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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 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?

 

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.

Big City Spiders Are Less Afraid of Light Than Their Country Cousins

Spiders in general aren’t known for running around in the daylight. They tend to stick to dark corners, as this helps them better hunt unsuspecting prey and it helps them hide from other possible predators. However, there is one situation in which a spider has a bigger advantage working with light; if the spider in question is a web-weaving spider. Prey such as moths are attracted to sources of light such as street lamps. However, these kinds of light-emitting objects also tend to be located in more urban and suburban areas. Tomer Czaczkes of the University of Regensburg, in Germany, believes that because of this, at least one species of urban web-spinning spider has lost its fear of light, or photophobia, in order to set up their web near such lights and take advantage of the better access to prey attracted to light.Waco Spider Control

It was after seeing many well-fed and happy spiders building their webs near streetlamps in Regensburg that Dr. Czaczkes began to wonder if city life has changed spiders’ behavior. When he found out that urban moth populations are less attracted to light than their rural cousins, he thought that the reverse might be true for urban spiders. Urban spiders should be more attracted to, or less afraid of, lights than rural spiders. To see if his theory was true Dr. Czaczkes and his colleagues took 783 spiderlings from both rural and urban areas, as well as a number of different countries, and placed them in boxes individually that had a board dividing the space in half. He lit one side of each box with a lamp that produced no heat, and left the other side dark, with two tiny gaps allowing the spiderlings to cross between the two sides. After randomly placing each spiderling in either the dark or light side of the box, the researching then watched to see in which side they built their web.

The results were exactly as Dr. Czaczkes expected they would be. Two thirds of the spiderlings collected from rural locations built their webs in the dark side of the box. Their urban cousins, however, only built half of their webs in the dark side, suggesting that the urban spiders were indeed less afraid of light. The rural spiders were still very photophobic, but the urban spiders had adapted to the point where they did not exactly like the light, but had at least ceased to fear it.

Have you ever noticed how many spider webs in urban areas are close to light fixtures? Have you noticed less spiders hanging around near lights in rural areas?

PESTS THAT GIVE HOMEOWNERS A SCARE THIS HALLOWEEN

CREEPY CRAWLY PESTS THAT GIVE HOMEOWNERS A SCARE THIS HALLOWEEN

iPest Solutions shares information on common pests that may take up residence during the colder months

While it’s normal to see bats, spiders and other creatures invade your front doorstep on Halloween in the form of trick-or-treaters or spooky décor, IPest Solutions  advises people to be on the lookout for real-life ghoulish pests this fall.

Halloween is a fun celebration of all things creepy and crawly, but it also serves as a reminder that actual pest infestations can cause quite the fright. In the spirit of this spooky holiday, we are reminding homeowners to take preventative measures to keep pests from taking up residence indoors.

Here’s a guide to some common critters that may spook homeowners this fall, along with tips to prevent them from turning the home into a haunted house.

Rats – One of the most reviled pests, rats can contaminate food, spread dangerous diseases and create fire hazards by chewing through electrical wires. Before homeowners bring boxes of pumpkins and faux cobwebs inside to decorate for Halloween, they should inspect them for signs of an infestation such as gnaw marks and rodent droppings.

Bats – Bats are frequent carriers of rabies, which can be fatal if left untreated. They often enter homes through attics, belfries and under fascia boards. Homeowners should screen attic vents and openings to chimneys, and install door sweeps this fall to keep bats out of the home.

Spiders – Some species of spiders, mainly the brown recluse and black widow, can administer a painful bite when disturbed. Homeowners can avoid coming in contact with spiders by wearing heavy gloves when moving items that have been stored for a long period of time and shaking out shoes before wearing them.

Bed bugs – Bed bugs are similar to vampires in that they feed off of human blood, typically at night. These elusive pests do not transmit disease, but they can leave red, itchy welts on the skin. Before dressing up in a costume that came from a rental or second-hand store, make sure to inspect it for bed bugs.

