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Ants Stand By To Protect These Amazonian Plants From Hungry Herbivores

Filed under: Horizon Pest Control,Pest Control — Tags: , — New Jersey Pest Control @ 3:23 pm September 25, 2017

Ants Stand By To Protect These Amazonian Plants From Hungry Herbivores

We all know there are some vicious ants in the world, and when their colonies become super-large, ants can go to battle with just about any type of insect, no matter how large. This is why ants are so important to the abundance of plant life in the Amazon rainforest. As you know, the Amazon rainforest is full of herbivore insects that constantly threaten the lives of plants. Obviously plants cannot move, so how do they defend themselves in an environment shared by numerous species of herbivore insects? Well, ants, of course. It turns out that plants offer ants shelter, and in return, ants protect plants from herbivore insects, both large and small. Researchers recently discovered that ants are called on for protection duty when two particular genes in the ant are expressed.

Researchers focused on a common plant found in the Amazon rainforest. This plant is referred to as Cordia nodosa (CN). These CN plants are clearly protected by a particular type of Amazonian ant that is referred to as Allomerus octoarticulatus (AO). This plant species and this ant species support one another, since the plants shelter the ants and the ants stand up to insects that are looking to consume the plants. The ants are like bodyguards to the plants. The plants act as a safe haven for ants by obscuring the ants from predators. When different animals benefit one another in nature, the phenomena is known aptly as “mutualism.” The ant/plant relationship being described in this blog is certainly not rare in nature. In fact, over four hundred species of tropical plants have developed structures called “domatia,” which can house ant colonies that defend the plants. According to researchers, domatia likely developed over the course of evolution because it had attracted ants, which always kept dangerous herbivore insects away. These ants seem to be the only protection from herbivores that plants have.

The researchers focused on two particular ant genes involved in foraging. The way an ant forages for food determines protective behavior towards plants. When the two genes were activated, the ants became vicious warriors, and were willing to attack the largest of insect herbivores, which resulted in less damage to the plant. The genes also led to more ant workers being recruited to fight, and the ants were better able to locate and kill herbivore enemies. This study was able to account for mutualism on an chemical level.

Do you think that these plants release chemicals that influence the ants’ foraging genes?

Entomologists May Be Underestimating The Loss Of Monarch Butterfly Colonies

Filed under: Horizon Pest Control — Tags: — New Jersey Pest Control @ 3:05 pm September 20, 2017

Entomologists May Be Underestimating The Loss Of Monarch Butterfly Colonies

You may have heard that 2016 was a bad year for monarch butterflies. Heavy storms in Mexico killed-off many monarch butterflies. Monarch populations were already in trouble long before the storms of 2016. Since the 1996 and 1997 winter months, monarch butterfly colonies have decreased by a staggering ninety percent, according to biologist Dr. Lincoln Brower. Dr. Brower and his research team have recently discovered that the initial studies concerning the loss of monarch butterflies in 2016 reported an amount of deaths that were far lower than the actual amount of deaths. Initially, it was estimated that only seven percent of the monarch butterfly population died as a result of the snowstorms that hit Mexico during March of 2016. Now, after further analysis, the actual amount of deaths is estimated to be closer to thirty to thirty eight percent.

During the spring of 2016 an area of forestland dedicated to preserving monarch butterfly populations was hit by a storm. The storm was a mix of snow, sleet, rain, hail and the freezing wind. The storm ravaged the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, which was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations nearly a decade ago. Typically, the forest serves as a “microclimate” for monarch butterflies. The dense forest protects monarchs from strong winds, rain, cold temperatures and other forms of harsh climate. These areas of forestland are important for butterfly conservation, since harsh weather can kill-off populations of delicate monarch butterflies. This protective forest climate was radically altered last year, which killed all of the butterflies residing within the Mexican forest. Dr. Brower wants to understand how to protect the forests that protect rare butterflies.

Dr. Brower, and other researchers, traveled the forests in order to determine the amount of butterflies that had perished during the storm. It was found that thirty one to thirty eight percent of butterflies in the region perished. However, this number could be much higher as much of the forest has not been visited. There is also a lack of studies concerning the monarch butterflies response to freezing cold temperatures. Without reference to such studies, it is hard to estimate how many monarch butterflies died during the 2016 storms in Mexico.

How do you think forestland could be protected from the damaging consequences of violent storms? Why do you think so many monarch butterflies are dying?




Do Not Kill Orbweaver Spiders In Your Garden

Filed under: Pest Control — Tags: — New Jersey Pest Control @ 2:09 pm September 19, 2017

Do Not Kill Orbweaver Spiders In Your Garden

As you are already likely aware, some spiders and insects are beneficial to the plants within your garden. After all, insects eat other insects. Some of the most damaging garden pests can be killed by certain arthropods that are abundant within some environments. For example, many gardeners living in the southeastern states, like Georgia, are aware of orbweaver spiders. These spiders are efficient killers of insect pests. There are many different types of orbweaver spiders around the world, and gardeners should love all of them for their habit of eating insect pests. One type of orbweaver is referred to as the Golden silk orbweaver (Nephila clavipes).

The Golden silk orbweaver is the largest type of orbweaver in North America. These spiders spin enormous webs, some of which reach six feet across. The webs show a yellow hue, which is where these spiders get their name. The males are only one tenth the size of females. Since the size disparity between the sexes is so great, cannibalism is frequent. However, the male golden silk orbweavers know how to protect themselves against the female’s appetite. For example, males will wait until females are already eating before courting. Males will also wait until a female’s final moult before attempting to mate.

Although these golden orbweavers may appear fierce, they are actually quite shy. This shyness is not just limited to contact with humans. In fact, these spiders rarely approach large insects, even after these insects become stuck in the golden orbweaver’s web. The golden orbweavers could become injured upon approaching large prey, even if the prey happens to be incapacitated. Stink bugs are often avoided due to the foul odors they emit. Luckily, golden orbweavers still remove many insect pests from gardens. Once a large insect pest is trapped within a golden orbweaver’s web, they rarely escape. Most of the time, these insects die in the web, even if they are not consumed by the golden orbweavers.

Have you ever spotted a large spider web that showed hints of yellow coloring? If you have, where were you located geographically at the time?

Pomace Flies Are Going To Be A Problem Again This Year

Filed under: Pest Control — Tags: — New Jersey Pest Control @ 3:54 pm September 18, 2017

Pomace Flies Are Going To Be A Problem Again This Year

Lately the United States has been under attack from many different types of insects. For example, the dreaded emerald-ash borer was recently spotted causing more tree damage in upstate New York. Unfortunately, this is the time of year when pomace flies descend upon fruit crops in order to destroy as many tasty apples, cherries, blueberries and wine grapes as they can. These pomace flies are very similar to fruit flies. However, the most damaging of all these flies is known as the Drosophila suzukii. These flies are invasive and cause serious problems for just about anybody cultivating fruit in the Unites States. However, these flies did not come from the US, as they are native to somewhere across the world.

The suzukii is native to China, Myanmar, Russia, Thailand, Korea, India and Europe. In Europe, this troublesome fly sticks to the Mediterranean region around France, Spain and Italy. Back in 1980 this fly pest was discovered on Hawaii, but it was not until thirty years later in 2010 that the suzukii was discovered feeding on strawberry and cranberry plants in Santa Cruz County, California. These flies have caused significant damage to fruit crops of all sorts in California, but they have also moved rapidly into other states, including Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Utah, Washington, South Carolina, Canada, Wisconsin, and many more states as well as territories. Since 2010, entomologists have been studying the suzukii closely, hoping to learn more about possible control or monitoring methods, but these flies are quite evasive. The suzukii also does not seem to be hindered by many natural predators here in the United States, which could explain their rapid migration.

The suzukii flies plant their eggs within fruit. The eggs will eventually hatch within the fruit and the larvae will grow to about six millimeters while inside. The fruit becomes noticeably damaged as a result of this larval activity. The fruit will become soft and turn brown. The larvae usually pokes breathing holes into the surface of the fruits as well. America has only had to live with the suzukii for seven seasons now, but so far, there does not exist any easy way of eradicating their presence from fruit crops.

