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I was sitting under morning sunshine when I saw this:
At first, I thought that it is a common Indian black ant. But it was moving much faster. Also, it seemed to have 2 (or probably more) eyes (sorry, couldn't take images as 'twas too fast). The most surprising part was when it leapt over the chair WITH A WEB! (just like a spider). Also, its mandibles(?) are much bigger than an ant's. Is it some kind of hybrid of ant and spider. I recently read that in some caves new varieties of spiders, which look like beetles (or maybe opposite) have been discovered. Is this related to them?
Details: I found it in Northern Plains, India. Its length is almost 1 cm (maybe bigger) and breadth is about 0.5 cm (actually slightly smaller than that).
Such a queer species. I thought it was an ant. But it is actually a spider.
These spiders belong to Salticidae family,commonly called ant-mimicking spiders / jumping spiders.
They are Batesian mimics of ants, such as Sphecotypus in the Clubionidae.
They do not feed on their model organisms and keep them at an acceptable distance.
This one is from Myrmarachne sp. There are more than 20 species found in India.
What Is Eating My Hostas? – 4 Most Common Pests
For decades hosta has remained one of the favorites among garden plants. Unfortunately, this beautiful plant has many natural enemies who just want to eat all its leaves and stems.
Today we look at the topic of hostas pests. Four main pests can damage your plants, and we will talk about the means to control them.
First, I will briefly present all the information in a table. Next, we’ll talk about each pest in more detail. At the end of the article, some of your questions will be answered.
|Insects||Neem Oil, Insecticides|
|Rodents||Moth Flakes, Castor Oil|
Can ants feel pain?
Tom Crawford went crawling around for the answer with York University's Eleanor Drinkwater.
Eleanor - Ants can definitely sense that they’ve been harmed and react, but It’s been argued that there is a difference, however between simply sensing harm and reacting to it OR actually experiencing pain. Just sensing damage but feeling no pain is what’s known as nociception.
Tom - I find it hard to separate the idea of feeling pain and just reacting to danger…
Eleanor - It’s worth just thinking about what pain is: it’s thought to involve an unpleasant sensation as well as a negative emotional reaction to injury. You get nociception, which is the sensory nervous system informing the brain that you’ve been hurt, then the brain processes this to produce pain.
But you can get one without the other.
You can think about it like this- if you get tackled while doing sport, your sensory receptors may signal to the brain that something has happened, but it’s only when you stop and realise how bad the injury is that you feel the pain. On the other hand, people who have lost a limb may experience phantom limb pain, in which they experience pain, but without nociception.
Tom - So we know that ants can sense harm and react to it - which is to say they experience nociception - but what about actual pain?
Eleanor - Interestingly, claims for the idea that insects can experience nociception without experiencing pain, comes from studies on robots. Robots can be programmed to exhibit behaviours that we would tend to think of as pain-like, for example Simroid robots used for dentist training will flinch if you poke them, or in games like The Sims, characters may jump around if they’ve been burnt. The fact that these behaviours can be programmed, without the need for a pain element, has been argued as evidence for the idea that a negative stimulus can be reacted to without the emotional element.
Tom - Are you saying that ants experience pain in the same way as The Sims?
Eleanor - Not exactly… my personal view is that unlike the human systems that these programs mimic, we currently know very little about insect expressions of pain, and even less about the neural systems of the many different species of insect that there are. We do know there are differences between insect and mammalian neural systems, so it is unlikely that insects experience pain in the same way that humans do, however, I don’t think it is beyond the bounds of possibility that at least some species have an insect version of pain, in addition to nociception. So basically the jury is out! Either way it’s still good to be gentle with the little critters when you come across them!
Tom - There you go Carole. I hope we’ve provided some insight, or should that be ant-sight, into your question. Next week we get a little topsy-turvy as we tackle Tim’s question…
Tim - Is there any explanation why the magnetic field of earth is north-south, as opposed to east-west, or any other angle?
Vinegar as a Spider Repellent
Spiders are sensitive to vinegar's odor and sour taste. To repel spiders from the nooks and crannies of your house, shed or greenhouse, mix a 50/50 solution of water and white vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray the areas where you regularly see spiders, along with entrances where spiders may enter from outside. If you also don't like the smell of vinegar, soak three or four pieces of orange peel in 1 cup of vinegar overnight before mixing the solution for spraying. Alternatively, dilute 1/2 cup of vinegar in 1 quart of water and mix in 2 tablespoons of hot chili sauce or chili powder. Use the resulting solution in the same way as a spider repellent.
Bugs Vs. Superbugs: Insects Offer Promise In Fight Against Antibiotic Resistance
Scientists have isolated a molecule with disease-fighting potential in a microbe living on a type of fungus-farming ant (genus Cyphomyrmex). The microbe kills off other hostile microbes attacking the ants' fungus, a food source. Courtesy of Alexander Wild/University of Wisconsin hide caption
Scientists have isolated a molecule with disease-fighting potential in a microbe living on a type of fungus-farming ant (genus Cyphomyrmex). The microbe kills off other hostile microbes attacking the ants' fungus, a food source.
Courtesy of Alexander Wild/University of Wisconsin
Nobody likes a cockroach in their house. But before you smash the unwelcome intruder, consider this: that six-legged critter might one day save your life.
That's right. Insects—long known to spread diseases—could potentially help cure them. Or rather, the microbes living inside them could. Scientists have discovered dozens of microorganisms living in or on insects that produce antimicrobial compounds, some of which may hold the key to developing new antibiotic drugs.
They can't come too soon. More infections are becoming resistant to common antibiotics, and the pipeline of new antibiotic drugs has slowed to a trickle.
"There is a growing demand [for antibiotics], and a diminishing supply," explains Gerry Wright, who directs the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster University.
Most antibiotic drugs have been discovered from bacteria living in the soil. But Cameron Currie, professor of bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says that searching the soil for new antibiotics has become increasingly futile.
"They keep finding already known antibiotics," Currie says. "There's a common sentiment that the well of antibiotics from soil. is dry."
Fortunately, there may be another well. Currie and a team of 28 researchers recently published a paper in Nature Communications showing that some of the bacteria living in insects are really good at killing the germs that make people sick.
"There's an estimated 10 million species [of insect] on the planet," Currie says. "That implies a huge potential for a lot of new [antibiotic] compounds."
Each insect contains an entire ecosystem of microorganisms, just like the microbiome found in humans. And there's one quality that many of those insect-associated microbes have in common, says Jonathan Klassen, assistant professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of Connecticut and an author on the study.
They don't get along with each other very well.
Shots - Health News
'Predatory Bacteria' Might Be Enlisted In Defense Against Antibiotic Resistance
And by don't get along, he means they're constantly trying to kill each other through biochemical warfare. Many of the microorganisms in insects make compounds that are toxic to other microbes—essentially, natural antibiotics.
Some of those natural antibiotics attracted Currie's attention while he was a student, researching leaf cutter ants.
Leaf cutter ants are among nature's most prolific gardeners. They actually don't eat the leaves they cut — instead they use them to cultivate a special type of fungus for food. Still, it's not easy being a fungus farmer.
"Like human agriculture, the ants have problems with disease," Currie says. "I found a specialized pathogen that attacks their fungus garden."
Fortunately, the ants have a tool to deal with the problem. A species of bacteria living on the ants' exoskeletons produces a toxin that kills the pathogen. Like the pesticides a gardener uses, the toxin keeps the ants' garden disease-free.
The discovery inspired Currie's curiosity. If ants could use these bacterial compounds to treat disease in their fungus gardens, could doctors use them to treat disease in people? If so, what other insects might also be carrying disease-fighting microbes?
To answer those questions, Currie and his team spent years collecting thousands of insects, including cockroaches, from Alaska to Brazil.
"Every few months somebody would be going out somewhere to collect something," remembers Klassen, who was working at the time as a postdoctoral researcher on the project.
The team tested bacteria from each insect to determine if they could kill common human pathogens, such as E. coli and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). They then compared the results from strains of insect bacteria to strains drawn from plants and soil.
"We were really surprised that [insect strains] were not just as good, but apparently better at inhibiting [pathogens]," Currie says.
Testing a new antibiotic
Once a scientist has discovered that a strain of bacteria can kill germs, the next step in drug development is to determine what bacterial compound is responsible for the antimicrobial activity—like a cook searching for the secret ingredient in a particularly delicious soup.
Shots - Health News
Scientists Turn To The Crowd In Quest For New Antibiotics
Currie's team had found dozens of promising bacterial strains in insects. And each could yield a secret ingredient that might be a new antibiotic compound.
That in itself was a big accomplishment. But the researchers went a step further. They isolated one compound from one particularly promising bacterial strain and showed that it could inhibit fungal infections in mice, an important step in drug development.
The compound, cyphomycin, is found on Brazilian fungus-farming ants, close relatives of the ants Currie studied as a PhD student. Though it's far from becoming an approved drug, the research shows that antibiotic compounds new to science can be isolated from insects.
Wright, an antibiotic researcher who did not participate in the study, says that previous research has shown that single insect species contained antimicrobial compounds. But this is the first study to comprehensively demonstrate that insects as a group are a promising source of new antimicrobials.
"No one's ever done something on this scale before," Wright explains.
Currie is hopeful that cyphomycin may one day be approved to treat yeast infections in people. But before that happens, it must undergo years of further testing.
"It [cyphomycin] is a million miles away [from approval]," Wright says. "That's the reality of drug discovery."
Still, Wright says the researchers have already overcome one of the toughest hurdles in drug development by demonstrating that the compound works in mice.
For Klassen, the stakes are too high not to try.
"Efforts such as this study are crucial to keeping the antibiotic pipeline flowing so that disease doesn't gain the upper hand," he says.
In the end, the consequences of a world without antibiotics are enough to make scientists look for new drugs in unconventional places—even if that means looking in a cockroach.
If humans went extinct tomorrow nothing too much would happen to the planet, but insect extinction could be cataclysmic. Explain why.
Bug extinction is one of the most extensive extinctions on the planet. It’s scary because you don’t notice it until it’s too late. Migration patterns are shifting due to climate, and insects offer a great way of looking at that. A collector went to the Antioch Dunes in California, in the 1960s, and caught a range of bugs. When scientists returned decades later, they found many species were gone, and the host plants with them. These creatures rely on plants and certain weather patterns and temperatures, an adaptive power they’ve gained over the past 400 million years.
Twenty years ago you could have seen one billion monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico. The latest count is 56.5 million. To combat the decline, the Obama Administration, working with Fish & Wildlife, enacted this migration highway running from Texas to Minnesota. They planted milkweed along the way, which is the host plant for monarch butterflies, hoping to quadruple that 56.5 million by 2020. I am an optimistic cynic, so I feel that insects will outlive us, if we haven’t totally screwed the planet.
What type of insect is this? Is it ant or something else? - Biology
Many species of tiny house ants found in the United States can infest your personal space. If you spot some small ants crawling around your kitchen floors or the walls outside, chances are you’re dealing with one of these species.
Worker and queen acrobat ants don’t grow much longer than 0.13 inches. This species is identifiable by its unique heart-shaped abdomen.
These ants are a light or reddish brown, except for the characteristic black abdomen. They’re found throughout the United States, though you won’t see any mounds in your yard. Instead, they seek out rocks, leaves, and debris for shelter. They may also enter your home and build colonies in tunnels that other ants or termites have created in your walls.
Despite the name, these ants are a small species. The workers only grow up to roughly 0.063 inches long, though the seed crackers — those for which the species has earned its title — can grow up to 0.13 inches long. Big-headed ants are found throughout the United States. They prefer the same type of shelter that acrobat ants do and may thrive in your home’s foundation or under the floorboards. They eat insects, seeds, and any food they can find in your home.
Caribbean crazy ants grow up to 0.13 inches long and are known for building massive colonies with multiple queens. An infestation could easily lead to hundreds of thousands of ants. You can identify Caribbean crazy ants by their golden color. They’re most commonly found in Florida and Texas, and build their nests under rocks or wood or in the walls of a building.
This species of ant is found throughout the United States. They’re distinguishable from Caribbean crazy ants by their darker color and erratic movements. They tend to keep their colonies further away from food sources, so you may see a swarm heading back and forth from their nest to whatever they’re foraging. This species only grows up to 0.1 inches long.
Ghost ants are another one-size species that doesn’t get much longer than 0.063 inches. You can identify ghost ants by their opaque appearance. These ants are most commonly found in Florida and Hawaii and can be introduced to other areas through the import of plants and other goods from these states. They won’t hesitate to build colonies in walls and cabinets when they find food inside. In the wild, they prefer the shelter of stones, logs, and plants.
Carpenter, pharaoh, odorous, and sugar ants are easily confused with this species due to their dark color. Unlike these other insects, however, little black ants are black all over without any red or brown coloration. They’re also very small and don’t grow longer than 0.063 inches.
Little black ants are found throughout the United States. You’re most likely to discover nests behind walls or in decaying wood. They prefer dark places, so you can discourage colonies from developing by removing debris from around your property and raking leaves in the fall.
Odorous ants are named for the rotten smell they produce when squished. If you prefer a more fragrant method for identifying this species, check whether they have a dark brown or black color all over with lighter legs and antennae. This species is found throughout the United States and is one of many species that tends aphids. If you have a garden and want to avoid attracting odorous ants, make the space less appealing for aphids.
Pharaoh ants are a small species that grows about 0.063 inches long. They have a yellowish color on their head and body with a red or brown abdomen. This is another multi-queen species that can build massive colonies.
Pharaoh ants are found throughout the United States. However, since they love warmth and humidity, you’re more likely to find them in the South or thriving seasonally. In the North, they’re a pest known for invading buildings in search of food and warmth.
It’s easy to confuse rover ants with little black ants. Both grow about 0.063 inches long, and the rover ants’ dark color makes them hard to correctly identify. This species is more common in the South and will head indoors for moisture and warmth. They’ll also nest in decaying wood, so it’s important not to leave debris in your yard if you don’t want a rover ant problem.
Sugar ants are another species that’s commonly mislabeled. Just because you see ants celebrating a spill of sugar or some sweet liquid doesn’t mean you have sugar ants. This species grows roughly 0.6 inches long and is native to Australia. However, they’ve been introduced to North America and love visiting homes throughout the United States. To identify female sugar ants, look for a dark brown or red body with an orange-black middle. The males are completely black.
Thief ants are found throughout the United States. They come in one size and grow to be about 0.063 inches long. You can identify this species by its light brown or yellow body. They’re known for building nests near other ant colonies and prefer to steal food from their neighbors rather than foraging. They don’t cherish sweets as much as the other tiny house ants you’re likely to find around your property.
Get Rid of the Small Ants in Your Home
If ants have invited themselves into your home, it’s because they want food, water, and shelter. Take away these things to keep them from wanting to come inside. This may sound easier said than done, but it’s manageable if you’re careful about cleaning up spills and sealing food. You can also do things like applying a spritz of vinegar and water around entry points to deter ants or laying out a mix of boric acid and cornmeal to kill them.
Prevention is by far the best solution when it comes to ridding your home of insect invaders. Research all-natural methods for killing tiny house ants using household products, and work with a pest specialist if needed to safeguard your property or resolve an infestation.
Getting the Bugs Out: Bed Bug Training 2020
Alan Brown instructing how to use steam for bed bug management.
IPM Experience House: Getting the Bugs Out: Bed Bug Training 2020 is here to help you understand this old but new foe the “Bed Bug.” Long-time bed bug specialist for ABC Home and Commercial Services, Alan Brown, Staff Entomologist/ Department Manager will be providing his insights into best practices for bed bug control. In addition to classroom training on the finer points of the “modern bed bug,” the class will get hands on experience with inspecting, treating using heat and other methods and developing practical and effective follow-up plans for your customers.
Hands-on activities include use of various sprayers and dusters, bag fumigants, solar heat treatments, and situational problem solving. In addition, we will use microscopes to examine different bed bug life stages and species.
Registration is now open for bed bug training academy at IPM Experience House.
What: This class will provide basic and advanced training in bed bug recognition, treatment methods and problem solving. Registration open until October 28th, or until the class is full. Class size limited to 10. No refunds after October 29.
JJ teaching the class about solar treatment for some items
Where: Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center, Water & Land Resources Building along with IPM Experience House .
When: October 29, 2020. 8:15 am to 5 pm.
Instructors: , Janet Hurley, Alan Brown and Jonathan Joubert. (CEUs: 8 hours verified training in Pest Category, Pending: 2 CEU general, 1 CEU Pest)
How to Register: Click here to register online.
The Chemical Compositions of Insect Venoms
Click to enlarge
Insect venoms are complicated. Really complicated. You could be forgiven for thinking that it must be a relatively simple company of chemicals that makes up the painful sensation of a bee or wasp sting, but in fact a hugely complex mixture of all sorts of compounds – proteins, peptides, enzymes, and other smaller molecules – go into a small amount of venom. The range of compounds is far too vast to detail every single one – but we can examine some of the major constituents in bee, wasp, hornet and ant venom.
We’ll start with the venom about which we know the most – that of bees. Unlike many other insect venoms, we have a relatively good idea of the percentage breakdown of the venom of your average bee. When the bee stings, the venom is mixed with water, so the actual composition of the substance it injects into you is around 88% water and 12% venom. From this point onward, we’ll consider the percentages of compounds purely in the venom itself.
The main toxic component of bee venom, also referred to as apitoxin, is melittin. Melittin is a peptide that comprises around 50-55% of dry venom, and is a compound that can break up cell membranes, resulting in the destruction of cells. However, it’s not considered the most harmful component of bee venom that prize goes to an enzyme that makes up around 10-12%, phospholipase A. This enzyme destroys phospholipids, and also breaks down the membranes of blood cells, resulting in cell destruction additionally, unlike the majority of larger molecules in the venom, it causes the release of pain-inducing agents. Yet another enzyme, hyaluronidase, aids the action of the venom by catalysing the breakdown of protein-polysaccharide complexes in tissue, allowing the venom to penetrate further into the flesh.