The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) offers some additional tips to prevent a pest infestation this Halloween season:

  • Seal cracks and crevices around the home’s exterior using caulk and steel wool. Pay close attention to where utility pipes enter the structure.
  • Keep basements, attics and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry.
  • Keep kitchen counters clean, store food in airtight containers and dispose of garbage regularly in sealed receptacles.
  • Store fire wood at least 20 feet away from the house and keep shrubbery well trimmed.
  • If you see signs of an infestation in your home, contact a licensed pest professional.

For more information on common household pests and how to protect your home, visit www.wacopest.com

 

The Successful Artist Who Preserves Dead Insects Before Replacing Their Innards With Machinery Parts

It may be hard to believe, but for thousands of years, insects have been a source of inspiration for many artists. One of the earliest cave paintings ever found depicts insects, and Renaissance artists used a type of red paint that was made from ground up cochineal insects. However, one artist from China is using insects in a way that has never been thought of before, and needless to say, his art is quite strange. Zhang Yuebai is an artist and insect enthusiast who creates sculptures made of hollowed out insect corpses.

Zhang orders a variety of different insect species from online vendors. Once the insect-filled packages arrive to his home, Zhan removes every bit of each insect’s innards. Although this may sound like a macabre act, Zhan feels as though his artwork is ultimately a celebration of insects. Once an insect’s guts are removed, Zhand dips the insect’s body into preservative chemicals. Once this is complete, holes are drilled into the hardened insect corpse so that he can place several mechanical parts inside of the hollowed out body. These mechanical parts include gears from watches and sometimes even valuable gemstones. Zhan also builds armor for his insects using the same types of materials. The final products looks like a sort of robo-insect.Waco Spider Control

According to Zhang, who is only 23, his insect sculptures can take a long time to complete, as the process requires patience and precision. Zhang does not just work with insects, but enjoys working with the occasional arachnid as well.  He once accidentally broke the legs of a preserved spider that he was making into one of his sculptures. The insect sculptures created by Zhang retain their natural colors, and he moves each sculpture into positions that are fitting for a particular species. For example, Zhang admires the mantis shrimp for its powerful claws, so he made a sculpture with one that featured a mechanical spring mechanism on its claws, which, according to Zhang, represents the force behind each slash of a mantis shrimp’s claw. Zhang takes pride in knowing that he is the only artist of his kind in all of China. However, he is probably the only artist of his kind in the world. Many of Zhang’s sculptures are sold for prices of around two to three thousand dollars.

Do you believe that Zhang’s artwork is inhumane toward insects?

World’s Biggest Insect and Arachnid Fossil Beds Right Here in the United States

When I think of fossils, the creatures that tend to come to mind first are dinosaurs, and I always imagine that they are found in far off, isolated locations in the desert, similar to the one portrayed at the beginning of Jurassic Park. But fossils come in all shapes and sizes, and one of the most important fossil sites for insect and arachnids in the world is actually located right in the good old USA. The large site is also not in the desert, but rather a forest in Colorado. To top things off, you don’t even have to be an archeologist or scientist to visit this famous site. The Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument welcomes all visitors to view this incredible site and even walk through the forest and get up close and personal with some of their oldest fossils in their natural habitat.Waco Spider Control

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is one of the world’s most diverse and richest fossil sites. You won’t see any giant bones jutting up from the ground. These fossil beds, which were discovered in 1873, contain a whopping 50,000 specimens, including 1,700 animal and plant species. 1,500 of those species are comprised of insects and arachnids, with insects such as spiders, beetles, flies, wasps, cockroaches, aphids, ants, as well as almost all of the species of butterflies in the country. The most popular part of the fossil site is the Ponderosa Loop, and half-mile-long and wheelchair-accessible hike that brings you right to some of their most famous fossils, including the “Big Stump”, the largest petrified redwood in the entire monument, originally reaching over 230 feet in height. That is one giant tree, fossilized or not. It’s like stepping back in time to when dinosaurs and giant insects roamed the Earth, long before we came along.

Have you ever visited a fossil site? What did you see there and what was your experience like?