Have you ever bought an apple or another piece of fruit from the grocery store only to find that larvae had likely lived inside of it at one point?


New Peacock Spider Species Discovered in Australia Are as Colorful as Their Namesake

Filed under: Spider Control — Tags: — New Jersey Pest Control @ 5:14 pm September 13, 2017

New Peacock Spider Species Discovered in Australia Are as Colorful as Their Namesake

Scientists have discovered a number of new species and subspecies of peacock spiders in Australia this year. While this species is already known for its colorful formations similar to a peacock’s feathers on its body, these new additions are making headlines with their new striking colors and patterns.

As with real peacocks, the sex of peacock spiders can be easily discovered, as the males are the ones with brightly colored patterns on their bodies, which are designed to attract the less flashy females to mate with them. Each new species has very distinctive coloring and patterns, and so are easy to distinguish from one another.

The Cristatus peacock spider’s back is covered with a pattern resembling the Union Jack, which should make it easy for non-scientists to recognize. This new species also has eight plumes of long white hairs sticking up from the back, somewhat like the plume of feathers that make up a peacock’s tail, which is a characteristic shared with no other peacock spider species.

Another new species discovered has been dubbed the Electricus spider due to the rather arresting pattern made up of parallel red lines on its back, which looks somewhat like a circuit board. The trigonus spider stands out amongst peacock spiders as having a white crown at the tips of its abdomen, a feature not shared by any other species of peacock spider.

The species that has caught the most attention is the Maratus personatus spider, also known as the “blueface” spider. The males of this species sport a distinctive bright blue mask on its back, which it uses court and lure females. Unlike other peacock spiders, which have a fan-like abdomen that they extend when trying to attract females, the blueface spider relies on the eye-catching blue mask with its white-colored banding to draw the ladies’ attention. These peacock spiders actually flap their fans; similar to the way a male peacock spreads his tail, and raise a single leg, which they wave at the females to get their attention. These spiders are quite the bright spectacle when it comes to their mating rituals.

Can you think of any other insects that use their bright colors to attract females? How do the males use these brightly colored appendages to catch the female’s attention?

Golden Silk Made By 1 Million Spiders

Filed under: Spider Control — Tags: , — New Jersey Pest Control @ 4:16 pm September 12, 2017

Golden Silk Made By 1 Million SpidersNew Jersey Spider Control

By now numerous scientists have figured out how to make cloth out of spider silk and it is even being used in clothes marketed to the public now. But did you have any idea that certain spiders could be used to make colored silk, specifically a rare golden silk? A rare eleven by four foot golden cloth made out of the silk from one million golden orb spiders from Madagascar was made Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley, as well as a team of 70 people that were sent out to find all the spiders and another dozen handlers to actually extract the silk from said spiders, and put on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Simon Peers, a textile expert, actually recreated a small, 24 spider silking machine that was developed at the turn of the century by the French missionary Jacob Paul Camboué, which is capable of extracting silk from around 24 spiders at the same time without harming them. Speers and his partner Godley then sent a group of 70 people to collect golden orb spiders from countless telephone poles around Madagascar; a task that took around four years. The two were amazed when they stuck the spiders in the machine and gold-colored silk started coming out.

They had to find dozens of spider handlers to help them collect and then extract the silk from these spiders to create the beautiful golden cloth. This was not an easy task, as you might be able to imagine, since finding people willing to work with spiders is difficult when said spiders tend to bite them back. Once they extracted all of the golden silk from these spiders, they released them all back into the wild, where they are able to regenerate their spider-silk-milk in a mere week, letting the team actually collect and milk the same spiders over and over again. Godley commented, “We can go back and re-silk the same spiders,” he said. “It’s like the gift that never stops giving.”

This was incredible project, especially when you realize that this was done way back in 2009 and the years leading up to the cloth’s completion. It was the first cloth made entirely out of spider silk. We’ve come quite a long way in the field of creating fabric out of spider silk since then, but certainly couldn’t have if not for these pioneers.

Have you ever seen any silk cloth made from spiders? Do you think spider silk clothing is going to be the preferred fabric of the future?

Pharmaceutical Giant Stops Working Towards A Zika Vaccine

Filed under: Horizon Pest Control,Mosquito Control New Jersey — Tags: — New Jersey Pest Control @ 5:39 am September 11, 2017

Pharmaceutical Giant Stops Working Towards A Zika VaccineZika Vaccine

Last year billions of US federal dollars were spent in order to research the Zika virus. Perhaps the most pressing issue facing medical researchers in 2016 was the development of a Zika vaccine. So now that Zika seems gone for good, was all that money wasted? Well, so far it is hard to tell. On the bright side, Zika researchers have learned much more about the virus and how it interacts with the body. The scientific understanding of Zika has even progressed to a point where the virus may be used to fight off cancer. However, the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi has recently pulled the plug on research that was supposedly leading to a Zika vaccine.

According to a spokesperson for Sanofi, the vaccine-related research has stopped due to a lack of funding from the United States Government. The decision has been criticized by some, but accepted as necessary by others. The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which is a department that operates under the US Department of Health and Human Services, has responded to public criticism by stating that the American government would like to focus on smaller goals, and the vaccine-related research may resume if the Zika virus resurfaces. Last year BARDA received forty three million dollars from the United States in order to develop a Zika vaccine alongside US military officials. At the moment Sanofi and the Walter Reed Army Institute are in discussions concerning the current focus of their research studies now that a vaccine is no longer in great demand.

A spokesperson for BARDA claimed that there are currently thirty two experimental Zika vaccines in the world. The spokesperson claimed that these experimental vaccines would not go to waste and further research would be conducted on many of these potential vaccines. According to the World Health Organization, the Zika virus is no longer an international concern.

Do you think that further research should be done in order to secure a working Zika vaccine?

Spiders Might Now Be Able to Catch You In Their Webs

Filed under: Horizon Pest Control — Tags: — New Jersey Pest Control @ 2:36 pm September 7, 2017

I’ve got some bad news for those of you suffering from arachnophobia. Spider webs have just gotten a lot stronger…as in strong enough to hold humans. Scientists have been feeding spiders some new fancy food to see how it would affect their webs, and they can now spin new types of webs that are actually strong enough to hold humans. I can understand if some of you are running for that can of raid, calling your local pest control company, or maybe sealing yourself into that underground fallout shelter you’ve been building just in case there is a zombie virus outbreak or something like spiders now having the ability to spin webs that could literally catch you in its silky threads. But, hold on, don’t panic! Spiders aren’t actually coming after us in droves to take over the world. You won’t be taken hostage by some power-crazed maniac spiders anytime soon. They, thankfully, don’t even realize what powers they now have…just us humans know.

A team of scientists led by Nicola Pugno at Italy’s University of Trento wanted to see if they could make spiders create a stronger, fortified silk that he claims could possibly be used to one day make the most awesome parachutes in the world. How did these scientists achieve this amazing feat? They fed spiders water with grapheme and carbon nanotubes mixed in, and the spiders were able to weave silk that was five times stronger than normal, and has the potential to become one of the strongest materials on earth. Pugno commented, “It is among the best spun polymer fibers in terms of tensile strength, ultimate strain, and especially toughness, even when compared to synthetic fibers such as Kevlar.” That’s some pretty amazing spider silk. The spiders’ own biology is partly responsible as well, as it is the way they digest this magic water that actually helps create the vastly improved silk. We could have millions of spiders producing tons of this enriched silk one day, which has so many potential applications that could benefit us humans that the possibilities are literally endless.

What other amazing things could be made from this incredible new super strong spider silk?

