Tag Archives: Insects

We Like Big Bugs and We Cannot Lie

We Like Big Bugs and We Cannot Lie

Humans have always been infatuated with super-sized, larger than life phenomena, such as dinosaurs, Godzilla, Mothra, King Kong, the world’s largest whatever and giants in general. While dinosaurs no longer roam the earth and Hollywood’s skyscraper-sized monsters remain the fantasies of the big screen, gigantism in the insect world is a fact of life in some parts of the globe.

Giant wetas

Scientists think that giant wetas evolved to take the place of rodents on some continents. In fact, when mice were introduced to New Zealand, the giant weta population took a significant hit. Related to crickets, the largest giant wetas can weigh more than 2.5 ounces. Weighing more than a sparrow, giant wetas weigh in as some of the heftiest insects in the world. Thankfully, their weight makes them too heavy to fly. That, along with the fact that these large bugs measure about 4 inches long, not including their legs and antennae. They get their name from the Maori word “wetapunga,” that translates into “God of Ugly Things.”

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches

Another example of island gigantism, Madagascar hissing cockroaches hail from the large island of the same name off the African mainland. Woodland creatures, these dark reddish brown to black cockroaches grow up to 3 inches long and 1 inch wide and hiss as a defense mechanism when touched. Excellent climbers, these hissing bugs can even scale glass.

In Florida, as in some other states, a permit is required to keep Madagascar hissing cockroaches. In a recent trend, lizard owners begin purchasing exotic insects like Madagascar hissing cockroaches and others to feed their pet lizards. Authorities warn that misplacing some of these exotic insects may provide invasive species the opportunity to multiply and throw Florida’s already complicated eco-system out of whack.

Giant Water Bugs

Most homeowners in South Florida and other southern states cringe at the mention of American cockroaches that go by many names, including palmetto bugs and water bugs. Although these large bugs can be quite disconcerting, especially when flying straight for your head, they’re no match for a species of beetles, known as toe-biters and alligator ticks. Inhabiting streams and ponds in many parts of the world, including the US, giant water bugs can reach 4 inches in length, right up there with some of the largest beetles on the planet. Voracious predators, giant water bugs can pack a punch with their large, powerful pinchers, hence their toe-biting reputation. According to Scientific American, giant water bugs surprise their prey, which can be fish, other small aquatic animals, and toes, evidently.

In Thailand, giant water bugs are considered delicious

Attracted by black light, giant water bugs are collected, harvested and served up as crunchy munchies in parts of Thailand. Take that, giant water bugs!

Goliath Beetles

With their spectacular, bold black and white designed bodies with brown, leathery wings, goliath beetles live up to their names. Native to Africa and able to lift loads 850 times their weight, these large bugs are thought to be strong contenders for the world’s largest insect title. Goliath beetles can exceed 4 inches in length and weigh 3.5 ounces, as larvae. In Japan, beetles are thought of as good luck charms, so these super-sized beetles enjoy great popularity there.

Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing

The world’s largest butterflies, Queen Alexandra’s birdwings sport wingspans of more than one foot wide. Named in honor of Britain’s King Edward VII’s Danish wife, Queen Alexandra birdwings were discovered in 1906 in the remote lowland rainforests of Papua, New Guinea. Reportedly, the first specimen ever found was “taken down by a shotgun.” Considered on the endangered list by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, these larger than life butterflies are falling victim to palm oil plantations, as encroaching development squeezes them out of their natural habitat.

Adult females and males differ in wing shape, coloration, and size. The larger female has brown wings with white markings and a cream-colored body, while the smaller male has bright blue and green wings and a yellow body. Poisonous to natural predators, due to their diet of tropical pipevine plants, animals steer clear of Queen Alexandra’s birdwing, remembering their unpleasant encounters with these brightly-colored gentle giants.

Atlas moths

The Malay Archipelago plays host to the world’s largest moths. Atlas moths’ wings can measure over 60 square inches in total area, with wingspans as long as one foot. That’s about as big as an iPad or seven times larger than a playing card. Primarily brown, with bold lines and colorful wing tips, several theories circulate about the origin of the Atlas moth’s name. Some hold that the geometric lines and shapes of these giant moths bring to mind a map, while others think that the name harks back to Greek mythology when Zeus condemned Atlas, the god of war to hold the sky upon his shoulders for eternity. The Chinese call the Atlas moth, “snake’s head” moths because their wingtips look like snakeheads, which may possibly be a defense mechanism.

Chinese gigantic stick insect

In 2017, a stick insect measuring 25 inches long was bred in captivity in China’s Guangxi Province. According to the UK’s DailyMail.com, entomologist, Zhao Li found the giant insect’s mother “at midnight in a forest” during a field inspection in Guangxi Province in 2014.  After laying six eggs, voila, the largest stick insect to date was hatched.  Stick insects of all sizes and varieties populate the earth, with most large stick insects found near the equator.

Known as walking sticks, tree lobsters and many other names, stick insects win the award for camouflage in the giant insect category. Think about it; it’s hard to hide when you’re one of the world’s largest bugs. But these guys excel at taking on the shape and color of tree branches, leaves, and other foliage, depending on their size and surroundings. Zhao noted that his giant stick insect has a sweet tooth, preferring strawberry jam, even giving up other food for this fruity treat.

To protect your home and loved ones from the pests, just call Hulett to schedule a free pest inspection.

Friday the 13th: Bug Superstitions

Bug Superstitions

In the spirit of this April’s, Friday the 13th, Hulett invites you to take a look at some interesting bug superstitions. All sorts of superstitions and folklore surround insects. Always looking for signs in nature, humans insist on perpetuating some pretty amusing bug superstitions.

Ladybugs

  • Ladybugs can mean all sorts of good things

Take the ladybug, for example. Some bug superstitions hold that if one of these cute little polka-dotted bugs lands on you, you’re going to be lucky for as many days as the number of spots your ladybug sports.

  • Money and marriage

In medieval times, ladybugs were seen as a sign of protection. Farmers were said to pray for ladybugs when aphids threatened to destroy their crops. The English believe that if a ladybug lands on your hand, you’ll be married within a year’s time, while others think a ladybug’s spots tell how many happy months lie ahead or how much money you are about to receive.

Spiders

  • Spiders are big on the luck scale, as well

Many bug superstitions associate spiders with good luck. Due to their industrious natures, building webs and whatnot, folks have come to associate a spider’s stellar work ethic with wealth and rewards for hard work. In England, one family of spiders, the Linyphiidae, go by the name, money spiders because, according to British bug superstitions, if one such spider crawls across your hand, you’re on course to come into some money.

  • Spiders symbolize health, wealth and cleanliness

All over the globe, spider imagery graces jewelry, clothing, and charms, as ambassadors of wealth and good fortune. This good fortune and happiness imagery persists to the extent that killing a spider bodes bad luck, as Mark Twain’s Huck Finn tells us: “Pretty soon a spider went crawling up my shoulder, and I flipped it off and it lit in the candle; and before I could budge it was all shriveled up. I didn’t need anybody to tell me that that was an awful bad sign and would fetch me some bad luck…”

Because killing a spider in your home is considered such a threat to good health, wealth and cleanliness, some cultures practice a tradition of apologizing to spiders, before killing them, in hopes of negating bad luck. The Vietnamese believe that when you sleep, your soul leaves your body and turns into a spider.  Needless to say, the Vietnamese tread lightly around their eight-legged friends and family members.  Naturally, it’s considered taboo to kill spiders in Vietnam.

Bees

  • Bee part of the family

Their association with productivity, industriousness, and creativity, bees form the central figures in many Western European traditions. Bees buzzing around your home or buzzing at your window signal the arrival of visitors in parts of the British Empire.  However, if someone should kill the bee, the visitor would bring only bad news.

Bees became so integrated into some American and British customs, that they were invited to family gatherings, such as weddings and funerals. In Greece, if a bee landed on your head, your success in life potential spiked significantly. Also, if a bee brushed a child’s lips, the child was destined to a life as an accomplished poet.

  • Bee sensitive and polite

Believed to be sensitive in nature to their surroundings, in Great Britain bees must be politely spoken to, as well as kept in the loop regarding family news. “Telling the bees,” a tradition that has regional variations, supports the practice of gently informing bees of their owner’s death, in order to preserve the health of the hive, keeping distraught bees from deserting the hive, stopping honey production and ultimately, dying off.

Dragonflies and Butterflies

  • Butterflies as meteorologists

A butterfly in your home is thought of as a sign of an impending visit from your dearest love. Catching a glimpse of a white butterfly in some traditions signals good luck, especially a white butterfly at the beginning of the season.

  • Dragonflies as positive influences

In some eastern traditions, dragonflies represent wisdom and in other cultures, dragonflies also indicate changes in the near future. As a spirit animal, dragonflies indicate resilience in changing times for those associated with the dragonfly totem.

Mosquitoes

  • Mosquito superstitions geared towards warding off these health hazards

Bug superstition has it that eating green vegetables on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter prevents mosquitoes from biting you for an entire year. In yet another custom, making your bed on new hay during harvest time will keep mosquitoes at bay, as well.

This month, in the light of bug superstitions and Friday the 13th lore, we make light of myths and traditions that are ingrained in our collective consciousness. While living alongside beneficial and benign insects is a good thing, most South Florida homeowners prefer their pests outside their homes and away from their loved ones.

Just call Hulett to schedule a free pest inspection and help you get the most out of your spring and summer.

Insects & Lights, What’s the Attraction?

insects are attracted to light

Have you ever wondered why certain insects are attracted to light, while other insects are repelled by light? Have you ever asked yourself what’s so interesting about your porch light, that moths, beetles, and stinkbugs just can’t get enough of it or why roaches scatter like “We’re busted, run!” when suddenly flooded by your kitchen light?

Phototaxis

Though no one really knows why . . . several theories exist as to why some nocturnal flying insects are drawn to artificial light. One logical reason can be explained by phototaxis. A common behavior in many species, including insects and fish; phototaxis concerns survival and common logic. You can do things in the light that you can’t do in the dark. The light offers better chances of finding food and avoiding predators, increasing your survival chances.

Transverse orientation

Other entomologists point to a behavior known as “transverse orientation,” theorizing, as UC Berkley entomologist, Jerry Powell does, that somewhere in the internal navigation system of moths and other flying insects, these guys “navigate by flying at a constant angle to a distant light source,” such as the sun, the moon, and the stars. Because moths developed long before the invention of artificial light, in this theory, when insects see your porch light, candle flames or campfires, they become confused as the angle of navigation changes as they fly past the light. So, they continue to fly towards the artificial light source in effort after effort to correct their navigational compasses.

Critics of the transverse orientation theory point to the fact that, while electric lighting is a relative newcomer in the evolutionary scale of things, humans have been building fires for nearly 400,000 years. Critics argue moths, after all this time, would be extinct due to an uncontrollable urge to jump in a fire for no specific reason. Also, given the fact that not all moths migrate, especially the tiny ones dazzled by your porch light, they would need no reason for advanced navigation tools.

Pheromone mimicking

Taking a completely different approach to the question, “Why are bugs attracted to light?”

in the 1970s, US Department of Agriculture entomologist, Phillip Callahan found a connection between the infrared light spectrum of a candle’s flame and female moth pheromones. Callahan discovered that a few of the frequencies emitted by female moths’ pheromones are slightly luminescent; that is, they faintly glow.

Callahan conjectured that male moths, mistaking candle flames for frisky female moths sacrifice themselves for love, flying into the candle’s flame thinking it’s a female mating signal. However, this theory is not without controversy, either, as Powell noted that insects are much more attracted to UV light than infrared light, adding that “there’s no reason why UV light should remind moths of sex; it doesn’t contain the same wavelengths as their glowing pheromones.”

To the moon

In yet another theory, scientists discovered that moths were less attracted to artificial lights during the full moon week than during the new moon week. Urban myth had it that moths weren’t as active around porch lights and such during the full moon because they were all “flying to the moon.” Powell rejected this theory, saying, “That’s ridiculous, because they can’t carry on their life cycles if they’re flying to the moon.” As it turns out, during full moons, moths aren’t as active because there’s too much light when the moon is bright.

Just call Hulett!

Yellow lighting has been shown to deter moths on front porches. When it comes to household pests that are just annoying and those that pose threats to your home and loved ones, Hulett Environmental Services is your go-to locally-owned and operated professional pest control service for the greater South Florida area. Ranked as one of the top 20 pest control companies in the country, Hulett’s over 45 years in South Florida give them the skill and insights you need to pest-proof your home. Our Healthy Home programs use environmentally responsible methods and the latest technology and materials to guarantee you will be satisfied with our services.

With convenient options for your busy schedule, contact us to schedule a free pest inspection today. Just call Hulett!

An Insect As Small As A Grain Of Sand May Destroy A Local Ecosystem

Insect

Globalization is a phenomenon that has allowed insects to travel across the world and into different environments. A United States Forest Service Research Entomologist, Andrew Liebhold, firmly believes that the increasing pest problems, which we have all been hearing about on the news is a result of globalization. This line of thought seems reasonable since there have been numerous cases in which nonnative insects traveled across the ocean by cargo ship only to arrive in a different continent. Although many experts agree that our ecosystems are in danger from rapid global travel, this is not the only reason as to why we are seeing more and more damaging non native insects in the US.  Of course, the process of global warming is playing a part in mass invasive insect migration as well.

Back during the roaring ‘20’s hemlock trees from Japan were shipped to America for landscaping purposes. Unfortunately, many of the trees that were shipped to the US from Japan were likely riddled with spiders known as the hemlock woolly adelgids (HWA). As soon as the 1980’s rolled around, it became clear that the HWA’s were destroying numerous hemlock trees at rapid rates.

Unfortunately, destroying hemlock trees results in undesirable environmental consequences. Even after a hemlock tree dies it can still have a negative impact on the ecosystem. For example, ninety bird species, forty five mammal species, and a plethora of aquatic life all use the hemlock tree for shelter. Once hemlock trees die as a result of the HWA’s tinkering, many of the above mentioned classes of animals will perish from lack of shelter.

Many different species of bird also inhabit the hemlock tree. Although the birds are lucky enough not to die while the HWA’s are destroying the tree, the birds are still forced to migrate elsewhere. An abrupt change in bird migrations can also have unexpected negative consequences on the ecosystem, as well as on other animal species living within the same environmental conditions.

Scientists have tried combating the invasive HWA insects by employing a variety of different methods. One method had researchers bring the HWA’s natural predatory enemies into the HWA’s habitat. Another method involved releasing parasites that seek the HWA as an ideal host. These two different species of organism were imported from Japan, which is also the HWA’s home country. Currently public health professionals are attempting to halt the migration of insects via human travel by restricting what types of cargo passengers can carry onto a plane or a cargo ship. Anything  that could attract invasive insects may soon be prohibited in airports and train stations. For example, wood packing material, such as wooden crates and pallets, may soon be prohibited since the HWA insect loves hitching rides on old slabs of musty wood. Instead these particularly types of wood will be outlawed at many airports around the world. Instead TSA officials will start to allow for manufactured wood, such as plywood or composite wood, which the HWA’s find repellent.

Pests like the HWA’s cause four billion dollars in damage annually, and that is in the US alone. Unfortunately, these costs are often pushed onto homeowners. Scientists are currently considering the use of strategically placed surveillance systems, so that hemlock tree smugglers can be caught before their criminality destroys the environment.

Could the HWA become eradicated after releasing the HWA’s natural predator into the HWA’s environment? Could releasing another nonnative predatory insect from Japan cause the same environmental problems that the HWA insect has caused already in the United States?

Why Are People So Afraid Of Insects And Spiders?

