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My friend found this bug today and we are trying to find out what it is. Long black (about an inch and a half).
Meloid beetle (blister beetle). Wikipedia images suggest genus Berberomeloe. This one below, from Spain, is identified on the Wiki page as Berberomeloe majalis. There is at least one other species described from the genus (insignis).
What is a superbug?
Bacteria immune to the effects of antibiotics are rising.
A superbug is usually defined as a microorganism that’s resistant to commonly used antibiotics – but not all superbugs are created equal.
The number of different antibiotics to which it can be resistant determines the degree of the superbug. Some are resistant to one or two, but others can be resistant to multiple drugs.
So, if a bug is resistant to every available antibiotic, it would be the superbug of all superbugs.
Cases where people die from antibiotic-resistant infections are still comparatively rare, particularly in places like Australia, which doesn’t allow antibiotics to be sold without a doctor’s prescription.
But around the world, the number of people dying because their infection can’t be treated by any available antibiotic is increasing.
Currently, antibiotic-resistant bacteria cause 700,000 deaths worldwide each year, and a UK government review on antimicrobial resistance predicted this number could increase to 10 million by 2050.
If superbugs are allowed to spread, we may reach a point where it is too dangerous to conduct surgeries such as c-sections and transplants because of the risk of superbug infection, which would have huge implications for the health of people around the world.
Did you find an unusual looking insect in your yard or house? Maybe we can help you identify it. You can email our Grad Student Outreach Coordinators at BugID.UIUC @ gmail.com with your questions, and we'll try to get you some answers.
Information to include in your email:
- Where did you find it and when?
- What does it look like (be as detailed as possible or attach a photograph)?
- How big is it?
- Where do you live?
Please note that we answer emails on a volunteer basis and receive many emails during the summer months. If you need a quick response, we recommend contacting your local extension office.
- Investigate how pill bugs respond to humidity levels in their environment.
- Identify 2 other environmental factors that influence pill bug behavior.
Science and Engineering Practices
- Students will construct and revise an explanation based on valid evidence obtained from the investigation.
Disciplinary Core Ideas
LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
- LS2.C: A complex set of interactions within an ecosystem can keep its numbers and types of organisms relatively constant over long periods of time under stable conditions.
Cause and Effect: Mechanism and Explanation
- Students can suggest cause and effect relationships to explain and predict behaviors in complex natural systems.
Whats this bug? - Biology
[Special thanks to Matt Taylor for his contributions to this blog post.]
Judging from the number of comments, the “Reptilobird” post is by far the most popular one on this blog. And no wonder. It is a simple, fun activity that combines the stages of meiosis with patterns of inheritance. Along the way, it beautifully illustrates how sexual reproduction produces an astonishing range of sibling variation.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could incorporate natural selection into this lab as well, to show the connection between meiosis, patterns of inheritance, variation, and evolution? I am now happy to report an idea for this as well! And, much like the reptilobird activity, it is not my idea. I’m just the messenger.
Like so many other great ideas, this one came from the annual workshop for the Association for Biology Laboratory Education. (It was wonderful, as usual. You will never find a friendlier bunch of colleagues, and they are devoted sharing what they know about high-quality education.)
The genotype and phenotype of one Pazmo bug.
One of the workshops, by Boston University’s Dale Pasino, was devoted to a clever invention that he calls Pazmo bugs (you can find the workshop abstract here). He has created imaginary insects with one trait for each of 12 chromosomes. Each student begins the “zero generation” with one bug that is heterozygous for all 12 traits. But then they start reproducing each bug randomly creates two gametes, one for itself and one to give to a mate—that is, another bug in the same lab group. Students document the alleles passed onto their generation 1 bug. These bugs find a new mate, also within the lab group (though not with a sibling!), producing generation 2. These bugs mate as well, and so forth. Because each student receives one of the two bugs produced in each mating, the population size remains constant over the generations.
Unlike the reptilobird activity, the stages of meiosis are not the focus. Rather, the point is to depict the genotypes of five (or more) generations. From there, the possibilities are endless. If you teach Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, you could have your students calculate p and q for each gene in each generation. You could show how genetic drift eliminates alleles from small populations. Or you could show how other mechanisms of evolution disrupt Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium.
The part that intrigued me most, however, was the way that the activity incorporated natural selection. Students are given a list of environmental changes and, without looking at their own Pazmo bugs, they select (with justification) the three traits that would contribute most to reproductive success under each condition. Then, students use a formula to estimate each bug’s likelihood of reproductive success based on its phenotype. They tally which bugs fall into each category, then repeat the process for one or more additional environmental conditions. (In Pasimo’s version, the students use their five generations’ worth of bugs as their “population,” even though these bugs do not exist simultaneously.)
It quickly becomes obvious that a bug that is extremely likely to survive in one condition might not have the same luck when the environment changes. Moreover, some populations might not have any bugs that are likely to reproduce at all. I love this idea because it is a powerful way to counteract the misconceptions that (a) evolution happens to individuals and (b) natural selection occurs “in order to save the species.”
How does this idea apply to the reptilobirds? When we complete the reptilobird activity in our lab, students tape their birds to the board to illustrate the huge range of genotypic variation among siblings. It would be easy to label each bird with unique number and have students judge which would be most likely to reproduce in different conditions. Listed below are a few sample scenarios, each ending with a note suggesting which reptilobird trait is most likely to be affected (see the original blog post for more information):
- Flowers with curved shapes become more common in the environment. At the bottom of each flower is sugary nectar that is a good snack for animals that can reach it. [beak shape]
- Changes in climate patterns have made the environment much windier. Some birds can soar on the wind while looking for food. [wing length]
- Predatory cats that are visual hunters migrate into the area. The cats have trouble seeing green prey against the grassy background. However, they can see showy tails with many feathers more easily than they can see simple tails. [tail color and number of tail feathers]
- After years of heavy rains, a stream in the area becomes larger and has a swifter current it also has many small fish that are a good food source. Sturdier birds can more easily stand in the stream. [leg thickness]
- A virus moves through the reptilobird population. One of the symptoms is a condition called walleye, in which part of the iris becomes bluish-white. Reptilobirds begin to avoid any potential mate with white irises. [eye pigment deposition]
If you have questions or want to share more ideas for environmental scenarios, please add a comment to this post!
X-ray science taps bug biology to design better materials and reduce pollution
Caddiesflies spin an adhesive silk underwater to build nets to capture food and build protective shelter. Pictured is that silk magnified. Credit: Bennett Addison
Bug spray, citronella candles, mosquito netting – most people will do anything they can to stay away from insects during the warmer months. But those creepy crawlers we try so hard to avoid may offer substantial solutions to some of life's problems.
Researchers using the cutting-edge X-ray technology at the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Photon Source (APS) were able to take an inside look at several insects, gathering results that go beyond learning about insect physiology and biology. What they found could provide a blueprint for a material used for artificial ligaments, a chemical-free way to protect crops from insects and a new insight on how human muscles function.
Most people know the caddisfly as the artificial bug on fly fishing lures. But few know that these real caddiesflies spin an adhesive silk underwater to build nets to capture food and build protective shelter. The chemical structure of the silk allows the substance to adhere to most substances underwater.
"It is really not much stronger than super glue, but try to put super glue in your bathtub without it ever getting a chance to dry," says Jeff Yarger, professor of chemistry, biochemistry and physics at Arizona State University and author of a study in Biomacromolecules that examined caddisfly silk.
Designing a synthetic version of the silk could create an underwater adhesive used for liquid stitches. But even more valuable is its potential use as the first artificial human tendons and ligaments. The fly silk's long fibers make it behave a lot like collagen material used in connective tissues, and its ability to adhere in wet conditions make it viable as an internal implant.
To understand what makes this material both waterproof and collagen-like, Yarger and his team had to examine the biopolymers, tiny molecular structures that serve as the building blocks for the silk, using the BioCARS sector 14 at the Argonne National Laboratory-based APS.
The crystalline structures in the silk are so small that Yarger says it is impossible to look at the molecular makeup of the silk with conventional X-rays. "But the synchrotron analysis at the APS allows us to do this," Yarger said.
They found that at the molecular level, caddisfly silk differs greatly from other terrestrial spun silks such as those from spiders or silkworms. Caddisfly silk is phosphoratelated, meaning that after the amino acid chain that makes up the silk is created, phosphate molecules bond to the chain. Phosphates can act as bonding agents and are used to make some water resistant paints.
"The next step is to see how we might be able to mimic nature with this new motif we discovered," Yarger says.“(Caddisfly silk) is really not much stronger than super glue, but try to put super glue in your bathtub without it ever getting a chance to dry,” says Jeff Yarger, professor of chemistry, biochemistry and physics at Arizona State University.
Putting grasshoppers on a diet
Grasshoppers eat up crops, but farmers may soon have a chemical-free way to protect their plants from these voracious pests by turning their natural growth cycle against them.
Scott Kirkton, associate professor of biology at Union College observed that just before molting, a growth process in which an insect sheds its skin in order to mature to its next life stage, a grasshoppers insides become essentially too large for its outer shell. This compresses the grasshopper's tracheal system and makes it difficult for it to breathe. As a result, the team saw a reduction in the number of jumps per minute for the grasshoppers about to molt versus those that were not, suggesting that a compressed respiratory system causes a reduction in mobility.
From this, Kirkton hypothesizes that a lack of oxygen delivery to the grasshopper's body is a trigger for molting. Storing grains or crops at low oxygen levels would limit the oxygen the insects get and trigger molting. The resulting stunted growth cycle would create petite pests with petite appetites, leaving more crops to make their way to supermarket shelves.
"A faster development time would produce smaller adults with reduced appetites and reduce the overall lifespan of the insect," Kirkton said.
The key to discovering the connection between oxygen and the molting cycle came from Kirkton's use of the phase-contrast beamline at sector 32 of the APS. That high-resolution imaging, rapid snapshot-like data collection and the ability to look deeply into material, created a unique ability to visualize and quantify the functioning respiratory system of an intact living insect in real time.
Kirkton published recently in the Journal of Comparative Physiology, his look at the respiratory system of the American grasshopper during periods right before molting. While Kirkton says that more research needs to be done, he thinks that this finding is applicable to a wide-range of insects, which means a universal and chemical-free pest control method may be on its way.
Although few gym rats want to admit it, whispery moth wings and bulging human biceps aren't that different. What we learn from them can teach us more about human muscle mechanics to potentially improve physical therapy treatments and further understand diseases attacking the muscular system.
But logistically, looking at the protein structures within a moth's muscle cells is no easy task. The experiment setup involved gluing a moth by its thorax to a support structure, attaching a series of electrodes to its flight muscles to trigger its wings to beat at a rapid pace, and then using one of the world's most powerful light sources to examine the molecular structure of its muscle movement in real time. The results shed light on more than the mechanics of moth flight – it may redefine our understanding of how our own muscles function.
To conduct this research, Tom Daniel, professor of biology at Washington University and author of a study in Science that examined the cross bridge cycling in the muscles of moths, had to seek out Thomas Irving. Irving is the director of the Biophysics Collaborative Access Team at sector 18 of the APS. Daniel says it is thanks to Irving's wizardry – his expertise in biophysics and experience "hooking up insects to gizmos" – that helped Daniel pull together this experiment.
What they found was that when a moth flaps its wings, a bit of a tug of war is happening at a molecular level. Filaments of myosin tug on filaments of actin to contract a muscle strand, then detach to lengthen the strand. When connected and contracting, the filaments form a lattice-type structure, which is "rubbery," and stores elastic energy. It's like a microscopic trampoline, waiting for something to bounce on it. So when a muscle is contracting, it is acting more like a spring waiting to release its energy than a motor.
Using the APS, Daniel and his team observed that the top of the moth's thorax, which is the muscle that makes the wings move, was cooler on top than on the bottom. The interesting part was that in the cooler regions, the filaments stayed connected for longer, maintaining the rubbery structure for a longer period of time. The elastic energy stored in these cooler regions is released at the end of the lengthening or shortening phases of the muscle. Think of it as a ball finally bouncing on that trampoline. This energy transfer process allows the moth to fly without expending a large amount of energy.
Daniel says that the presence of elastic energy was not a surprise.
"It was not a question of whether or not there was elastic energy involved in flight," Daniel said. The energy cost of rapidly accelerating and decelerating wings during flight is enormous and no insect would be able to maintain that kind of energy output.
However, this study uncovers a new mechanism for this elastic energy storage, one based on temperature differences. At a molecular level, a moth's muscle is not very different than a human's, meaning that elastic energy may serve a much larger role in human muscle function than researchers previously thought.