Ants Create Useful Fertilizer For Plants In More Than One Way

Filed under: Pest Control — Tags: , — New Jersey Pest Control @ 1:33 am September 5, 2017

Ants Create Useful Fertilizer For Plants In More Than One Way

Most people assume that spotting an insect presence on plants is always a bad thing. This is definitely not true, as both farmers and gardeners know. Many insects do no harm to the plants they invade. Ants, for example, are beneficial to plant life because they kill-off insect-pests. But, destroying insect-pests is not the only benefit that ants bring to plants. It has long been known that ants can create fertilizer for garden plants. However, researchers have only recently discovered how ants can create fertilizer for many crop plants even if the ants are feeding on the plant’s nectar.

Finding anthills in your garden is nothing to become concerned about. Unfortunately, too many gardeners cover ant holes in their garden whenever they are spotted. Ants will dig and tunnel through the soil of your garden. This is a beneficial aspect of having ants in your garden because they are helping to aerate your garden soil. Rainwater is more easily absorbed in garden soil that is rich in ant activity. Ants also scavenge for dead, and living insects within your garden. Ants convert these dead insects into fertilizer. This is not the only way ants create fertilizer to benefit the growth of plant life

It may be hard to believe, but recent laboratory studies have demonstrated that even ant waste functions as a significant form of fertilizer. Ants are commonly spotted crawling on the leaves of crop plants, as well as leaves located high-up in trees. These ants are after tasty nectar. The urine and feces that ants leave behind on leaves contain amino acids and urea. These substances are commercially sprayed onto crops. However, ants provide this fertilizer for free.

In a laboratory experiment researchers created miniature coffee trees, and set ants loose in the center tree. The ants could not access all of the coffee trees due to water barriers. The researchers fed an amino acid, glycine, to the ants. Only the nitrogen atom in the glycine was enlarged so that researchers would know which trees were visited by the ants. It turned out that the coffee tree leaves had absorbed the waste from digested insect parts left behind by the ants. The nitrogen in the ant’s waste was absorbed by the trees and then distributed to parts of the plant that needed the nitrogen the most. One of the researchers on the team claimed that the, “trees receive nutrition intravenously exactly where they need it.” In other words, the plants absorb the ants nutritious feces and urine. So think about that the next time you’re enjoying your morning cup of Joe.

Have you ever had a houseplant that was inhabited by ants? If you have, did you get rid of them, or did you let them be?

This Beetle Pest May Sound Disturbing

Filed under: Pest Control — Tags: — New Jersey Pest Control @ 4:17 pm September 1, 2017

This Beetle Pest May Sound Disturbing

There are not many insects that specialize in feeding on corpses. However, there are several beetles that, over the course of evolution, seem to have developed a taste for animal corpses. These are fairly common insects that you have likely encountered. Rarely, but sometimes, certain beetles can be useful to forensic entomologists during murder investigations. Most of the time, however, even flesh-eating beetles are rightly dismissed as annoying pests.

The family of beetles known as Dermestidae include skin beetles, hide beetles, carpet beetles and larder beetles. Members of this beetle family are often found invading people’s kitchen cupboards and looking for snacks. Museum officials are all likely familiar with this family of beetles as they have been known to nibble on flesh-bearing museum specimens. Individually, these beetles cannot do much damage, but a colony of Dermestid beetles is another story. Numerous beetles of this type are sometimes used to clean hair and flesh from bones. The larvae of these beetles digest keratin, which is an abundant protein found in skin, hair and flesh. The larvae have been found feeding on leather, wool and skin. Dermestid adults tend to feed on pollen. These beetles are nothing to be afraid of, but they can be a nuisance as they enjoy eating holes through clothing.

Some entomology students have learned the hard way that keeping live specimens of these beetles can be problematic, as they are known for gobbling up other insect specimens. When forensic entomologists are investigating a murder case they will often search for dermestid beetles in order to determine the time of death. These beetles can tell forensic entomologists how long a person has been dead, since these beetles prefer to invade the skin and hair of corpses late in the decomposition process. This is the point when the human body begins to dry out. These beetles are as harmless as they look, as they are only two to twelve millimeters in length. Their bodies can be slightly hairy and scaled. They also have chewing mouthparts, but they are not interested in consuming the living.

Have you ever found an insect in the act of consuming your food? If you have, then where was the insect located at the time? What type of insect was caught eating your food?

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