A new study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, is among the first to link parasites to cannibalism. It seems that according to researchers at the University of Leeds, that some parasites can make an animal more likely to eat its own kind.
There is sufficient evidence that certain parasites can influence and even directly control the behavior of those they infect. Mandy Bunke of the University of Leeds and her team assert that both parasites and cannibalism are ever-present in nature and documented in more than 3000 species, including humans.
“Increased demand for food by the parasites may drive the host to be more cannibalistic,” Bunk said. Co-author Mhairi Alexander of Stellenbosch University added, “We do know that parasites can affect foraging behavior and also vulnerability to predation in a range of species.”
During the study, researchers focused on the shrimpGammarus duebeni celticus, native to waters off Ireland. A tiny parasite called Pleistophora mulleri lives off of the shrimp.
Bunke and her team collected the shrimp from Downhill River at County Antrim, Northern Ireland. “We found that parasites had a surprising effect on their shrimp hosts, making them stronger cannibals,” Bunke said. “Adult shrimp with parasites ate more young shrimp of the same species than the uninfected shrimp did.”
Although the parasites are just 5 micrometers long millions of them invade the host’s muscles. Once inside, the parasites severely damage the shrimp’s muscles and continue to crave more nutrients. The host becomes hungrier too.
According to senior author Alison Dunn of the University of Leeds, “being more cannibalistic might help the host to deal with the cost of the infection as it gains more food.”
“Interestingly,” she continued, “we have also found in earlier work that infected shrimp may be able to catch and eat less prey of other animal species, so perhaps cannibalism of smaller shrimp is the only way these sick animals can survive.”
Darth Vader Meets Bugs
What do you get when you combine a mask of Darth Vader and a bunch of bugs? Surprisingly, a really brilliant and unique piece of art!
Artist Klaus Enrique was sketching a tarantula one day when he realized how similar the spider looked to the mouth and noise of the Darth Vader mask. He decided to explore what other insects he could use to create his own Darth Vader mask.
Accroding to Wired.com, Enrique spent four months arranging dead butterflies, moths, scorpions, and millipedes along with a fly and a cicada on a plasticine bust. The finished product is amazing and shows this iconic character in a light we have never seen before; a blend of beautiful, yet scary. The finished product took nearly 300 hours and used over 150 different insects sourced from around the world.
Enrique said of his creation, “When I saw [the finished statue] I was like ‘I think this Darth Vader happens to be even scarier than the real Darth Vader.”
What other iconic movie characters would you like to see made out of insects? The possibilities are endless!
Cheese, crackers, crickets?!
Believe it or not, there is a growing appetite for edible insects.
According to the Seattle Times, there is a growing trend of “Entropreneurs” who are trying to persuade Americans to eat more bugs, which require less land, food and water, than other animal protein. Plus, some insects are packed with nutritional benefits.
At least 2 billion people worldwide include insects in their diets, and if the “entropreneurs” are successful, Americans will add to this number. However, there is no doubt that this will be a tough sell.
“Insects are viewed as what ruins food — a roach in your soup, a fly in your salad. That’s the biggest obstacle — the ick factor,” said Daniella Martin, the “Girl Meets Bug” blogger and author of “Edible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet.”
What do you think? Do the environmental and nutritional advantages of insects outweigh the ”ick” factor?
As the name suggests, dampwood termites infest wood with a high moisture content. Dampwood termites are normally larger in size than other termite species. Bodies of king and queen dampwood termites range in size from 1/2 inch to 5/8 inch long and have two pairs of wings that are equal in size and shape and extend beyond their abdomen. Nymphs range up to 5/8 inch and worker dampwood termites are up to 3/4 inch.
(Click image above)
It’s no wonder that haunted houses are decorated with fake rats, rubber bats, plastic spiders and stringy spider webs. After all, having these pests in your home can be a true nightmare – and unlike the spooky decorations, real pests can hang around long after Halloween is over. In order to keep your home from turning into a haunted house, the National Pest Management Association recommends that homeowners take steps to pest-proof this Halloween.
“In the fall, we often hear from homeowners who are dealing with pests like spiders, bats and rodents, so it’s no coincidence they are associated with Halloween,” explains Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the NPMA. “Halloween is a fun celebration of all things creepy, crawly, but the holiday also serves as a reminder that the real-life versions of these pests can cause serious issues inside our homes.”
