Insects

Beetle juice? Trees killed by bugs eyed as biofuel for cars

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 8, 2013   View Article

Millions of acres of U.S. forest lands are carpeted with stands of unsightly reddish-brown trees that were killed by voracious beetles the size of rice grains. A $10 million, five-year research program launched this week aims to determine if the beetle-killed trees can be turned into biofuel for cars and trucks without breaking the bank or exacerbating climate change, which is aiding the beetle mania.

“A crucial thing with biofuels is that we understand just how much greenhouse gases do we really offset. Because obviously if we use lots of fossil fuels or we cause lots of emissions in producing the biofuels, then we are really not gaining as much as we might hope to,” Keith Paustain, a soil ecologist who is leading the project at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, told NBC News.

Honey bees in trouble? Blame farm chemicals, study says

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

Honey bees rented to out pollinate crops from apples to watermelons return to their hives with pollen containing an array of agricultural chemicals that make the insects more vulnerable to infection by a lethal parasite, according to a new study.

While other research has shown certain pesticides, including insecticides known as neonicotinoids and others used to fight parasitic mites, can compromise bee health, the new study shines a light on the impact of sprays used to kill fungi and molds.

New fly may bug crime scene investigators

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 4, 2013   View Article

When detectives find a corpse lying in a ditch or anywhere else, determining how long it has been there is one of the first tasks. A good estimate comes from the age of the flies found swarming the dead body, but this technique may be complicated in the Midwest by a fly found newly buzzing there, according to a forensic entomologist.

“The composition of what (flies are) around is changing as the climate changes,” Christine Picard, a biologist with the Forensic and Investigative Sciences program at Indiana University — Purdue University Indianapolis, explained to NBC News.

Cicada Recipes: Bugs Are Low-Carb, Gluten-Free Food

Publication: National Geographic   Date: May 15, 2013   View Article

Anyone hoping to spice up their gluten-free diet need look only at the billions of beady-eyed, shrimp-size cicadas currently emerging from the ground in the eastern United States.

“They definitely would be gluten free … they do not feed on wheat,” said Gene Kritsky, a biologist and cicada expert at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio. The bugs are also high in protein, low in fat, and low in carbohydrates, he added.

Members of Brood II, one of the largest groups of periodical cicadas, have been crawling out of the ground and carpeting trees from North Carolina to Connecticut since early May. By July, they will be gone—not to be heard from again for 17 years.

Robotic ants provide path to real ant brains

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 28, 2013   View Article

Robots built to mimic ants suggest that real ants waste little, if any, mental energy deciding which way to go when they reach an uneven fork in the road, according to a new study. Instead, the ants just take the easiest route as dictated by geometry.

“The shape of their network relieves some of the cognitive load for the ants; they don’t need to think about it,” Simon Garnier, a biologist at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, told NBC News. “The shape of their networks has constrained their movement in a way that is more efficient for them.”

The findings have implications for understanding ant biology as well as how humans design transportation networks for the flow of people, information and goods.

Stinging needle ants overtaking invasive Argentines in U.S.

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 11, 2013   View Article

A stinging ant from Asia is spreading with a vengeance across the United States and may prove more devastating to people and the environment than the well-established aggressive Argentine ant currently is, according to new research.

“While Argentine ants cause a lot of damage, Asian needle ants are a really big health threat to humans,” Eleanor Spicer Rice, an entomologist at North Carolina State University, told NBC News.

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.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach