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Can Spiders Hear What We Are Saying?

Can Spiders hear What We Are Saying

For decades, entomologists around the world have all agreed that spiders cannot hear sounds. But how could arthropod researchers be so sure that spiders are unable to hear? Well . . . they just looked at the spiders with a magnifying glass and did not find any ears – case closed!

This line of lazy thinking changed when a study conducted by a team of researchers noticed that spiders were able to hear people talking from meters away. Later on, a lead bug researcher from Cornell University discovered that spiders do, indeed, possess an acute sense of hearing.

However, despite a spider’s lack of ears, as well as all of the necessary components that allow an organism to register sounds, such as an eardrum, spiders are able to register sounds through tiny sensitive hairs located on their legs. Once the outside sound waves make contact with the hairs, the hairs begin to vibrate. These vibrations are translated into neural activity, so, in other words, spiders don’t just experience the sensation of vibration, rather, the spiders are hearing the sound waves, and not just feeling them.

The North American Jumping Spider served as the subject for these experiments. Now, the very same team involved with the NA Jumping Spider wants to subject wolf spiders, and fishing spiders to the very same experiment in order to see if these two popular spiders possess the same ability.

Do you think that nearly all spider species possess a medium (like the vibrating leg hairs in the case of the jumping spider) that receives information which is eventually translated into neural activity that the spider can cognize into sound?


What Engineers Can Learn From Insect Survival Methods

What Engineers Can Learn From Insect Survival Methods

The first ever study exploring the biomechanics of arthropod bone repair has been conducted. This may not sound too exciting, but scientists believe that the field of biomechanics and bioengineering can be advanced by studying the interesting way in which bugs repair their own bodies after injury.

When an insect sustains an injury, it can repair itself by laying a patch of cuticle underneath the wounded area of the insect’s body. This new cuticle functions like a bandage and it successfully strengthens the wounded area allowing the insect to continue with its day. This may sound amazing, however, we humans are able to regrow broken bones, while insects cannot. Instead insects use something like a permanent cast or splint that allows them to continue using their injured limb.

The repaired limb is not as strong as the original limb before it was injured, but the repaired limb is strong enough to not make any difference in the insect’s ability to function in the wild. For example, locusts are able to repair their limbs up to two-thirds their original strength, which is enough for the locusts to continue using their legs for jumping long distances, their primary method of evading predators. This method of bone repair in insects has engineers interested in learning more about the biomechanics behind this unique biological process. Researchers are hoping to mimic this ability through engineering.

Why would engineers be interested in learning more about the process of bone repair in insects? What sorts of things could engineers produce if they could successfully reproduce this biological process through engineering?

Where Is Zika Going Next?

Where Is Zika Going Next?

Before the summer is over there will be as many as four hundred non-travel related cases of Zika in Florida, according to an expert in biostatistics. In addition to the increased amount of Zika cases in Florida, the Zika virus will move out of Florida and into other states. According to researchers at the University of Florida, Texas, South Carolina and Oklahoma, are all states that will experience cases of non-travel related Zika.

Biostaticians, using data collected from Brazil, are able to accurately predict in which state Zika will enter, and how many cases of Zika will be reported in that state. In addition to the states mentioned above, Alabama is projected to have eleven cases of non-travel related Zika infection before Fall. Arkansas and Oklahoma were the two northernmost states that are predicted to experience an outbreak of Zika. However, it must be remembered that a year ago many of these very same biostatisticians were not even sure if the United States was going to experience any cases of Zika within its boundaries. Now, due to how aggressively it has hit the US, we may want to be weary of the projections coming from scientists.

Many researchers have relied on retrospective analysis to predict future outbreaks, but so far there has not been any researchers to use prospective cohorts. A researcher at Emerging Pathogens Institute is planning on following mothers over time in order to document the symptoms and the pregnancy outcomes of those mothers who are infected.

The researchers are working alongside the Colombia National Institute of Health, which has gathered a cohort of fifteen thousand women who knew that they were infected while pregnant and others who think that they had it. This is the biggest cohort in all of Latin America, and it will be invaluable in revealing how the date of contraction is correlated with the severity of the birth defects.

Do you think that the degree to which the USA could be harmed by the Zika virus can be predicted by analyzing data on Zika from Brazil?

Miami Beach Botanical Gardens was also recently ordered to uproot Bromeliads , which had been identified as a mosquito breeding grounds. City officials are targeting mosquito breeding grounds to curve the spread of Zika in Florida. Officials are recommending homeowners treat bromedliads with bacterial pesticides to flush out mosquito larvae. To read more on this matter visit

Amazonian Butterfly Steals Its Food As A Survival Method

Amazonian Butterfly Steals Its Food As A Survival Method

Most animals that we know of instinctively hunt for their food, but an Amazonian butterfly simply steals its food from defenseless ants. The butterfly is named Allotype annulifera, and it survives by stealing the bamboo secretions that ants forage and depend on for sustenance. Scientists regard this behavior as a bizarre phenomenon.

There is term to describe this sort of interspecies theft and it is known as “kleptoparasitism.” This particular species of butterfly represents one of the rare instances of this type of animal behavior. The species was discovered a century ago, however, very little was know about this type of butterfly until this study and a recent resurgence of interest.

Before the butterfly forms and is a caterpillar the relationship between ants and caterpillars is mutually beneficial. The ants will guard the caterpillar from predators while the caterpillar allows the ants to feed on the caterpillar’s nutritious secretions. The caterpillar will seek the protection of ants by luring them into its area with a sort of musical sound they are able to produce with an organ that causes vibrations that are inaudible to the human ear.

It is when caterpillars become butterflies that the theft begins. The butterflies will even fool ants into thinking that they are one of them with the ant-like dots visible on the butterfly’s wings. It is possible that the ants still receive some benefit from their relationship with butterflies, but if they do, scientists are unable to ascertain what that benefit is, and scientists feel safe in assuming that the butterflies are flat guilty of thievery.

Researchers in charge of the recent study that uncovered this behavior are unsure why the ants do not act in defense of their food. The ants’ tolerance for this butterflies behavior is likely due to their possible inability to process what is going on, and the ants are perhaps not even aware that their precious food is being robbed by mischievous butterflies. The ants also suffer poor eyesight, which is probably why they mistake a butterfly’s wings for one of their own kind. The researchers have not dismissed the possibility that the butterflies may release pheromone that alters the ants’ perception allowing the butterflies to operate as they please.

In what manner could a colony of ants defend their food from the larger butterfly?

Insects Are Helping Scientists Make Medical Breakthroughs

Insects Are Helping Scientists Make Medical Breakthroughs

Having a fear of creepy-crawlies is normal, in fact there may even be an evolutionary explanation for the fear that so many people show towards insects and spiders. Most people want to avoid insects at all costs whether they have a fear of them or not. However, maybe insects deserve a little more attention and respect than we want to give them as some insects are helping scientists find new treatments for devastating illnesses.

The housefly, for example, shares many of its genes with the fruit fly, and the fruit fly shares sixty percent of its genetic makeup with humans. Due to this genetic relationship, researchers can examine the genes of a housefly to better understand a human’s genetic functioning. Perhaps, by encoding fly gene sequences, researchers can learn to prevent genetic abnormalities in humans. Research has also shown that forty percent of two hundred and five different species of spider venom contained compounds that work to block pain receptors in the human body. And it is not just spider venom that has medical researchers excited. As it turns out spider silk can also be used to help victims of nerve damage. Reconstructive nerve surgery using spider silk is already a reality in animal models.

Researchers are also excited about the medical benefits that bees bring to the table. A chemical in bee venom called melittin can potentially destroy the Human Immunodeficiency. The melittin can make a whole in the double layered membrane that surrounds the Virus. Once this whole is made then toxic nanoparticles could be delivered into the viral cell, effectively killing it. In fact, researchers are already looking at bee venom as an ingredient in an anti-HIV vaginal gel. Bees could also help develop antibiotic drugs since bees produce an antimicrobial substance that can possibly eradicated staph infections, and other bacterial infections.

It may not be unfair to say that the future of medicine belongs to bugs.