Why Are People So Afraid Of Insects And Spiders

According to the diagnostic manual of mental disorders, people who suffer from pathological fears of spiders and insects have what is referred to as “entomophobia.” Of course people can be afraid of creepy-crawlies without having a full-blown pathological fear of creepy bugs. It is estimated that twenty five percent of the general population actively fear spiders and insects. So what is it about bugs that makes them so scary to so many people?

One reason bugs are so scary is because many bugs actually can harm you. For example, mosquitoes cause more human deaths than any other animal. However, most people are not afraid of mosquitoes as much as, say, tarantulas. Researchers believe that humans evolved the fear of spiders, insects, and snakes in order to avoid potentially dangerous encounters with these creatures. After all, many snakes and spiders possess venom that can harm humans. Also, simply being bitten by a harmless spider can be enough to cause an infection, sometimes fatal, such as necrotizing fasciitis.

Also, people do not fear certain arthropods, such as spiders, because they pose the same sort of threats as lions and bears. We don’t think that bugs can overpower and kill us like other larger and aggressive animals. Instead our fear of bugs is closely related to the feeling of disgust. Researchers studying how disgust and fear are related use the term “rejection response” to describe the human tendency to keep something unfamiliar, and/or disgusting, far away from us. Much like how we are disgusted by feces and rotting food due to their potential to make us sick, we are also disgusted and avoid bugs for their potential to make us ill. Cockroaches, for example, are one of the most feared arthropods, and for good reason, they are disgusting. It is likely that we find cockroaches more disgusting and fear inspiring than most other bugs because cockroaches actually can spread disease due to their love of rotten food, among other reasons.

Lastly, people may fear bugs because they look so different from us. Humans and bugs do not share a close evolutionary bond, which makes many bugs appear otherworldly. In addition to their alien appearance, bugs can also scare us when we witness them operating in large swarms or colonies. The reason for this, according to some researchers, is because seeing a large amount of bugs in one place can overwhelm the human psyche and can damage the highly valued human beliefs regarding individuality. Seeing a swarm of locusts all working together can serve to undermine a person’s belief about what they can accomplish on their own. This particular theory was born out of a specific school of psychoanalysis, so this way of thinking about fear is not as common as most.

Obviously people want to stay clean and free of disease, and when we are in our homes we don’t expect intruders that may compromise our health and cleanliness. So naturally, seeing insects in your home can be quite distressing since your home is the one place where you don’t want to see potential threats to your health. In any case, bugs are here to stay, and they do much more harm than good, except for cockroaches of course.

Do you have a pathological fear of spiders and/or insects? If you do, what method, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, do you use to reduce your fear, if any?

Why Do Some Worker Insects Occasionally Kill Their Queen?

Why Do Some Worker Insects Occasionally Kill Their Queen? Most people probably assume that worker insects cannot possibly commit matricide against their birth-giving queen leaders. Well, most people are wrong because it happens all the time. There are indeed some rare circumstances in which matricide, committed by the dead queen’s offspring, does indeed take place. But why? Researchers at the University of California at Riverside have attempted to shed more light on the phenomenon of matricide among social insects. The researchers eventually determined that worker wasps will become much more likely to kill the queen of the colony if worker wasps find themselves sharing the colony with a large amount of their siblings. However, if the worker wasps are surrounded by a mix of half and full siblings, the worker wasps will avoid killing the queen. If a wasp is surrounded by other wasps that are composed of nearly identical genetic makeup, then the behavior of the worker wasps will be more predictable and more given to collective cooperation by virtue of their similar genetically predisposed behaviors. The worker wasps are more likely to kill the queen if the worker wasps are able to sense that they have a substantial amount of egg-laying sisters present in the colony. The idea is for the sister-worker-wasps to bear the responsibility of egg laying for the colony instead of the queen. This preference on the part of the male wasp is due to the queen’s willingness to resort to destructive and violent behaviors, such as eating the eggs. Also, So, in other words, the worker-wasps will kill the queen in favor of the sister siblings laying the eggs for the colony since the eggs are safer with the sister than with the queen. Why would the queen of the wasp colony consume her own eggs, what advantage would that bring to the queen and/or the colony?

Insect Colonies Share Brain Power

Insect Colonies

Scientists recently performed a study comparing the complexity of brain function in social insects as opposed to solitary insects. They found that unlike vertebrate species, which evolve to have increasingly complex brains the more complex the society becomes, social insects that share information among the members of the colony reduces their need for complex brain function and the complexity of their cognitive brain functioning actually decreased as the complexity of their societies increased.

In vertebrate animal societies as the social environment grows more complex over generations the cognitive abilities of the individuals in that society are forced to adapt and also become more complex. More complex social societies tend to have an increased amount of competition between their individuals. As individuals have to navigate more and more challenges such as conflict over resources, their cognitive abilities are forced to evolve in order to continually sharpen their intelligence so they can continue to survive in more and more complex societies.

However, in social insect species the colony tends to be made up of family groups, with the children staying to help their parents, and while there may be some conflict in these colonies, the survival of the group depends on their ability to work together as a cohesive unit. The more cooperative structures of social insect colonies end up affecting the evolution of the brain differently.

Researchers studied the brains of 29 related species of wasps from Costa Rica, Ecuador and Taiwan. They studied both solitary and social species that had varying colony sizes and structures. They found that the solitary species had evolved to have larger brain parts associated with complex cognition used for such things as spatial memory, associative learning, and multi-sensory integration. On the other hand, the social insect species had less complex cognitive function. The researchers believe that this is because social insect colony members are able to rely on group members, meaning they don’t have to invest as much energy in more complex individual cognitive functions. These social species evolved to survive cooperatively, utilizing such things as sharing information among colony members, which reduces the need for individual cognition.

Do you think humans could have evolved in this manner if we had more cooperative societies, or is that impossible due to our conscious brains? How might our humans society be different if our brains had evolved in the same way as our societies became more complex?

A Colorectal Surgeons Love for Odd Bugs

A prominent colorectal surgeon named Dr Francis Seow-Choen is already fascinated with bugs of the parasitic sort found in the human gastrointestinal system.  However, he grew up fascinating over other types of creep-crawlies–Stick and Leaf Insects.

The surgeon has just completed his fourth and most comprehensive book covering the vast species of these types of insects.  So comprehensive in fact that the doctor dedicated twenty years of his life to studying the species found in his book, and the book itself took three years to complete.  His book looks extensively at fifty-two different and new species of leaf and stick insects located in Borneo.  Even the director of Natural History Publications of Borneo has found the doctors book to be a major advancement in entomological science.

What makes the good doctors discoveries so unique to bug-science is that finding these particular species of bugs is incredibly dangerous as locating them for study normally involves spending several days and nights in the harsh south east Asian jungles.  Also, stick and bug insects are, as you would assume, very difficult to find in the wild, as these bugs are known for their evolutionarily advanced forms of camouflage.  The doctor has risked his life in the harsh and dangerous wilderness to indulge his love for these unique bugs, or, just maybe, he needs a break from examining people’s rectums, you make your own call.

Do you have a labor of love similar to this? What is it?

Why So Many Insects Are Named After Celebrities

Why So Many Insects Are Named After Celebrities

You may have already known that it is not difficult for entomologists to discover new species of insects.  Many insects that inhabit this planet have yet to be discovered and named.  And it turns out that whenever a new insect is discovered, which is quite often, scientists have a tendency to name the newly discovered insects after famous people.  Why is that?  Perhaps the scientists choose a celebrity whom they do not like, or the opposite.   Actually it is most often just a way to get the public interested in insects.

By naming a new species of insect after a celebrity, scientists increase the likelihood that certain fans of the celebrity will take an interest in insects.  And most often there exists no connection between the species found and the celebrity the species is named after.  When it comes to naming insects scientists can name them whatever they please.

For example, a species of insect recently discovered in California has been named after our current president Barack Obama.  The entomologist that discovered this species dedicated the bug to President Obama because of his funding of science.  Other examples include our previous president George W. Bush, Stephen Colbert and Darth Vader.

Do you know of any insects named after celebrities? What kind of insects are they and why are they named after that celebrity?