Spiders, while beneficial in controlling other bug populations in the home, can sometimes bite humans. Brown recluse spiders, for example, inject poisonous venom with their bites. These spiders are commonly found in woodpiles, basements and closets.
Bats tend to enter our homes through chimneys or vents, and may hide out in attics or other dark, secluded areas of a home. Infected bats can spread rabies, and their droppings can spread organisms that cause the lung disease, histoplasmosis.
Rodents like mice and rats can spread hantavirus and contaminate food. They can also gnaw on electrical wires, which can spark fires.
The NPMA offers these tips for preventing a pest infestation this Halloween season:
- Seal cracks around the home’s exterior, especially where pipes and wiring enter homes.
- Do not leave food lying around, as it attracts pests.
- Store fire wood at least 20 feet away from the house and five inches off the ground.
- If you see signs of an infestation in your home, contact a licensed pest professional.
Pests are adaptable and will always seek shelter. Most times the shelter is in our homes and businesses. Homeowners who do not pest proof their homes are taking a real chance. Pests are always drawn to conducive conditions. Unfortunately, the warmth, shelter and food found in our homes are just irresistible to pests, especially in winter moths.
Although some homeowners may have higher pest tolerance than others, pests can create major havoc inside a home, ultimately creating a dangerous and potentially costly situation for a homeowner. People who decide against pest proofing for the winter could be unintentionally creating prime conditions for property-damaging pests like termites to surface in the spring.
Hulett Environmental Services recommends the following steps to pest proof your home:
- Seal up any cracks and holes on the outside of your home including areas where utilities and pipes enter your home. Frequent vacuuming can help to eliminate tiny pests that other pests feed on.
- Make sure vents are screened and gaps around windows and doors are sealed.
- Keep tree branches and shrubbery well trimmed and away from the house.
- Inspect boxes, grocery bags and other packaging thoroughly to curb hitchhiking insects.
- Keep basements, attics, and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry.
- Store garbage in sealed containers and dispose of it regularly.
- Store fire wood at least 20 feet away from the house and five inches off of the ground.
- Repair fascia and soffits and rotted roof shingles; some insects are drawn to deteriorating wood.
- Replace weather-stripping and repair loose mortar around the basement foundation and windows.
- A licensed and qualified pest control professional is your best resource to ensure these steps are completed properly.
While it’s normal to see bats, spiders and other creatures invade your front doorstep on Halloween in the form of trick-or-treaters or spooky décor, Hulett Environmental Services advises people to be on the lookout for real-life ghoulish pests this fall.
Halloween is a fun celebration of all things creepy and crawly, but it also serves as a reminder that actual pest infestations can cause quite the fright. The spirit of this spooky holiday, we are reminding homeowners to take preventative measures to keep pests from taking up residence indoors.
Here’s a guide to some common critters that may spook homeowners this fall, along with tips to prevent them from turning the home into a haunted house.
Rats – One of the most reviled pests, rats can contaminate food, spread dangerous diseases and create fire hazards by chewing through electrical wires. Before homeowners bring boxes of pumpkins and faux cobwebs inside to decorate for Halloween, they should inspect them for signs of an infestation such as gnaw marks and rodent droppings.
Spiders – Some species of spiders, mainly the brown recluse and black widow, can administer a painful bite when disturbed. Homeowners can avoid coming in contact with spiders by wearing heavy gloves when moving items that have been stored for a long period of time and shaking out shoes before wearing them.
Bed bugs – Bed bugs are similar to vampires in that they feed off of human blood, typically at night. These elusive pests do not transmit disease, but they can leave red, itchy welts on the skin. Before dressing up in a costume that came from a rental or second-hand store, make sure to inspect it for bed bugs.
Hulett Environmental Services offers some additional tips to prevent a pest infestation this Halloween season:
- Seal cracks and crevices around the home’s exterior using caulk and steel wool. Pay close attention to where utility pipes enter the structure.
- Keep basements, attics and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry.
- Keep kitchen counters clean, store food in airtight containers and dispose of garbage regularly in sealed receptacles.
- Store fire wood at least 20 feet away from the house and keep shrubbery well trimmed.
- If you see signs of an infestation in your home, contact a licensed pest professional.