Other, smaller molecules can also contribute towards painful effects. A small amount of histamine is found in bee venom histamine is one of the compounds released by the body during the allergic response, and can cause itchiness and inflammation. The proteins in the sting can cause an allergic reaction, leading to the release of even more histamine, and possible anaphylaxis. MCD peptide, another minor component of the venom, can also cause mast cells in the body to release more histamine, worsening inflammation.
The precise composition of wasp and hornet venom isn’t as well known as that of bees, but we still have a decent idea of what the major components are. The peptides that are found in the venoms are termed ‘wasp kinin’ and ‘hornet kinin’ respectively these aren’t as well characterised as the peptides in bee venom, however. Like bee venom, they also contain phospholipase A, the enzyme hyaluronidase, and histamine. There are, though, some differences in the chemical composition. As well as variations in percentages of the different components, they also contain the compound acetylcholine, not commonly found in bee venoms. Acetylcholine is actually a neurotransmitter that’s also produced in our bodies, but in wasp and hornet venom, it helps stimulate pain receptors, heightening the pain felt from the sting and venom. Hornet venoms contain particularly high levels of acetylcholine.
You might have been told back in your science classes that bee stings are acidic, and can be neutralised with an alkali, whilst wasp stings are alkaline, and can therefore be neutralised with an acid. Sadly, this is something of an over-simplification. Whilst it’s correct that bee venom has some acidic components, whilst wasp venom has some alkaline constituents, the venom quickly penetrates the tissue once you’ve been stung. Therefore, topical application of an acid or alkali to the sting area is unlikely to provide relief. Additionally, since the venom is such a complex mix of components, many of which have contributing effects, it’s unlikely that neutralising a small number of these components would relieve the pain. What might have some effect, however, is anti-histamine cream, which can help prevent further inflammation.
Whilst there is, of course, variation in venoms between different species of bees, wasps, and hornets, in ants this is markedly the case. The venom of some ants contains very little protein and peptide content, and is composed instead mainly of smaller compounds. An example is that of the fire ant. Fire ant venom consists of only around 0.1% of the dry venom, with the vast majority instead consisting of a class of compounds called alkaloids these alkaloids are toxic to cells, and result in a burning sensation. Although the protein content is much lower than that of bees, wasps, and hornets, it can also cause allergic reactions and anaphylaxis.
Other ants don’t sting, but can instead spray their venoms amongst many the main constituent of venom is formic acid. This leads us to a chemical reaction that is worth talking about. As it turns out, as unpleasant as the venom of the fire ants is, they meet their match in another species of ant, the ‘tawny crazy ant’. These two warring species of ants both make use of their venoms in conflict, but the tawny crazy ant uses chemistry to gain a clear advantage. They combat the toxicity of fire ant venom by detoxifying it with their own, which is based on formic acid. Researchers still don’t fully understand precisely how the detoxification occurs, but suggest it might be the result of the formic acid neutralising the enzymes that aid in fire ant venom’s potency. Even more interestingly, this detoxification process forms an ionic liquid at ambient temperature, a phenomenon that had not previously been observed in nature.
A final word on venoms goes to a component that is present in all four of the venoms we’ve considered: alarm pheromones. As if being stung by a bee or hornet wasn’t bad enough, the pheromones contained in the venom (which tend to be a complex mix of volatile low molecular weight compounds) signal to other members of the same species to take defensive action. In plain English, a wasp stinging you signals to other wasps that they should grab a piece of the action too. Apparently, the odour of the bee pheromone is reminiscent of bananas, though it’s probably not a theory you want to investigate.
EDIT: Bonus graphic! This one looks at the Schmidt Pain Index, developed by entomologist Dr. Justin Schmidt to rank the pain of the various insect stings and bites he experienced as part of his work. Whilst both the pain of a sting and its duration is subjective, and these rankings therefore may not hold true for everyone, it’s still an interesting ranking to look at. If there’s one thing that’s apparent from this graphic, it’s ‘never get stung by a bullet ant’!
I particularly like the fact that diatomaceous earth can be used around kitchen sinks and other areas frequented by people. Also, pet grade diatomaceous earth can be consumed by dogs and cats without ill effects (check label for any precautions re amounts consumed).
When pushed into cracks along walls, it will remain in place for years if kept dry. In fact, I’ve noticed that diatomaceous earth barriers remain intact even when splashed with a bit of water. Diatomaceous earth is not easily dispersed by air movement, and tends to remain stationary even as people walk nearby.