How Does A Queen Termite Instruct Her Workers During The Construction Of Her Royal Chamber?

Scientists have long been researching the nest-building behavior of termites in order to better understand how queen termites communicate with worker termites. Many termite species have worker termites constructing a royal chamber for the queen and king as the first stage of nest construction. Worker termites, of course, do not refer to any sort of blueprint for constructing nests; instead, the queen directs workers on how to construct the nest by emitting a “building-pheromone.” In addition to the building-pheromone, termite workers emit what are called “trail-pheromones” while foraging in order to provide additional workers with a scent trail that leads to a food source.Surprisingly, researchers have found that trail-pheromones are also essential for coordinating the nest-building behavior performed by worker termites.

It had been traditionally assumed that the building-pheromone was the only type of pheromone necessary for facilitating nest construction. However, A study conducted by British researchers revealed that trail-pheromones allow worker termites to construct architecturally challenging pillars within the royal chamber. During construction, worker termites were found to emit trail-pheromones along the path from the queen and her chamber to the soil source where the building materials are retrieved. Researchers showed that when worker termites are deprived of their ability to emit trail-pheromones during construction,they fail to complete the pillar formations.

Before worker termites construct the royal chamber around the queen,the queen emits building-pheromones in liquid form. A small amount of workers then proceed to rub this liquid pheromone on the queen’s abdomen for the purpose of grooming her. When the pheromone diffuses away from the queen’s body, worker termites sense the pheromone, which triggers their building behavior. The diffusion of the building-pheromone also creates a one to two inch zone where termites walk between a source of soil for building and the queen. As it happens, the soil source also contains what are called “cement pheromones.” These pheromones attract workers to the soil source before prompting them to deposit a soil pellet onto the royal chamber during its construction, similar to a brick being added to the wall of an unfinished house. This cycle repeats until the royal chamber’s construction is complete.While researchers now know that at least three different types of pheromones are involved in the construction of the royal chamber, pheromone messaging systems in termite colonies remain poorly understood by researchers.

Do you think that the queen is responsible for emitting the cement pheromones that attract termites to the soil used for constructing the royal chamber?

American Troops In Afghanistan Are Forced To Contend With Dangerous Scorpions

The dry desert landscapes located in the middle east are well known for containing numerous scorpion species. While native middle easterners may be familiar with many of the most venomous scorpions that exist within the region, non-natives in the region usually are not. Unfortunately, antivenoms that treat stings inflicted by middle eastern scorpion species are relatively lacking. Therefore, it is important for foreigners to be on the lookout for scorpions in the middle east, as the health consequences of a native scorpion sting can be serious, and in some cases, life threatening. Not surprisingly, many American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq have fallen victim to dangerous scorpion stings, as most American troops were not aware of the scorpion threat before deployment.

American troops that were stationed in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War in the early 90s quickly learned that scorpions were an ever present threat in the region. In one year 2,400 American troops out of 100,000 suffered scorpion stings while on base in Saudi Arabia. This is a whopping amount considering that only 16 out of 100,000 people in the nearby country of Oman suffer scorpion stings every year. The highest recorded rate of scorpion stings in the middle east is 1,000 out of 100,000. Considering these numbers, it is easy to conclude that American troops may not have been made aware of the scorpion threat prior to deployment.

During the more recent war in Afghanistan and Iraq, scorpion sting rates among American troops likely remained high. Although no official statistics have been produced, soldiers returning to the US from the middle east self-reported spider and scorpion stings equaling 46.1 out of only 10,000. The probability of an American soldier sustaining a scorpion sting varies depending on location, season and rank.

One of the most venomous scorpions native to the middle east is the fat-tailed scorpion. The Buthidae scorpion family includes the fat-tailed scorpion as well as many other highly venomous species. A sting from one of these species can result in shock, respiratory failure, pulmonary edema, coma and/or death.

Do you known someone who sustained a scorpion sting while deployed overseas?

A Skydiver Is Saved By Venomous Fire Ants After Her Parachute Fails To Open

A Skydiver Is Saved By Venomous Fire Ants After Her Parachute Fails To Open

Not everybody has the guts to give skydiving a chance. Many adrenaline junkies cannot get enough skydiving in their lives, and the activity is relatively safe, as it is rare for parachutes to fail at opening. Although parachutes open for skydivers nearly one hundred percent of the time, the thought of a parachute not opening is enough to keep many people from attempting this extreme sport. Imagine for a moment what it would feel like to discover a malfunctioning parachute while falling from a height of well over fourteen thousand feet. If you found yourself in this situation what would you do? Of course, there would not be a lot to do in this situation except for attempting to steer oneself toward a relatively soft area in which to land. In addition to this, skydivers are trained to brace their bodies in a particular manner before making impact with the ground. In any case, one thing you certainly would not be thinking about in such an intense moment is fire ants. However, a woman who jumped from a plane with a failed parachute managed to survive, and she owes her life to fire ants.

There are not many situations in which falling on a fire ant nesting mound would be advantageous, but one woman managed to find a benefit. Back on September 25th, 1999, a forty seven year old woman named Joan Murray went skydiving. Unfortunately, on that day, Murray’s parachute failed to open after she jumped from a plane that was flying at an altitude of fourteen thousand five hundred feet. Murray’s secondary parachute also failed to deploy, which led to Murray crashing into a fire ant mound at more than eighty miles per hour. These fire ants did not waste any time attacking her unconscious body before she was rushed to the hospital. According to doctors, the fire ants shocked Murray’s heart into beating in addition to stimulating her nerves. By attacking Murray, the fire ants were helping to preserve her body until she reached a hospital. Murray was in a coma for two weeks and several operations had to be performed on her, but she survived thanks to those fire ants.

Have you ever accidentally disturbed a group of fire ants?

Waco Squirrel Control

A Mysterious Spate Of Squirrel Deaths In A Popular Cemetery Have Residents Seriously Creeped Out

If cemeteries are not creepy enough for you, then you can always checkout Mount Washington Cemetery in Kansas City, Missouri. Mount Washington Cemetery is just like any other cemetary, only it is mysteriously littered with squirrel corpses. Starting last April, visitors at the cemetery and nearbyresidents started to find several squirrel corpses within and near apothecary. What is causing all of these squirrels to die remains a mystery, but several residents living near the cemetery cannot help but to find the current situation to be unsettling. The secretary-treasurer of the nonprofit Mount Washington Cemetery Association, Julie Rimer, has volunteered within the cemetery for more than years, and nobody is more determined than she is to find the culprit/s behind this spate of squirrel killings, if there is a culprit, that is.

Considering Rimer’s more than 30 years of volunteer service within the cemetery, you would think that there is nothing that she has not seen, but Rimer claims that the squirrel corpses within the cemetery is unprecedented.For the past seven months, Rimer alone discovered 22 dead squirrels within the cemetery, and she knows of many others that were discovered by her friends that live nearby. For now, Rimer is attempting to determine if the squirrel corpses are limited to the cemetery. Rimer took to Facebook in order to ask nearby residents if they have noticed an increase in the amount of squirrel corpses being found, and one woman who lives fairly close to the cemetery claimed to have noticed more dead squirrels than usual, but Rimer was hoping for more responses.

Rimer took photos of the squirrel corpses to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife with the hopes that they could help. A spokesperson for the department claimed that the squirrels did not appear to die as a result of squirrel pox, but they did show signs of trauma that may have resulted from a dog or cat attack. The squirrels may also have been shot with a pellet gun or poisoned somehow, but she cannot be sure until another corpse turns up, at which point she will have an autopsy performed to better understand the cause of these mass deaths.

Do you think that the squirrels are succumbing to violent attacks by another wild animal/s?

Termite-Induced Damage To Dykes And Dams Can Cause The Structures To Collapse, Resulting In Widespread Disaster

The Formosan subterranean termite species is often cited by experts as being the most destructive termite species in existence. The scientific name for this species, Coptotermes formosanus, is often confused with the name of another destructive termite species, Odontotermes formosanus. Both of these species are native to China, but the Coptotermes formosanus species has spread all over the world by means of maritime travel. Although the Odontotermes formosanus species only dwells in Asia, and is therefore less destructive than the Formosan termite species, Odontotermes formosanus is unique among termite species due to its habit of inflicting serious structural damages to dams and dykes. While termite destruction is typically limited to a single house or building, numerous studies show that Odontotermes formosanus pest activity can lead to the collapse of dams and dykes, which would result in widespread destruction and a massive loss of life.

The  Odontotermes formosanus species is commonly known as the black-winged subterranean termite. These termites have been found digging three foot deep cavities into many dams and dykes located in southern China. Furthermore, these termites build extensive networks of tunnels throughout these structures. These internal tunnels weaken the structure, and the resulting damage causes dams and dykes to absorb and retain unusually large amounts of water. When the internal structure of dams and dykes become saturated with large amounts of water, complete collapse can result.

The Odontotermes formosanus species of termite is the most destructive dam/pest in the world. According to an investigation, when totaling all river dikes and reservoir dams that are 15 years or older within China’s 14 southern provinces, 90 percent were found to have sustained damage from the Odontotermes formosanus termite species. The economic cost of termite-induced damage to dams and dikes in Asia costs hundreds of millions of American dollars each year. Researchers in China have been working for decades to develop a pest control strategy that could be applied to structures like dams and dikes, but no effective control measure has yet been produced.

Do you think that continuous termite activity within dams and/or dikes could result in collapse, and therefore, mass flooding in urban areas?

A Couple Finds A Scorpion Within A Box Of Sainsbury’s Blackberries In The UK

Nobody likes a scorpion in his/her package of store-bought blackberries, but this is exactly what one UK citizen, James Green, received after purchasing a box of blackberries from the popular supermarket known as Sainsbury’s. Major corporations, like Sainsbury’s, do not like admitting to the existence of potentially dangerous arthropods within their product packages, but managers working at a Sainsbury’s in Wigan had no choice but to admit guilt after being confronted with the scorpion-contaminated product. In response to this unfortunate discovery, a Sainsbury’s spokesperson has announced an investigation into the matter.

After finding a scorpion with its pincers and stinger still attached within a box of Sainsbury’s-brand blackberries, James Green and his wife placed the specimen within a plastic container. The scorpion was only a few centimeters in length, and James is guessing that it originated in Mexico, as the blackberries contained within the package were grown and packaged within the country. James had eaten almost every blackberry from the package before realizing that it contained a scorpion. Luckily, the scorpion was dead, otherwise James would likely have sustained a sting. However, in most cases, arthropods die while being transported within shipments of food products, as the absence of a nourishing environment makes even the hardiest of arthropod species, like scorpions, ill suited for overseas transport.

A Sainsbury’s spokesperson claimed that it is incredibly rare for customers to find arthropods within their Sainsbury products, and the customer who recently found a scorpion in a box of blackberries had been approached with a generous offer of goodwill for his trouble. However, Green claimed that this “gesture of goodwill,” as the Sainsbury’s spokesperson put it, consisted of a compensation offer of 15 pounds. Unfortunately, James and his wife did not become rich as a result of this incident, but they could have asked for more than 15 pounds.

Have you ever encountered a terrifying arachnid only to learn that it was dead?

The Mother Spiders That Produce Milk For Their Offspring

Everyone can remember learning about mammals in preschool and early gradeschool. We were taught that only mammalian animals produce milk for the purposes of nourishing their offspring. While this is not exactly accurate due to the many non-mammalian lifeforms that also produce milk, it was good enough at the age of six. However, many people may be surprised to learn that a spider species has recently been discovered that produces its own nourishing fluid for its suckling spiderlings. This spider species is known as Toxeus magnus, and it is also notable for looking exactly like an ant in order to fool predators.

The Toxeus magnus is a species of jumping spider that is native to southeast Asia. Female spiders of this species produce a fluid containing sugars, fats, and proteins in order to provide their babies with nourishment. The lead researcher investigating this new spider species, biologist Rui-Chang Quan of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is referring to this fluid as “milk” for the time being, as such a substance has never been found before. Interestingly, researchers learned that the spiderlings continue feeding on their mother’s milk well into maturity, which is unusual.

While spiders are not known for producing their own milk, a female spider’s parenting behavior is quite similar to mammalian parenting behaviors. Although many spider species are naturally solitary, many female spiders provide extended care for their offspring. For example, some female spiders avoid eating in order to constantly guard their egg cases, and other females will open their egg cases in order to give their spiderlings an occasional ride on their back. Other females even regurgitate food for their young, like birds do, but the recently discovered species of spider developed the ability to produce nourishing milk. Much like mammals, Toxeus magnus spiderlings are entirely dependent on their mother’s milk for survival. The researchers that found this spider species are convinced that many other spider species exist that also produce milk for their young, only they have yet to be discovered.

Do you know of any insect species that produce milk for their offspring?

Blood-Sucking Insects Were Spreading Malaria While Dinosaurs Roamed The Earth

Malaria is the deadliest type of mosquito-borne disease, and they have been killing humans for a very long time. The earliest recorded instances of malaria infection date back four thousand years, and Hippocrates described malaria symptoms as early as the fourth century BCE. In fact, it was malaria-carrying mosquitoes that wiped out the earliest city-state populations that existed in ancient Greece. While malaria-carrying mosquitoes have been well known killers for centuries, recent research suggests that the earliest humans were likely vulnerable to malaria since their emergence around 150 to 200 thousand years ago. As it turns out, even the earlier hominid ancestors of modern humans likely suffered outbreaks of malaria, as studies on amber-preserved mosquitoes and ticks show that malaria-carrying mosquitoes existed 100 million years ago, which is when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

It is extremely rare to find flimsy and soft-bodied insects like mosquitoes preserved within amber fossils. It is even more rare for researchers to identify the disease causing pathogens and parasites in the blood that these mosquitoes had collected millions of years ago. According to George Poinar of Oregon State University, there exists five unique areas of the world where well-preserved amber fossils can be found. These fossils date back 100 million years, and in some cases, even before that. These special fossil beds exist within the Dominican Republic, Mexico, the Baltic region of Europe, Canada and Myanmar.

Poinar collected several of these well preserved fossils and found that the blood-meals collected by these mosquitoes 100 million years ago still contained identifiable disease causing pathogens. One fossilized mosquito that existed 100 million years ago was found to have malaria-causing pathogens within its blood meal. Based on this finding as well as other forms of evidence, Poinar believes that early mosquitoes transmitted malaria to the earliest vertebrate animals that existed on earth.

Have you ever located an insect fossil?

 

Texans Are Mourning The Recent Death Of A Famous Albino Squirrel

Several famous animals have existed over the years. Pets that belonged to former presidents and Punxsutawney Phil are both examples of animals that enjoy a notoriety that they, of course, cannot perceive. In addition to the very few animals that have become well known nationally, the popularity of some individual animals does not extend beyond local areas. For example, one particular albino squirrel that was given the moniker “Snowpea” was popular among students, faculty and the surrounding residents at the University of Texas in Austin. Several factors have allowed albino squirrels, which are quite rare, to proliferate in larger than normal numbers on the UT campus. Snowpea became a representative of these albino squirrels after it had been spotted on the campus numerous times over the course of several years. Sadly, Snowpea recently died, but its memory will live on in the many offspring that she has birthed over the years.

Last week, Snowpea was found dead at the Gates Dell Complex in Austin. The squirrel’s popularity and the well-established presence of her many albino offspring on the campus, have been documented for the past several years on University of Texas’ Facebook and Instagram pages. The many pictures on these sites feature Snowpea as well as many other albino squirrels that call the UT campus home. The sites also document the different behaviors exhibited by the albino squirrels.

Marie Romano, creator of the page, and a 2016 University of Texas graduate, claimed that Snowpea most likely died as a result of falling from a tree. Romano was apparently looking for Snowpea before she found the squirrel lying motionless on the ground. Romano created the webpages while she was attending the University, and her Facebook page has gathered 4,342 followers. Her efforts to document the albino squirrel population on the campus has been praised and supported by students and faculty members alike. Experts say that most fox squirrels in Texas possess a reddish-brown color, but Carin Peterson, outreach coordinator for Environmental Health and Safety, says that albino squirrels are overabundant on the UT campus due to a lack of natural predators in the area. However, this is not a problem for the students and faculty members that routinely feed the albino squirrels, and they are reportedly sweet and gentle in demeanor.

Do you think that feeding the albino squirrels is harmless in the long run?

Waco Rat Control

Keep Pests Outdoors Where They Belong This Winter

As temperatures across the country drop and the holiday season approaches, iPest Solutions reminds homeowners to take steps to prevent pests from dropping by uninvited. Rodents and cockroaches, the most common winter pests, love nothing more than to spend the chilly winter inside a cozy home, bringing with them health and property threats.

Most people associate cooler weather with relief from flying pests such as mosquitoes and wasps, but the winter brings on a different set of pest problems that are just as serious, rats are most likely to cause problems in Waco this time of year, so it’s important for homeowners to prevent these pests from entering their homes.

Aside from being nuisances, rodents and cockroaches are vectors of a wide array of diseases and can exacerbate asthma and allergy symptoms – effects only worsened by the increased time spent indoors during the winter. Rodents can also chew through drywall, insulation, wood and electrical wiring, increasing the potential risk for fires.

iPest Solutions offers the following tips for keeping homes pest-free this winter:

  • Seal cracks and holes on the outside of your home to help prevent pests from getting inside. Be sure to check the areas where utilities and pipes enter the home. A mouse can fit through a hole the size of a dime.
  • Replace loose mortar and weather stripping around the basement foundation and windows.
  • Store firewood at least 20 feet from the home. Pests often take up residence in wood piles and can easily gain access to your home if the pile is nearby.
  • Rodents can hide in clutter, so keep storage areas well organized, and store boxes off of the floor.
  • Eliminate all moisture sites, including leaking pipes and clogged drains. Extra attention should be paid to kitchens and bathrooms as these areas are particularly vulnerable to cockroach infestations.
  • Install door sweeps and repair damaged screens in windows.
  • Screen vents to chimneys. Keep attics, basements and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry.

We encourage homeowners to remain vigilant throughout the winter for any signs of pest infestations and to regularly inspect for any possible points of entry throughout the home.