Your Christmas tree may harbor up to 25,000 ‘freeloading’ insects: scientist

Your Christmas tree may harbor up to 25,000 ‘freeloading’ insects: scientist via http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/12/19/your-christmas-tree-may-harbor-up-to-25000-freeloading-insects-scientist/

By Agence France-Presse

Christmas tree illustration via Shutterstock

 

“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”

Er, not quite.

Get a magnifying glass and take a close look at your Christmas tree, says a scientist.

In all likelihood, it is harbouring thousands of bugs.

Bark lice, mites, moths and the odd spider are among the tiny creatures that live on pine trees and find themselves dragged into homes when Christmas comes around, says Bjarte Jordal at Norway’s University Museum of Bergen.

Stimulated by the lights and warmth, they emerge from hibernation in your living room.

“In research on Christmas trees there have been found as many as 25,000 individual (insects)… in some of the trees,” says Jordal.

He adds, though: “As they cannot feed on the limited plants found in most households, the bugs will quickly dry out and die.

“These insects and bugs do not constitute any risk or danger to people or furniture. And if anyone is worried about allergic reactions, I don’t think there’s any danger of that.”

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New Species Discovered

Though it looks like a spider, has a web like a spider and moves like a spider, it’s not a spider. It’s actually a decoy built by a newly-discovered species in the Cyclosa genus.

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When biologist Phil Torres was leading a group of visitors into a floodplain in Peru, he saw a white inch (2.5cm) long spider sitting its web. Its flaky appearance, seemingly covered in fungus, suggested it had been dead a while – until it started moving. It wasn’t until Torres got closer that he realized the illusion. The actual spider, only 5mm long in body length, was sitting above the decoy and shaking the web to create the illusion of movement.

The spider seems to be a completely new species, but its sculpting abilities have led experts to place it in the genus Cyclosa. Spiders in this genus are known to use debris in their webs to attract or confuse prey, but haven’t been seen to make anything as detailed as these decoys. The web-shaking behavior is also new. However more observations are needed before it can be declared a new species, as there is always the chance that this is a named spider engaging in never-before-seen behavior.

Photo credit: Phil Torres.

Sources (where several more photos are available)
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/12/spider-building-spider/

http://blog.perunature.com/2012/12/new-species-of-decoy-spider-likely.html

Arming US troops with insect-protective gear

Scientists at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology (CMAVE) in Gainesville, Fla., are evaluating insecticides, testing pesticide application equipment, and treating military tents, camouflage screening and sun awnings with long-lasting residual pesticides. The research is a component of a USDA-DOD initiative called the Deployed War-Fighter Protection Research Program. ARS is USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency. Biting insects and arthropods can transmit pathogens that cause devastating diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis (spread by mosquitoes), or leishmaniasis (spread by sand flies infected with Leishmania parasites). Such illnesses are a particular problem for susceptible U.S. troops deployed to countries where these diseases are common. Entomologist Seth Britch, who works in CMAVE’s Mosquito and Fly Research Unit and is also a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, found that camouflage netting treated with a specially formulated insecticide effectively reduces mosquito populations and provides long-lasting protection for military personnel. Desert-pattern netting material was sprayed, allowed to dry, packed and shipped to Tallil Air Force Base in Iraq, where it was stored for five months, tested and then shipped back to CMAVE for analysis. Almost 300 days after it had been treated, the material was still successful in controlling mosquitoes. Treated netting also provided protection against sand flies and filth flies. In another experiment, scientists evaluated ultra-low-volume pesticide spray equipment, chemicals and application techniques in Kenya against sand flies. Britch, CMAVE center director Kenneth Linthicum, and collaborators from the Navy Entomology Center of Excellence at Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Florida and the U.S. Army Medical Research Unit in Nairobi, Kenya, tested two pesticide sprayers and two pesticides to kill sand fly species comparable to those found in Iraq and Afghanistan. DOD equipment and one of the pesticides tested performed well against sand flies. Linthicum, Britch and CMAVE entomologist Daniel Kline are also part of a team that evaluates repellents, treatment methods and spray equipment in locations like California’s Coachella Valley desert, which looks similar ecologically and environmentally to deserts in the Middle East. Researchers work to ensure that all application techniques and equipment are effective before being used by military personnel deployed to hot, arid environments. More information: Read more about this research in the November/December 2012 issue of Agricultural Research magazine. http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/nov12/insects1112.htm

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-12-arming-troops-insect-protective-gear.html#jCp

WSJ.com: Deadly Australian Spider Spins Web Across Japan

WSJ.com: Deadly Australian Spider Spins Web Across Japan

A poisonous spider from Australia is spinning its web across Japan, with sightings of the pesky arachnid increasing to about half of the country’s prefectures.

On Wednesday, the environment ministry warned the public to be on the lookout for the redback spider, which has been spotted in 23 of the country’s 47 prefectures. The creepy crawler has been invading Japan in growing numbers since one hitched a ride on a shipping container from Australia in 1995.

The redback spider, distinguished by the fireball marking on its black back, has become a seasonal pest in big port regions in western Japan like Osaka and Fukuoka. But the ministry said the migratory spider has become more ambitious, reaching farther into Japan, from Miyagi prefecture in the chilly northeast to the beaches of Okinawa in the southwest.

Smaller than a thumb tack, the redback injects a potent neurotoxin when it clamps down on a victim’s skin. Victims could suffer from nausea, headaches, heavy perspiration and chest pains. An anti-venom discovered in 1956 has helped cut fatalities from the spider’s lethal bite, and so far no deaths have been recorded in Japan. However, anti-venom had to be administered to an 86-year-old woman in Fukuoka in early September, after she was bitten by a redback hiding in her shoe.There have been over 100 sightings of the spider in Fukuoka city so far this year.

The redback has been recorded in 18 prefectures until now, according to the National Institute for Environmental Studies. It is also creeping closer to Tokyo. The industrial city of Kawasaki, located in neighboring Kanagawa prefecture, had its first sighting ever on Monday. The city raised an alert after one spider and three eggs were discovered in a private home on Monday.

Authorities have warned the public not to touch the spider, which is relatively passive when left alone and can be killed with pesticide. Redbacks thrive in warm temperatures and tend to pop up from June to October, but the spiders have been found to be hanging about longer in recent years, taking refuge near heat-emitting appliances like vending machines.

Fun Bug Facts!

Here are some fun facts:

1. Dragonflies can fly 36 miles (58k) an hour.

2. A click beetle plays dead by lying on its back, then snaps a hinge, [licks his body up in the air, and scuttles away to live another day.

3. Some caterpillars store poisonous chemicals in their brightly-colored bodies that make birds sick.

4. Glowworms have a blue light that shines from their abdomens in attracts smaller insects for food.

5. Queen bees lay over 1,000 eggs a day; queen termites lay over 30,000 eggs a day.

Bed Bugs in America Survey

From the NPMA’s Bed Bugs in America Survey:

  • One out of five Americans has had a bed bug infestation in their home or knows someone who has encountered bed bugs at home or in a hotel
  • Americans who have encountered bed bugs tend to be younger, live in urban areas and rent their homes. The incidence of bed bugs is three times higher in urban areas than in rural areas due to factors such as larger population size, apartment living and increased mobility, which are conducive to the rapid spread and breeding of bed bugs.
  • Bed bugs are found in all 50 states. Specifically, the pests were encountered by 17 percent of respondents in the Northeast; 20 percent in the Midwest; 20 percent in the South; and 19 percent in the West.
  • Most Americans are concerned about bed bugs and believe that infestations in the United States are increasing. Nearly 80 percent are most concerned about encountering bed bugs at hotels; 52 percent on public transportation; 49 percent in movie theaters; 44 percent in retail stores; 40 percent in medical facilities; 36 percent in their own homes; and 32 percent equally pointed to places of employment and friends’ homes. The fear of getting bitten topped the list of concerns.
  • As the public’s awareness of the bed bug resurgence grows, many Americans are modifying their behaviors to minimize their risk of an infestation: 27 percent have inspected or washed clothing upon returning from a trip; 25 percent have checked a hotel room for bed bugs; 17 percent have inspected or vacuumed a suitcase upon returning from a trip and 12 percent have altered or canceled travel plans because of concern about bed bugs.
  • Sixteen percent of survey respondents inspected second-hand furniture they have brought into their homes; 15 percent have checked dressing rooms when trying on clothing and 29 percent have washed new clothing immediately upon bringing it home from a store.
  • Of the 13 percent of respondents who said they knew someone who had a bed bug infestation in their home, 40 percent said they avoided entering the infested home and 33 percent discouraged those who had the infestation from entering their own home.
  • Despite the availability of information, most Americans still have misconceptions about bed bugs. Nearly half of respondents incorrectly believe that bed bugs transmit disease. However, research conducted to date has shown that bed bugs do not transmit disease to their human victims, although some people may experience itchy, red welts; 29 percent inaccurately believe bed bugs are more common among lower income households, and 37 percent believe bed bugs are attracted to dirty homes.  Bed bugs do not discriminate in regard to household income and are found in both sanitary and unsanitary conditions.

Other NPMA Bed Bug Facts:

  • Bed bugs can lay one to five eggs in a day and more than 500 in a lifetime.
  • Bed bugs can survive for seveal months without eating.
  • Bed bugs can withstand a wide range of temperatures, from nearly freezing to 122 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Bed bug draw blood for about five minutes before retreating to digest.
  • Bed bugs hatchlings are so small they can pass through a stitch-hole in a mattress.
  • Bed bugs can ingest seven times their own weight in blood, which would be the equivalent of an average-sized male drinking 120 gallons of liquid.
  • Bed bugs are found in all 50 U.S. states.

California bed bug control

3 Keys to a Successful Heat Treatment:

  1. Bring Heat. Electric bed bug heaters are placed within the space; introducing and recirculating heated air with a target temperature not to exceed 135°F.
  2. Monitor. Temperatures are monitored in real time from a remote location using wireless sensors to ensure lethal temperatures are reached without damaging the space and its contents.
  3. Move Air. High temperature fans move heated air throughout the space to reach insects in cracks and crevices or high infestation zones.

Advantages to Heat Treatment:

  • Heat Treatment works where chemicals fail. No toxic fumes, no residue.
  • Kills every life stage from egg to adult.
  • Unlike chemicals bed bugs are attracted to heat – they won’t simply move to re-infest another day.
  • Infested items will not need to be thrown away.
  • Our trucks are discrete and the process is completed in one working day.

Heat Treatment is a proven non-chemical method of killing bed bugs. All life stages (adult, larva, and eggs) die within minutes at a temperature of 120 degrees F. Using 460 volt electric heaters powered by a trailer mounted diesel generator. Heat Treatment introduces temperatures greater than 120 degrees F(lethal temperature) and less than 140 degrees F (content damaging temperature).

Heat Treatment monitors temperatures in real time with 24 wireless sensors placed in treated areas to ensure lethal temperatures are reached throughout the area and its contents. High temperature blowers are positioned to move the heated air throughout the space, through mattresses, baseboards, cracks and crevices.

Depending on room furnishings, floor surfaces, clutter and square footage the treatment will take between 7 and 12 hours.

California bed bug control