A new study finds that the feline reaction to catnip and silver vine helps to stave off mosquitoes and other bloodsucking insects.
This is the trouble with trying to help a natural world in so much peril. It’s never entirely clear when it’s right to intervene and when it’s wrong.
Efforts to tease apart the vast swarm of proteins in venom — a field called venomics — have burgeoned in recent years, leading to important drug discoveries.
Alive or dead, rare or mundane, bugs are weirdly easy to find for sale online. However, in some cases, the insects or spiders sold through the various e-commerce sites, both niche and large-scale, may be of dubious provenance. Some may be bred and reared in sustainable programs. Others might be taken from wild populations that are at risk, according to new research out of Cornell University that was published last week.
“It’s not always clear… if they’re sustainable or not,” John Losey, a Cornell entomology professor and one of the paper’s authors, told Ars. “There are sites out there that are definitely not providing documentation that what they’re selling is being done sustainably.”
According to Losey, some websites will provide no documentation or proof showing that a rare pinned butterfly specimen or pet tarantula was collected in a way that doesn’t pose a risk for wild populations. Some of them could very well have been reared in a sustainable program, Losey said—there’s just no way to tell.
Those wasps you hate? They’re the best organic pest control around. Here’s how to keep them happy (and avoid getting stung).
When we think of evolution, we often think of slow, gradual changes made over millions of years. However, new research suggests that the process could be happening quite quickly, driving major changes over the course of a single year in response to seasonal changes.
The paper describing that research was released last week and studies evolution in fruit flies over around 10 generations, with each generation of flies spanning less than a dozen days. While fruit flies are notoriously short-lived, and the distance between their generations is tiny, evolution could be happening quicker than previously anticipated even in longer-lived organisms, according to Seth Rudman, assistant professor in the school of biological sciences at Washington State University and one of the authors of the paper.
“Over the last few decades there has been a growing appreciation that evolution can occur fairly rapidly,” he told Ars.
Insect feces and exoskeletons can make agriculture more sustainable and produce less waste, scientists say.
Robber flies are aerodynamic acrobats, able to spot their prey, dodge around obstacles, and capture smaller insects at high speeds in midflights. Scientists have taken a closer look at how robber flies manage this amazing feat despite having brains on par with a single grain of sand. According to a new paper published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, the flies combine two distinct feedback-based navigation strategies: one that involves intercepting the prey when the view is clear, and another that allows the flies to swerve around any obstacles in their flight path.
One of the challenges in robotics is how to design robots that can navigate cluttered environments—something humans and other animals manage to do instinctively every day. Per the authors, many robotic systems rely upon a kind of path-planning: using sound (sonar) or lasers to send out signals and then detecting the reflections. That data can then be used to build a distance map of the surroundings.
But compared to using simple visual cues (i.e., “reactive methods”), path-planning is a costly approach in terms of energy use. Humans and other animals don’t require elaborate maps or specific knowledge about a target’s location, speed, and other details. We simply react to any relevant stimuli in our environment in real time. Devising navigational behavioral algorithms based on biological systems is thus of great interest to roboticists.
Climate-conscious cooking means getting creative.
The find suggests overlooked rocks across the continent may contain more fossilized surprises.
A Long Island couple says fighting climate change and protecting biodiversity starts at home. Or rather, right outside their suburban house.
When threatened by giant hornets, Asian honeybees use their wings to make a noise that sounds like a cry for help.
Microscopy is essential to many areas of science. We use it to look at everything from the small devices we fabricate to the tiny structures inside cells. And microscopy wouldn’t function without input from many areas of science. Chemistry helps with stains, dyes, and sample preparation. Physics determines what’s possible with different forms of optics. And fields like biology and geology tell us which samples can give us valuable information. Combined, these tools give us a nearly infinite suite of options for looking at the world of the small.
With the right choices among those options, a microscope can do far more than just advance science; it can create objects of art. Each year, when Nikon releases the results of its annual microscopy competition, we struggle for new superlatives to describe the images. This year is no exception. So rather than struggling with words, we’ll get straight to the images.
The rock. We tend to think of microscopes as tools that examine living matter, revealing details that are critical to understanding cells and the organisms built from them. But chemicals and minerals also have features that aren’t always visible to the naked eye and can be critical to their behavior as well. We’ve always loved close-ups of crystals and rocks, and this year’s collection of images contains a surfeit of them.
Officials hunting the Asian giant hornet in Washington State have so far destroyed three nests, and plan to eradicate a fourth — very carefully.
The ecosystem in my own yard brings is showing signs of both trouble and hope.
This behavior by the fluttering insects was so unusual that scientists had to invent a new word to describe it.
That this perennial wildflower digests trapped insects suggests that other plants’ appetites for animals may be overlooked.
We’re currently watching—often in horror—what happens as a virus and its hosts engage in an evolutionary arms race. Measures to limit infectivity and enhance immunity are selecting for viral strains that spread more readily and avoid at least some of the immune response. All of that is easily explained through evolutionary theory and has been modeled mathematically.
But not all evolutionary interactions are so neat and binary. Thursday’s edition of Science included a description of a three-way fight between butterflies, the wasps that parasitize them, and the viruses that can infect both species. To call the interactions that have ensued “complicated” is a significant understatement.
Meet the combatants
One of the groups involved is the Lepidoptera, the butterflies and moths. They are seemingly the victims in this story because, like any other species, they can be infected by viruses. Many of these viral infections can be fatal, although some kill the animal quickly, and others take their time. Since they often strike during the larval/caterpillar stages, the viruses need other hosts to transfer the viruses to other victims.
Here’s what to do if you find them in your garden. (Hint: Forget the traps.)
Stop using pesticides, in your butterfly garden and everywhere else.
At 17, Juliane Diller was the sole survivor of a plane crash in the Amazon. Fifty years later she still runs Panguana, a research station founded by her parents in Peru.
In “Super Fly” Jonathan Balcombe explores the world of the most annoying creature, moving beyond the buzz and drone.
Earth Day is a reminder that we are living creatures all the same.
Even in the densest human habitations, there are orders of magnitude more ants than there are of us, doing the hard work of making our crumbs disappear.
A study shows that pretending to be immobile — sometimes for an hour or more — helps larvae of insects called antlions outlast hungry predators.
Insects are a lot of things – but fragile they’re not. Sure, most can’t withstand the full force of a human foot, but for their size, they’re evolve to be extremely rugged and resilient. Insect-sized technology, on the other hand, is general another story.
That’s certainly been the historic case with scaled-down drones. The components, in particular, tend to become more fragile the more you shrunk them. In particular, motors both lose efficiency and weaken the smaller they get.
Earlier models from the MIT lab have relied on rigid ceramic-based materials. They did the job in terms of getting the robot airborne, but as the lab notes, “foraging bumblebees endure a collision about once every second.” In other words, if you’re going to build something this small, you need to ensure that it doesn’t break down the first time it comes into contact with something.
“The challenge of building small aerial robots is immense,” says MIT Assistant Professor Kevin Yufeng Chen.
New drone models, which the lab describes as resembling, “a cassette tape with wings,” are built with soft actuators, made from carbon nanotube-coated rubber cylinders. The actuators elongate when electricity is applied at a rate up to 500 times a second. Doing this causes the wings to beat and the drones to take flight.
The drones are extremely light weight, as well, coming in at around 0.6 grams – basically as much as a big bumble bee. There are still limitations to these early models. Namely, the system currently requires them to be hardwired to deliver the necessary charge – as seen in the below gif. It can be a bit of a mess. Other modifications are being made, as well, including a more nature-inspired dragonfly shape being used for newer prototypes.
Should such the lab be able to to produce such a robot untethered with imaging capabilities and a decent sized battery, the potential applications are immense for the tiny drones. You’ve got everything from simple inspections currently being handled by larger models to pollination and search and rescue.
Blickling Hall, a centuries-old building in England, is trying to protect its priceless tapestries, carpets and furniture with thousands and thousands of microscopic wasps.
America wasn’t ready for the pandemic. And it isn’t ready for the next contagion to strike our woodlands.
Joel Marrable, an Air Force veteran, was largely bedridden by cancer and “incapable” of defending himself when ants attacked him at a Veterans Affairs facility, his family said.
Scientists were surprised to find the insect’s preserved penis, which suggests it was an unknown species.
A team of scientists say they have figured out the cicada-like life cycles of the many-legged arthropods.
Some tree crickets amplify their calls with leaves, giving them an opportunity to mate that they otherwise might miss.
Asian honeybees have exhibited what scientists call a form of tool use to deter attacks by giant predatory wasps.
A surprise clutch of eggs has solved a century-old leaf insect mystery.
Before metamorphosis, monarch butterflies will aggressively head butt each other for access to their favorite food.
Officials vacuumed the country’s first nest of so-called murder hornets last month in Washington State. The invasive insects could multiply and kill native bee populations, endangering crops and ecosystems.
Officials said they planned to destroy the nest in Blaine, Wash., on Saturday before the voracious Asian giant hornets could multiply and lay waste to bees.
Contact with a puss caterpillar can cause a painful reaction as well as a rash, fever, muscle cramps or swollen glands, experts caution.
Gov. Jay Inslee apologized for transporting the pest to maggot-free counties in Washington, which produces about 70 percent of the nation’s apples. After the discovery, the hunt was on.
New research suggests there is a relationship between the diversity of a bee’s diet and the size of its croissant-shaped brain.
After what felt like a sting, a red blotch grew and darkened on his shin. And then a twin rash somehow showed up on the other leg.
A species of insect tags along with elephant seals as they spend months at sea, enduring the crushing pressure changes of the mammals’ dives.
When ants are accidentally marked as dead, they find a way to rejoin the living.
We usually think of insects as meals for vertebrates such as frogs. But arthropods may turn the tables more often than you think.
The E.P.A. has approved nootkatone, which is found in cedars and grapefruit. It repels ticks, mosquitoes and other dangerous bugs for hours, but is safe enough to eat.
It’s hot, Donald Trump is still president, the pandemic is still raging, and did I mention that it’s hot?
The thistledown velvet ant, which is actually a wasp, resembles creosote fuzz. But mimicry isn’t the reason, a new study suggests.
Homeowners use up 10 times more pesticide per acre than farmers do. But we can change what we do in our own yards.
You know they support pollinators and native wildlife, but you may not have a meadow where they’ll feel at home. Here’s what to do.
New research shows these ferocious insects don’t just hunt like robots.