Killer Insects to Watch Out For

Usually we hear about all of the deadliest insects coming from Australia or Africa. We consider ourselves pretty safe in the U.S. But, don’t let your guard down just yet. We too have deadly insects that can deliver a fatal blow should we encounter them. They typically spend the winter far away from humans, so we’re relatively safe…for now. Here are nine deadly insects that are native to the U.S.

The Arizona bark scorpion is the only scorpion whose venom can be fatal. If you’re stung by one you can expect to experience numbness, convulsions, and frothing at the mouth. Sounds fun…

Most people are familiar with the black widow spider. But did you know that its venom is fifteen times stronger than a rattlesnakes? Symptoms include chest pain, vomiting, swelling, and fainting.

Brown recluse spiders lurk in the dark, hidden corners of your home. Their bite causes your skin cells to necrotize, and if not treated immediately, can lead to fatal infections and loss of limbs.

Puss caterpillars may look cute and cuddly, but those fuzzy “hairs” are actually spines that can become embedded in your skin and cause an incredibly painful reaction.

Anopheles mosquitos transmit malaria, and many of them are resistant to insecticides.

Kissing bugs transmit the parasite T. cruzi, which causes Chagas disease. Symptoms can include stroke, constipation, and even sudden cardiac arrest.

Wasps actually cause a surprising number of deaths in the U.S. every year. This is mostly because many people are allergic to their sting.

Africanized bees are much more aggressive than their traditional counterpart, and tend to attack in swarms. The sheer number of stings a person can get from one of these swarms is what kills people.

Do you remember learning about the bubonic plague in history class. Well, Oriental rat fleas still carry the bacteria that causes the plague. Catch this bad boy and you can expect symptoms as awful as internal bleeding and seizures.

What do you think of the U.S.’s most dangerous insects? Do they make you afraid to go to sleep at night?

Apples Spark Evolution in Insects

Apples Spark Evolution in Insects

Apples seem like one of the most common, ordinary fruits we come across in this world. They’ve been around for centuries, and even have their own motto: “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But this seemingly ordinary fruit sparked the evolution of countless insects. Before apples were introduced to the United States only one species of fruit fly existed, which fed off the fruit of Hawthorn trees. With the introduction of the apple, a new species of fruit fly emerged to feed off apples.

The evolution of this one fruit fly then had a domino effect of bringing about the evolution of many other predatory insects. The appearance of one new species creates a niche opportunity for other species to evolve and new species to form. In this case, the parasitic wasp took advantage of this new species of fruit fly to create new species of wasps. For example just three of the known predatory species of parasitic wasps that feed on these fruit flies are in the process of diverging into two more distinct new species. Who knew one fruit could have that kind of explosive effect on the insect world?

Did you know the powerful change apples brought with them when they were brought to the U.S.?

Winter Insect Woes

Winter Insect Woes

The arrival of Fall means that bugs will begin looking for places to spend the winter. Usually this means finding them inside your closet or in the trunk of your car. So, how exactly do insects survive the coldness of winter? There are four main ways that insects overwinter: migration, hibernation, activation, and invasion.

Insects have their own “snowbirds” that fly south for the winter and then return to the north when Spring comes. Butterflies are a great example of insects that do this. Unfortunately, just because they may leave for the winter, they also return to invade your lives when winter ends.

Most insects employ the invasion method, staying in one place all year round. Many will simply move in with humans, finding out of the way spots in peoples’ home such as attics or closets. Other insects find shelter in forest undergrowth and other warm and dark environments.

Some insects actually perk up and stay active during winter. Honeybees for example have been found to stay semi-active in hollow trees and their hive during winter. How do they do this? They consume roughly 30 pounds of stored honey. The oxidation of the honey produces heat, which is circulated by the fanning of the bees’ wings.

Finally, most northern insects choose to hibernate during winter. They enter a state called “diapause,” and their bodies adapt accordingly to the changes in the amount of sunlight and temperature, among other things.

Have you noticed insects using any of these methods to survive winter?

Sexy Bug Repellent by Victoria’s Secret

Sexy Bug Repellent by Victoria’s Secret

Usually it’s smart to avoid wearing sweet smelling perfumes during the summer months. You’re likely to get eaten alive my mosquitos, who are very attracted to the floral, sweet scents. But their appears to be a new fragrance on the market that will actually repel bugs better than traditional bug repellants. And who created this magic scent? Victoria’s Secret of course. Their new fragrance, Victoria’s Secret Bombshell, may just be women’s answer to nasty smelling bug sprays and lotions.

A study was done at New Mexico State University, testing ten different commercially sold products to see how well they repelled mosquitos. The four products containing DEET naturally came out on top, but in a surprising twist of events, Victoria’s Secret Bombshell perfume was able to repel mosquitos for a solid two hours. This challenges the traditional belief that floral scents attract mosquitos. They may actually give off a masking odor, which lowers the amount of mosquitos attracted to the sweet scent of your human blood. The only stipulation: the researchers did use a high concentration of the scent, which means for it to work you may have to go around smelling so strongly of flowers that mosquitos won’t be the only thing avoiding you.

What do you usually use to repel mosquitos? Would you consider using this Victoria’s Secret fragrance?

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