Serious Threat: Multidrug-Resistant Acinetobacter
What is it? It is a bacteria found in soil and water, which can also live on your skin for days. It doesn't always make you sick. A superbug strain that doctors worry about is Acinetobacter baumannii.
How do you get it? People outside the hospital usually don't get sick from this germ. It's most often seen in people who are already ill and in the hospital for another reason. Having a breathing tube raises your risk.
Why is it a concern? Doctors call this a "significant" hospital germ. It "can develop antibiotic resistance more rapidly than many other bacteria," Coombes says. It "can cause serious illness and can infect the sickest patients." These bacteria cause dangerous lung, brain, and urinary tract infections, among others. About 12,000 people get this infection in hospitals every year. Most are resistant to multiple antibiotics.
This superbug is considered a "survivor" because it forms a protective shield against antibiotics. It is tough to treat because it can easily spread between people.
Saturday, April 12, 2014
The Behavior Response of Pill Bug (Rollie Pollie) in Moisture, Scent,and pH level
This experiment was used to test animal behavior. We tested the response pill bugs had to different environments in three different experiments: moist v/ dry, unscented v/ scented, and acidic v/ neutral. By setting up environment chambers that portrayed those environments, we found that pill bugs prefer dry over wet, unscented over scented, and neutral over acidic.
When one thinks of behavior, it is generally linked to action. Behavior is defined by action. Animal behavior, in short, is the action of the animal. The study of animal behavior is known as ethology, which has two starting points: ultimate and proximate questions. Ultimate questions address the "why" of the behavior. Why does this certain behavior happen? What does it accomplish? Examples of an ultimate question would be "Why do birds sing?"or "Do louder bird songs attract more mates?" Proximate questions address the "how"of the behavior. An example of a proximate question would be "How do birds know when to sing?" Some actions are fixed action patterns, meaning a certain action happens at an exact time over and over again. In animals, these actions have never been taught to them, but are instinctive. Mating calls are often fixed action patterns. For example, when peacocks mate, the male tries to impress the female by showing off his colorful feathers and doing a sort of dance. Animal behavior is not all instinctive. Imprinting is a time in a young animals life where the animal becomes attached to a parent and begins to copy certain characteristics from it. For example, geese, ducks, and some other animals can imprint on humans, or other animals outside of their own species. An ultimate cause could be that imprinting is essential to survival because of the goose's need for a parental figure. An proximate cause could be that it is an instinctive action to imprint on another living being. Kinesis is the nonspecific movement of an animal. The pill bug moved around randomly until it found a desired environment. Taxis is the direct movement in response to a stimulus. For example, birds migrating south would be a taxis movement because the cold climate is the stimulus to the migration. Classical conditions are where an animal associates something with an idea and its body responds to it. Ivan Pavlov's dogs are an example of classical conditions. Pavlov trained his dogs to come for food by ringing a bell. Whenever the dogs heard a bell ringing, they associated it with food and their mouths began to salivate. Operant conditions uses reinforcement to either increase or decrease a behavior. For example, a dog is given treats for obeying commands, while it is reprimanded for disobeying commands.
Part 1: Moisture v/ No Moisture
If the pill bugs are given the option of two environments: one moist and one dry, it will choose the former because they are normally found in more damp places.
If the pill bugs are given the option of two environments: one scented with vinegar and one not scented, it will choose the latter because the pill bug's normal environment doesn't usually have any particular scent.
If the pill bugs are given the option of two environments: one acidic and one neutral, then it will choose the latter because the pill bug's normal environment is at a neutral pH level.
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Burrower bug, (family Cydnidae), any of some 750 species of insects (order Heteroptera) that burrow underground around clumps of grass, in sandy places, or beneath ground litter. These insects may be up to 7 mm (0.3 inch) long. Their oval bodies are brown or black, and there are spines on the tibia (part of the upper leg).
Sometimes the subfamily Thyreocorinae is elevated to the family level (Thyreocoridae). Its members, slightly smaller than those of the burrower-bug subfamily Cydninae, at one time were commonly called negro bugs but are now called thyreocorids. They are found on vegetation, flowers, and fruits, especially raspberries. These are usually shiny black in colour, but some are tinged with green or blue. They emit a disagreeable odour if handled. Thyreocoris pulicarius, a celery pest, is 3 mm long and has white stripes on each side of its body.
This article was most recently revised and updated by Kara Rogers, Senior Editor.
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