If insects were ninjas… well… they’d be pretty good at it. Many of the advanced technologies humans have developed for combat purposes, insects possess naturally. In some cases, their nature has our tech beat.
A man crossing into the United States from Mexico forgot to declare his bugs as food at the port of entry. The unidentified driver told agents he forgot to declare the bags as food items. He was given a $175 fine and the insects were seized. Agents sent the bugs to the U.S. Department of Agriculture where they were identified as a type of stink bug. Pests must be reported when brought into the country because they feed on plants, CBP officials said in a release.
Moral of the story is don’t forget to report pests when crossing the border since they feed on plants!
As of 2006 there are 9,000 to 10,000 known ant species and researchers believe that there may be more than 20,000 species worldwide. With this fact in mind it is no surprise that 25% of homeowners listed ants as their main pest concern according to research conducted in 2005 by the National Pest Management Association. This same study revealed that more than half of all homeowners have had problems with ants – making them the most prevalent pest nationwide.
Ants are social insects and form highly organized colonies with up to millions of members each having a role. Spotting one ant unfortunately signifies that the troops are somewhere close by.
Homeowners should particularly watch out for fire and carpenter ants. Fire ants, found mainly in the south, are vicious and can sting repeatedly if disturbed. Carpenter ants attack wood that is or has been wet or damaged by mold and can build tunnels through dry, undamaged wood causing costly property damage.
Hulett Environmental Services offers the following tips for minimizing invasion by ants:
For more information on other ant species and preventative tips visit www.bugs.com
The inside scoop on occasional invaders
Occasional invaders are pests that find their way into your home once in a while. They are typically looking for food, warmth, or just lost their way and stumbled into your home. Traditionally they are not disease-spreading pests and will not cause any kind of structural damage to your property.
Ladybugs, boxelder bugs, spiders, and cluster flies are all examples of this type of pests.
The good news about occasional invaders is that once they are inside they don’t reproduce or feed, but are just a nuisance with their presence. Some of these pests, like the ladybug, are actually beneficial pests! Remind yourself of this as you scoop them up from your windowsills during the winter months. Ladybugs feed on a wide range of insects making them a pest that you want to have around – just not INSIDE your home!
The best strategy for dealing with occasional invaders is preventing them from penetrating your home. However, once they are already inside, depending on your tolerance level you can remove small amounts of nuisance pests simply by vacuuming them up. If there are too many pests inside or if you have a lower pest tolerance, a pest control professional will be able to assist you in controlling your infestation. Just remember, if you vacuum them up you should remove the bag when finished. Seal it in a plastic bag and dispose of it with your normal garbage.
There are many steps homeowners can take to reduce the likelihood of occasional invaders:
Meet artist Vadim Zaritsk. He is like nay other artist except for the fact that he uses a very unusual material for his paintings – butterfly wings. He is well known for using butterfly wings to paint pictures of various politicians, landscapes, fellow artists, landscapes, and still life’s. To see some of Vadims pieces of work check out: Butterfly wings for politicians’ faces
Most blood-sucking insects urinate while they feed so they can avoid filling up on fluid and get more nutrients out of their meal.
But some species of mosquito also do what is called preurination – they excrete drops of freshly ingested blood without extracting any of the nourishing blood cells.
The behavior has always confused scientists because “blood is a very precious resource,” said Claudio R. Lazzari, an entomologist at François Rabelais University in Tours, France. “The risk of taking it is very high.”
New research, conducted by Dr. Lazzari and colleagues and published in the journal Current Biology, shows that the preurine may serve to keep the cold-blooded mosquitoes from overheating while they take their blood meal, which can be as warm as 104 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the host animal.
Roughly one to two minutes after she starts feeding, an Anopheles stephensi mosquito will excrete urine and preurine through the anus, at the end of the abdomen. Sometimes a drop of the fluid will form and cling to the body before falling off; when this happens, some fluid evaporates like sweat and cools the mosquito’s abdomen by almost four degrees.
Mosquitoes also feed on nectar, but they tend not to preurinate when they eat lower-temperature, sugar-based meals.
The mosquito is not the only insect that uses ingested food to regulate its temperature. Aphids excrete honeydew to prevent their abdomens from getting too hot, and some bee species regurgitate a bit of nectar to keep their heads cool while they fly.
Ant-nest invaders beware: The African ant species Crematogaster striatula has venom so potent that termites don’t even need to come in contact with it to feel its wrath. The chemical can kill at a distance as a group of ants approach the termite butt-first.
The poison is emitted by a gland called the Dufour gland, near the worker ants’ stingers, and seems to have three functions. The chemicals emitted by the gland not only paralyze and kill termite prey, they also attract ant nestmates nearby to assist them. The ants invoke the chemicals the same way to repel alien ants.
Learning more about how insects defend their homes may also help us defend our homes against pesky invaders. The researchers, led by Angelique Vetillard of the University of Toulouse, in France, characterized the specific chemicals in the venom, providing initial clues about the source of the venom toxicity, which could help researchers produce natural insecticides.
This research provides “a basis from which further studies can be conducted in the search for natural insecticides, including new molecules effective against insects resistant to currently used insecticides,” Vetillard said in a statement.
These African ants live among rotting branches on the ground in cocoa-tree plantations. They prey upon the termites, even though these termites have developed elaborate architectural, behavioral, morphological and chemical means to defend themselves.
To figure out how the ants’ chemicals work, Vetillard and colleagues set up field experiments. They found that the chemical was more deadly to the termites than to other ants. Invader ants tend to back off and run when cornered, but the termites are more likely to stand their ground in the face of danger. When cornered, the ants were able to poison the termites from a distance of 0.2-to-0.4 inches. The researchers suggest their thin skin may also make them more sensitive to the poison.
When an ant detected a termite, it approached with its abdominal tip (containing its chemical-laden stinger) pointed toward the prey. By raising its stinger the ants create tiny particles of the toxins, which fly through the air. The chemicals their stingers emit seemed to draw their nestmates to help them take down the termite invader. As expected, the termite boldly stood its ground; but after about 10 minutes it fell down and rolled onto its back, its legs batting the air, paralyzed.
Next, one lone ant approached, watching for the leg movements to subside. When there were fewer movements of its legs, all of the ants approached the termite and prepared to seize it by an appendage and bring it back to their nest.
When the ant workers discovered several Camponotus brutus, an alien ant species, imbibing honey on their territory, they defended their turf by again very slowly approaching butt first, stinger tip pointed toward the aliens, causing them to retreat. Without there being contact between the antagonists, the intruding ants slowly backed away from the smell of the chemical, though they seemed unhurt.
The study was published Dec. 14 in the journal PLoS ONE.
There are no ants native to Hawaii, so whenever a researcher sees an ant, it’s an invader. While scouting for the long-established Argentine ant along Waipoli Road in 2009, University of Hawaii entomologist Paul Krushelnycky discovered an extensive field of odorous house ants.
It was a surprise, because although these ants are native to much of North America, they hadn’t been found in Hawaii before. In a research paper published in Myrmecological News (online in September, scheduled for print early next year; www.myrmecologicalnews.
org), Krushelnycky and Grzesiek Buczkowski, an entomologist at Purdue University, wonder whether it may signal a new wave of ant expansion.
Over the past century, tropical ants, including fire ants, have swept the world, but temperate zone ants have not been as adventurous.
The mysterious colony of odorous house ants in remote Waipoli raises more questions than it answers.
And while odorous house ants do not bite people or chomp on buildings, they could pose an additional threat to native insects by outcompeting them.
Krushelnycky said he is concerned because invaders have already made huge inroads at lower elevations, and the odorous house ant (Tapinoma sessile), which lives as far north as Canada, might find a home in the higher elevations of Haleakala National Park, where tropical ants find it too cold.
Odorous house ants have already found a happy home in Kula. In North America, they are inconspicuous, living in small colonies in leaf litter, but when they move to the city, or to warm Maui, they learn different habits.
The Waipoli infestation covers a huge area, about half a mile across at least, and it may be a supercolony. DNA testing will be needed to confirm that, but ant fights suggest it.
In the wild, odorous house ant colonies are small, with a single queen. In warm buildings at Purdue University in Indiana, Buczkowski said, they have formed supercolonies with 25,000 queens and 5 million workers.
By putting workers from different nests in a glass vial, Krushelnycky and Buczkowski observed whether they made antagonistic movements or got along quietly.
Ordinarily, ants from two nests would not get along. In Kula, the ants were peaceable, although less so the farther apart any two nests were, suggesting that all are closely related.
That does not mean the ants are gathered densely together. The nests are widely dispersed, and the ants share their territory with seven other species, including the Argentine ant and the big-headed ant.
This raises questions for the entomologists, because past work has found odorous house ants to be outcompeted by Argentine and big-headed ants. They seem to be holding their own in Kula, though.
Cas Vanderwoude, who devised a novel bait that allowed eradication of a colony of little fire ants in Waihee before they could irrevocably establish themselves, wrote in an email: “It’s really hard to predict what a new species will do once it arrives in a different environment. . . . Certainly Paul’s research on Argentine ants in midelevation parts of Maui show there could be cause for concern” with odorous ants as well.
“The issue here is that we have a very narrow window of opportunity to eradicate something once it is discovered. Without certainty about potential impacts, it is difficult to present an economic case for funding.”
Funding is scarce now, anyhow, and nobody knows how long the odorous ants have been at Waipoli, according to the researchers.
Because they already cover such a big area, Krushelnycky said he is doubtful they could be eliminated.
The little fire ant colony that was destroyed was in a much smaller area.
There is a difference of opinion about what odor odorous house ants emit.
They come from a family notable for the smelly defensive chemicals they make. Some think their smell is like coconut, although Krushelnycky said that, at best, it smells like rotting coconut to him.
Buczkowski described it to a Purdue journalist as reminiscent of pina colada.
Vanderwoude, who works in the Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit at the University of Hawaii-Hilo and with the state Department of Agriculture, participated in the Waipoli surveys, but he said he doesn’t know why Tapinoma smells as it does.
Many ants have distinctive smells (and tastes; Vanderwoude sometimes tastes ants). “There is another species in Australia that smells like mint-chocolate!” Vanderwoude wrote. But, “some ant species taste vile, so choose carefully!”
* Harry Eagar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Don’t let the bedbugs bite” used to be just a cute expression to say before saying goodnight. Today, it’s an actual warning. Bedbugs are back and they continue to attack a variety of businesses, from clothing retailers to hotels to movie theaters. According to a new study by the National Pest Management Association, 95 percent of pest-control companies nationwide have had run-ins with bedbug infestations in the past year.
While bedbugs get all the attention, plenty of other interesting, rather ominous insects are out there wreaking havoc on consumers and costing companies millions. So if you feel like being unnerved by bedbugs isn’t enough and you’re wondering what other creepy, crawling critters your business should be scared of, check out this list.
What they threaten: Hawaii’s coffee growers, an estimated $60 million industry.
Modus operandi: These insects, which are well-known in Central America and South America, were recently discovered in Hawaii by a University of Hawaii graduate student. The bug bores into the coffee cherry and lays its eggs. As soon as the larvae, the juvenile coffee borers, arrive on the scene, they instantly feeding on the coffee bean. Borers typically ruin about 20 percent of a crop and do an estimated $500 million in damage every year.
Fun fact: The coffee cherry borer is a small beetle, about the size of a sesame seed.