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.
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.
Imagine marrying a woman and taking her to be your wife. As she grows old, she has another child, who looks exactly like her. Now imagine marrying that new child, and throwing away your old wife due to old age. Although it sounds a bit weird, this is exactly what Reticulitermes speratus, a special species of termites, do for their entire lives.
The termite King spends his life mating with the same female, over and over. This continues until another Queen is hatched in order to take her mother’s place. Queen termites use something called parthenogenesis, or asexual reproduction, in order to create a literal clone of herself. The special thing about this clone is that this newborn queen is immune to the King’s sperm, because the little ‘hatches’ that are normally used by the King to inject his sperm, are sealed closed. Normally, if an egg is fertilized it will simply become a normal worker. However, in this case, due to the blocked off hatch, the egg produced by the Queen will have a 100% chance of turning into the next colony Queen as she grows up, because she shares the same genes as her mother. An entire colony cannot be asexually reproduced however, or else complications would arise. This is why the Queen still lays normal eggs for the King to fertilize, in order to keep producing regular workers. Queen termites can live for decades, and only begin to asexually reproduce as they age.
If left alone, these termite colonies could practically live forever, which would cause quite a lot of damage to our ecosystem. Termites are known to be extremely ravenous, and cause quite a lot of damage very fast. Leaving them alone, or allowing a colony to prosper could be very harmful. In other words, as cool or fascinating as their mating system is, termites are still a problem we’ll have to deal with. That’s why annual Termite Inspections are a must! Read more @ http://www.geek.com/science/screw-succession-termite-queen-found-to-be-genetically-immortal-1610165/
Crazy ants. named one of the most invasive species of bugs. Their sudden explosion in population has brought a large amount of attention to southern states such as Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi and Florida. Named for their psychotic behavior, crazy ants often try to get into any space that they’re able to fit. Although the ants do not have a harmful bite to humans, they still cause many problems for homeowners or farmers who often find their homes, appliances or even their bodies to be covered in the small insects. Ants even crowd around animals such as cows or chickens, leading to asphyxiation. This large amount of small bugs is quickly becoming a problem. So far, there hasn’t been a method found which stops their rapid growth rates.
Originally found in Texas in 2002, crazy ants are descendants of Nylanderia pubens, a species of ant which has been in Florida since the 1950s. However, those ants are much more relaxed and less invasive – many scientists at first doubted that such insane ants could be relatives of this calm species. But as the number of ants quickly multiplied, people knew something must be done. In 1999, the National Invasive Species Council was founded in order to combat the effects that intrusive species. This included 13 federal agencies and departments. Groups such as the Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service all combined in order to work together against these up and coming menaces. As the amount of crazy ants rapidly grew, the attention to the NISC did as well. They summoned a committee of different educational entomologists and state representatives to pool their information. Most concluded that to begin to combat this invasive species, a great amount of funding would be needed. But this meeting took place in 2008, when the American economy began to fall. Money would be short on hand, especially for such a minor issue as this. Even now, the government spends over $120 billion a year on intrusive species that take over different environments. The imported red fire ant costs over $1 billion a year – to Texas alone. Crazy ants, which are spreading much faster than fire ants, could quickly become an expensive problem.
Even in the fall, as the temperature drops worker ants die in enormous amounts, the queen ants survive, and as spring comes along the population begins to boom once more. All this goes to show how a small problem, if not taken seriously, can turn into a large dilemma. For more info visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/08/magazine/crazy-ants.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&
For a free ant inspection visit www.bugs.com
A mosquito-borne illness alert that was issued back in August for Escambia County has been lifted, the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County announced Tuesday.
Although mosquito-borne illnesses are less common in the winter months, the health department still urges local residents to “Drain and Cover” to protect against being bitten by mosquitoes:
Drain standing water.
- Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots or any other containers where sprinkler or rain water has collected. Water held in open containers in your house is also a potential breeding location for mosquitoes.
- Discard old tires, bottles, pots, broken appliances and other items that aren’t being used.
- Empty and clean birdbaths and pets’ water bowls at least twice a week.
- When protecting boats and vehicles from rain, ensure that tarps don’t accumulate water.
- Maintain swimming pools in good condition and keep them adequately chlorinated. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use.
Cover skin with clothing or repellent and cover doors and windows.
- Clothing – Wear shoes, socks, long pants and long sleeves when mosquitoes are most prevalent.
- Use repellents with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535.
- Always use repellents according to the label. Using too much repellent doesn’t make it work better or last longer.
- Re-apply mosquito repellent as often as needed to prevent mosquito landings and bites.
- When using repellent on children, apply to your hands first and then rub on their arms and legs.
- Instead of repellent, use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months old.
- Place screens on windows, doors, porches, and patios. Always repair broken screens.
For more information contact the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County at (850) 595-6700 or visit www.EscambiaHealth.com.
What steps can a restaurant owner take on their own to prevent/control pest populations?
- Seal up any cracks and holes on the outside of the facility including areas where utilities and pipes enter.
- Make sure vents are screened and gaps around windows and doors are sealed.
- Keep tree branches and shrubbery well trimmed.
- Inspect boxes, bags and other packaging thoroughly to curb hitchhiking pests.
- Don’t allow food to sit on counters or shelves in open containers. All food and water sources should be kept sealed unless currently in use.
- Clean all food spills regularly.
- Store garbage in sealed containers and dispose of it regularly.
- Replace weather-stripping and repair loose mortar around the basement foundation and windows.
- Never store food on the floor. Always lift it up on shelves so that rodents and insects do not have easy access.
- Comply will all regulations regarding pests in food service facilities.
- A licensed and qualified pest professional is your best resource to ensure these steps are completed properly.
There are a number of pest-proofing measures that homeowners can take to protect their home and families from the threats posed by rodents. NPMA recommends the following:
- Store boxes and containers off the floor and organize items often to prevent rodents from residing in undisturbed areas.
- Seal cracks and holes, including areas where utilities and pipes enter the home.
- Store food in thick metal or plastic containers with tight lids.
- Clean up spilled food right away immediately and wash dishes and cooking utensils soon after use.
- Keep outside cooking areas and grills clean.
- Do not leave pet food or water bowls out overnight.
- Keep bird feeders away from the house and use squirrel guards to limit access to the feeder by squirrels and other rodents.
- Use a thick plastic or metal garbage can with a tight lid and keep sealed at all times.
- Keep grains and animal feed in thick plastic or metal containers with tight lids. In the evening, return uneaten animal feed to containers with lids.
- If you find rodent feces, hear sounds of scurrying in the walls or observe other signs of a rodent infestation, contact a licensed pest professional to inspect and treat the pest problem.