Why would some types of spider venom contain pain blocking components?

What Is The Difference Between Spiders And Opiliones?

Difference Between Spiders And Opiliones

We have all heard of spiders, but what are opiliones? First of all opiliones are better known as “harvestman.” Second of all there does not exist much difference between the two types since they are both arthropods and they are both members of the arachnida animal class. Despite all of their similarities, there are indeed many differences. For example, one prominent trait that makes spiders distinct from opiliones is the spider’s ability to produce venom, which they all do, while there does not exist any species of opiliones that possess glands that are capable of producing venom.

All arachnids on earth, including opiliones, have fang-like mouths with two pedipalps and a chelicerae. However, the opiliones don’t possess actual fangs, and their jaw muscles are far too weak to break the skin of any human. The opiliones do not pose any danger at all to humans.

One other notable difference involves the manner in which these two types of arachnids consume food. The spider, as you probably know, liquefies its food in order to suck it up through their hollow fangs. The opiliones, on the other hand, literally chew their food and swallow it, much like how we humans eat our food. So if someone asks you which type of arachnid you would rather have hiding in your bathroom, you will now know which to pick, I would go for the one that cannot bite.

Since opiliones don’t have fangs like spiders do does that mean that spiders have an evolutionary advantage over opiliones?

It Has Now Been Confirmed That Zika Carrying Mosquitoes Are At Miami Beach

Tests Confirm That Zika Carrying Mosquitoes Are At Miami Beach

For the very first time experts in Florida have determined that, without a doubt, there are mosquitoes located at Miami Beach that have tested positive for Zika. Currently, Florida is the only state where Zika carrying flies have been found, but it could only be a matter of time before other states join the club.

The tests at Miami Beach were conducted in the same area where a few people were known to have become infected. Although this is scary news, experts believe that it is not likely that major Zika outbreaks will occur in the Untied States like it has in South American countries. This is because Americans live in less crowded conditions than our southern neighbors, and we also use more screened windows and air conditioning, which does a lot to separate man and mosquito. The number is now 45 homegrown cases of Zika that have been found in Florida.

How far across the country do you think the Zika virus will end up spreading before we can stop it?

So You Think You Know Everything About Dragonflies

Dragonfly facts

Almost everyone has seen a dragonfly at least once in their lifetime. They’re big, colorful, and generally well-liked, as they kill many insect pests and leave us humans alone. But while these insects may seem pretty normal and you probably don’t get too excited whenever you see one, you might be surprised at some of the incredible things you don’t know about these rather amazing creatures. Here are some crazy facts about dragonflies that will blow your mind.

Dragonflies were actually one of the first insects to exist on the Earth, having come into existence around 300 million years ago. And no other insect can match them when it comes to aerial feats. Dragonflies are masters of flight, able to literally calculate the trajectory and speed of their prey and masterfully ambush them mid-flight. They also hold the record for the longest migration and can reach speeds of 18 miles per hour. But that’s not all! Dragonflies are super agile fliers, able to fly in any direction, including backwards and sideways, and can even hover in one spot. This incredible agility is due to their four wings being able to each move independently of each other, allowing them to alter each wing’s angle. They are basically the stealth fighter jets of the insect world. If you are a small bug such as a gnat or fly, beware because they have a 95 percent rate of success. That’s not even the most terrifying part. Dragonflies have incredibly sharp, serrated mandibles, which they use to tear apart their prey, first ripping their wings off to prevent them from being able to escape and then devouring their victim like a shark ripping into a seal.

Dragonflies also have eyes that are almost supernaturally powerful. These compound eyes make up most of their heads that have 30,000 facets, giving them almost 360-degree vision. Not only do they have unbelievable eyesight, but they are also able to discern an array of colors unimaginable to us humans. While every color we see is a combination of the colors red, blue, and green, dragonflies see combinations made up of as many as 30 different color variations. So, let’s see – that makes them ancient, all-seeing, razor-toothed, “fighter jet” flying mutant insect gods…in a nutshell.

What kind of conditions do you think caused dragonflies to develop so many incredible physical features?

A Symphony Of Insects

A Symphony of Insects
If you have been eagerly awaiting the new groundbreaking CD and book entitled The Songs Of Insects, which features a symphony of bugs singing in harmony, then I am afraid that you just missed it. However, for the five or six people who love the sound of crickets and grasshoppers grooving, the world’s most musically talented bugs can still be heard at the website associated with the book and CD. So what exactly is this bug symphony thing? Well, it is indeed an actual thing, and there is a good chance that you have already heard the majestic chorus of the katydids but did not realize that you were hearing a concert put on for bugs.

Back in 2007 two men, Lang Elliott and Wil Hershberger, published the above mentioned book and CD for all the world to enjoy, and history was changed forever. Well, that might be going a bit far since the book is now out of print, but there is no denying the refreshing originality of their creation. The two men, probably fed up with trying to teach themselves guitar for their own band, set out into the wild in order to record the unique and harmonious sounds coming from the nearby forest.

The CD featured bugs belonging to the order of insects known as Orthoptera and Hemiptera. The Orthoptera include grasshoppers, katydids and crickets, and it is only the males of this particular order that are capable of singing complex tunes. As far as bug-music goes the males of the Orthoptera order are on par with the great masters of opera.

The Orthoptera order of insects do not have vocal chords, but they are able to produce sounds that are reminiscent of bird chirping. Crickets and katydids, for example, resort to a method known as stridulation to create unique sounds. Both of these insects use the base of their forewings to scrape against the underside of the upper wing, or the file as the experts call it.

The concert also features cicadas, which is the only member of the Hemiptera order to be included in the epic bug-musical. The cicadas produce sounds via a physiological process that is vaguely similar to the manner in which humans produce sounds. Cicadas possess organs called “tymbals” which are located on the abdomen directly behind the wings. Muscles cause the tymbal to contract which produce sounds that are amplified through the trachea. The cicadas could be considered the main feature at the bizarre concert due to the extremely loud sounds that they emit with each contraction. In fact, cicadas are currently known to be the loudest of all insects, far louder than the chorus produced by the orthoptera. I am sure that the insect symphony sounds a bit unusual, but I would take it over today’s music.

Can you remember a time in your life when you experienced the confining sounds of cicadas? Could the cicadas orotund sounds serve as a selective advantage?

Don’t Fall For These Insect Repellent Frauds

Zika Repellent Fraud

You might want to do some research before you go out and buy insect repellent to ward off mosquitos. It seems that some companies are taking advantage of the Zika virus panic to falsely market their products, capitalizing on people’s fear and duping them into buying their questionable products such as anti-Zika wristbands and bogus insect repellents. Some recent advertisements from some companies making outlandish claims about their products have even been forcibly taken down from their web sites by officials trying to control the situation. And even the companies that aren’t making outright false claims are doing what they can to take advantage of this environment of fear. Off! displays can now be seen to include the warning to customers, “Repel the mosquitos that may carry the Zika virus.

Many of these ads are totally ridiculous and probably didn’t convince too many people to buy them anyways…hopefully. Most of these ads involve rebranding products as “Zika fighters” and “Zika-protective.” One website called “” has claimed that their insect repellent is made up of a special formula that has been tailor made to combat the Zika virus, although they haven’t offered any details about this magic formula. People should particularly watch out for those companies selling products like ultrasound bug zappers and wristbands that contain insecticide such as “Mosquitno” and “Spotz” as well as insect repellent stickers that are supposed to keep mosquitos away for an amazing three days. One wristband maker claimed that his product created a five foot invisible barrier around the wearer that would protect them from mosquitos…come on, even I am not falling for this one. He was fined $300,000 by the Federal Trade Commission for his false claims.

And insect repellent companies aren’t the only ones trying to cash in on this opportunity. Since the Zika virus can also be spread sexually, one condom retailer, Australia’s Ansell Ltd., is apparently supplying the country’s Olympic team with condoms that are lined with a “special” antiviral gel that kills that Zika virus right on contact! Wow! Officials quickly cut in on that one and revealed that any old condom will do the job.

Have you seen any suspicious Zika-fighting products?

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