Insects

The bright side of this winter’s big chill: Fewer mosquitoes this summer

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 24, 2013   View Article

As the bitter cold in the northeastern United States keeps even hardy New Hampshire skiers off the slopes, there’s at least one potential upside to the cold snap: fewer mosquitoes come summer, according to an entomologist riding out the cold in upstate New York.

“Most arthropods have the ability to super-cool themselves in order to survive extreme cold winters in the ranges they’ve become adapted to. However, if unusually cold temperatures strike, it could be below their threshold of tolerance,” Cornell University’s Laura Harrington explained via email to NBC News.

Remote-control tech turns cockroaches into beasts of burden

Publication: NBC News   Date: September 7, 2012   View Article

Scientists have outfitted a cockroach with a high-tech backpack that allows them to remotely control where it scurries.

While the concept may sound terrifying, anyone buried alive under rubble in an earthquake will shout for joy at the sight of one of these bugs. The shout will be relayed to rescue teams.

Ant-inspired Internet – the ‘Anternet’ – may be coming soon

Publication: NBC News   Date: August 27, 2012   View Article

Ants get stuff done without anyone in control. Understanding how they do what they do could help us design more robust and efficient networks, according to a biologist who studies ant colony behavior.

A recent study shows that harvester ants, for example, regulate how many ants are out searching for food in a way that resembles how Internet protocols regulate the amount of data being transferred according to the amount of available bandwidth.

Biofuel cells may turn cockroaches into cyborgs

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: January 6, 2012   View Article

The sugars in a cockroach’s belly have been harnessed by a fuel cell and converted into electricity, a big step toward turning insects into cyborgs, scientists are reporting.

Once miniaturized to the point that the fuel cells are non-invasive to the cockroaches, they can be implanted to power sensors or recording devices, for example.

Diapers made from silk and discarded shrimp shells?

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: December 15, 2011   View Article

Parents who fret over the choice between cloth and disposable diapers may soon have another option: biodegradable ones made with a new material called called “Shrilk,” so named because it’s made by combining a silk protein with chitin, a hard substance commonly extracted from shrimp shells.

The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University reports that Shrilk “replicates the exceptional strength, toughness, and versatility of one of nature’s more extraordinary substances — insect cuticle.”

Caterpillar Fungus Making Tibetan Herders Rich

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: April 27, 2011   View Article

Harvesting of a parasitic fungus that grows high on the Tibetan Plateau in China is infusing hordes of cash into rural communities, scientists say.

The fungus, Ophiocordyceps sinensis, takes over the bodies of caterpillar larvae then shoots up like finger-size blades of grass out of the dead insects’ heads.

Known as yartsa gunbu—or “summer grass winter worm”—by Chinese consumers, the nutty-tasting fungus is highly valued for its purported medicinal benefits, for instance, as a treatment for cancer and aging and as a libido booster. Far away in the booming cities of Beijing and Shanghai, demand for the fungus has soared.

Top ten species of 2009 named

Publication: MSNBC.com   Date: July 15, 2010   View Article

This bomb-dropping worm, Swima bombiviridis, is among the top 10 species discovered in 2009, according to the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University. The annual roundup winnows down a list of about 20,000 species described each year to just a few mind-benders.

“It is a great way of getting the public involved in biodiversity,” says Mary Liz Jameson, a biodiversity scientist at Wichita State University and chair of this year’s selection committee. While the criteria for selection include scientific significance, Jameson admits that “the cool factor” also plays a part.

For example, the bomb-dropping worm found off the coast of California “has these green gills it can kind of throw off, and the predator will follow the gill instead of following the [worm], so it is tripping up the predator,” Jameson said. “It’s really cool.”

Check out the other cool species on the top-10 list.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach