Archive for April, 2011

10 Most Diabolical Creepy Crawlies On Earth

April 28, 2011

10 Most Diabolical Creepy Crawlies On Earth

by Karl Fabricius

Electron_microscope_photo_of_a_Flea_86_times_magnificationPhoto:
Photo: RBirtles

Evil, diabolical call them what you will, the wingless microscopic or near microscopic critters we’ve gathered together here are a veritable roll-call of the repulsive and the abhorrent. Fleas, lice, ticks, mites and bedbugs make up the minuscule menagerie, and alongside the mug shots we’ve endeavoured to explain what it is each featured pest does to us that makes it equally if not more repugnant than it looks. Feeling itchy yet? These little guys are certainly getting bloated.

10. Bedbug: 4–5 mm long

Bed_bug_bites_and_sucks_up_bloodPhoto:
Photo via Alternative Health Journal

Ever been bitten by Bedbugs? Well, it isn’t pretty; in fact it’s excruciating. Feeding on the blood of humans and other mammals, these night-time nasties get their name from their preferred habitat of mattresses, bed frames, sofas and other furniture, and are often picked up in hotels. Although visible to the naked eye, they’re masters at moving undetected and hiding out of sight in nooks and crannies. They reach their host by crawling or by climbing the walls to the ceiling and jumping down, paratrooper style, on feeling a heat wave.

Elusive menace: Bedbug
Cimex_lectularius_the_common_bedbug_from_slides_at_the_University_of_EdinburghPhoto:
Photo: Adam Cuerden

Like fleas, Bedbugs are attracted by warmth and CO2. Once landed on their host, they pierce the skin with two tubes, one of which injects saliva while the other sucks up blood. The bites cannot usually be felt until much later, when the welts caused are often accompanied by a severe itching as the skin reacts to the anaesthetic injected. Stress, insomnia, and in rare cases nausea are among the reactions to Bedbug infestations, which are undergoing a global resurgence. Infected? The thermal death point for these insect horrors is 45°C.

Infest! Bedbug cases are on the rise
blood_fed_Cimex_lectularius_bed_bugsPhoto:
Photo: A.L. Szalanski

9. Cat Flea: 1.5–3.3 mm long

cat_flea_in_a_microscope_as_a_modelPhoto:
Photo: gucic

Like other fleas, the Cat Flea – one of the most widespread on earth – is an insect with mouthparts modified for piercing skin and sucking blood – to distinctly itchy effect. Housecats are its choice host, but it also commonly infests dogs, and will bite humans – albeit without being able to breed on us. A few Cat Fleas are unlikely to cause much harm unless their host is allergic to substances in their saliva, but they can transmit other parasites and infections to pets and humans including murine typhus and tapeworm. Nasty.

Flee! It’s the Cat Flea
Cat_Flea_head_showing_small_round_ocellus_(simple_eye)_Magnification_Approx_X225Photo:
Photo: Used with permission from the University of Bath

8. Human Flea: 1.5–3.3 mm long

slide_mounted_human_flea_Pulex irritansPhoto:
Photo: David Walker www.micscape.org

Despite its name, the Human Flea will gleefully infest a range of mammals and birds. Like all fleas, its hind legs are adapted for jumping about 130 times its own body height; its tough body is able to withstand great pressure; and it is compressed, allowing ease of movement through hairs, feathers or clothes. An adult flea’s number one objective is to find blood so that it can mate. Human Fleas can also act as ‘middlemen’ hosts for parasitic flatworms and tapeworms. No need to be a good host to these agile little suckers.

Up close and personal: Human Flea
Electron_microscope_photo_of_a_Flea_86_times_magnificationPhoto:
Photo: RBirtles

7. Oriental Rat Flea: 1.5–3.3 mm long

Plague_infected_male_Xenopsylla_cheopis_28_days_after_feeding_on_an_inoculated_mousePhoto:
Photo: CDC/Dr. Pratt

Although a parasite primary of rats, the Oriental Rat Flea is also a dark agent of potentially deadly diseases like bubonic plague. Transmission occurs when the offending flea first bites an infected rodent and then a human. The unsavoury pathogens are spread due to the way the flea’s mouth functions, squirting saliva or partly digested blood into the bite at the same time as sucking up blood. It should be jumping out at you by now that the Rat Flea – onetime bringer of the Black Death – can be much more than just an irritating nuisance.

Harbinger of disease: Rat Flea
Scanning_Electron_Micrograph_of_a_FleaPhoto:
Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) / Janice Carr

6. Scabies Mite: 0.2–0.45 mm long

Sarcoptes_scabei_under_the_microscopePhoto:
Photo: Kalumet

The name Sarcoptes Scabiei is a bit of a giveaway of the sin this critter commits as it quite literally gets under our skin: the skin infection scabies. The fertilised female of this pernicious parasite tunnels into the skin, laying eggs in the ever-lengthening S-shaped burrow she digs using her mouthparts and blade-like front legs. The larvae then hatch in 3-10 days, climb out onto the skin’s surface, roam about the place, and turn into nymphs, before maturing into adult Mites to begin the cycle all over again.

Under the microscope: Scabies Mite
Sarcoptes_scabei_Scabies_mitePhoto:
Photo via liberty4you

All this moving about on and inside the skin causes some pretty intense itching, but it’s the presence of the eggs that seals the scabies deal, bringing about a massive allergic reaction and yet more often unbearable itching. The resultant scratching of this rash can severely damage the skin, particularly through the introduction of infective bacteria, which may lead to nasty secondary infections like impetigo. Making matters worse, Scabies Mites are easily spread through the house by skin contact with carriers, clothing and bedding.

Scabby? Could be Sarcoptes Scabiei
Photo_taken_at_100x_magnification_through_a_microscope_of_a_scabies_mite_(Sarcoptes_scabiei)Photo:
Photo: Joel Mills

5. Body Louse: 1–3 mm long

body_louse_microscopic_imagePhoto:
Photo via Impact Pest Control

It’s time to deal with the true cooties, beginning with Body Lice. While indistinguishable to look at from Head Lice – indeed the two interbreed under lab conditions – in their natural state Body Lice have evolved to attach their eggs to clothes. These dress rather hair styled insect parasites are not only an annoyance due to the intense itching they cause, but are also vectors of diseases such as epidemic typhus and louse-borne relapsing fever, whose recurring symptoms include fever and chills. If in doubt get boiling your linen.

Engorged: Body Louse on human skin after blood feeding
A_female_human_body_louse_(Pediculus_humanus_corporis)_on_human_skin_after_blood_feedingPhoto:
Photo courtesy of Richard Webb

4. Head Louse: 1–3 mm long

Pediculus_capitis_Human_Head_LousePhoto:
Photo: Department of Biology, Gettysburg College

Next up is the Head Louse, the foul parasite that spends its entire life on the human scalp feeding solely on our blood and laying eggs called nits. This light-shunning vampire is so specialised, its stumpy legs are unable to even walk capably on flat surfaces. Its mouthparts are highly adapted for piercing skin and bloodsucking – when it may also excrete dark red faeces. Nice. Infesting new hosts usually comes about via head-to-head contact. About the only nice thing you can say about the Head Louse is that it is not a known transmitter of disease.

Itchy, flaky scalp? Male Head Louse
Male_of_head_louse_under_the_microscopePhoto:
Photo: KostaMumcuoglu

3. Pubic Louse: 1.1–1.8 mm long

Pediculus_humanus_Human_Body_LousePhoto:
Photo: Creepy Dreadful Wonderful Parasites

Pubic Lice, commonly known as crabs, are infamous for infesting the – ahem – human genitals, though they may also live on other areas with hair, including eyelashes, armpits and beards. While sharing the flattened body and claw-like legs of its cousins – ideal for crawling from hair to hair – the Pubic Louse is otherwise distinct in appearance and more distantly related. Still, this is one mean sucker as those infested will testify – albeit discreetly. Infection usually comes through sexual intercourse. To ensure full removal of nits, shaving is advised.

Nice claws: Pubic Louse or crab
Pthius_pubis__crab_lousePhoto:
Photo: PHIL

2. Sheep Tick: approx 5mm

Ixodus_ricinus_5x_sheep_tickPhoto:
Photo: Richard Bartz

Last to grace the stage, it’s the not so loveable ticks, represented first up by the Sheep Tick. Small arachnids similar to mites, ticks are external parasites, living by feeding on the blood of various animals as well as humans. Like others of their kind, Sheep Ticks are found lurking in tall grass and shrubs where they lie in wait. They then attach themselves to passing hosts by inserting their cutting mandibles and feeding tubes into the skin, with backward pointing teeth-like spikes acting as an anchor. The Sheep Tick is an agent Lyme disease in humans.

Tick love: Male Sheep Tick copulating with a much larger female
male_Ixodes_ricinus_tick_(smaller)_shown_copulating_with_a_female_tick_(larger)Photo:
Photo: WHO

1. Deer Tick: approx 5mm

Adult_deer_tick,_on_skin.Photo:
Photo: University of Wisconsin

However, the Deer Tick that is by far the most notorious vector for Lyme Disease, a condition transmitted by the bite of infected ticks whose more serious symptoms may involve the joints, heart and central nervous system. Given its name due to its habit of parasitizing the white-tailed deer, the female Deer Tick latches onto a host and drinks its blood for several days, then once engorged, drops off and overwinters on the forest floor. Naturally this little glutton has a taste for humans too. A suitably disgusting, not to say dangerous, critter on which to end the post.

Ticked all the boxes? Deer Tick
A_deer_tick_Ixodes_damminiPhoto:

Fantastic Ants – Photo Gallery – National Geographic Magazine

April 27, 2011

Fantastic Ants – Photo Gallery – National Geographic Magazine

The Happiest Bug You’ll Ever See

April 26, 2011

Mantis

Eradication Declared in Miami-Dade County Peach Fruit Fly Program

April 26, 2011

Eradication Declared in Miami-Dade County Peach Fruit Fly Program

by Julie – April 21st, 2011

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has announced that eradication has been declared in the peach fruit fly outbreak in Miami-Dade County. Regulations have been lifted and fruit movement is no longer prohibited after three life cycles of the fruit fly have occurred and no additional peach fruit fly has been found. Trapping will continue under the statewide fruit fly detection and monitoring program.
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Twelve World Class Athletes on Being Green

April 22, 2011

Biggest fossil spider ever found

April 21, 2011

Biggest fossil spider ever found

(Image: Paul A. Selden, ChungKun Shih and Dong Ren/Biology Letters)

Meet Nephila jurassica, a 165-million-year-old spider fossil recently found in China. A relative of the modern golden orb-weaving spider, it’s the largest fossil spider ever found.

And yet it is disappointingly small. The scale bar on the image is 5 millimetres, so the whole specimen is barely 5 centimetres long – though it may have been larger in life, with its legs fully extended. By comparison the biggest living spiders are the Goliath bird-eater (Theraphosa blondi) and the giant huntsman (Heteropoda maxima), both of which have leg spans of 30 cm.

On the face of it that’s surprising, because related creatures like insects were much larger in the past. Around 300 million years ago, oxygen levels were much higher than today. Invertebrates – many of which rely on simple diffusion rather than a circulatory system to delivery oxygen to their tissues – grew to monstrous sizes. Some dragonflies had wingspans of up to a metre, while some millipedes were 2.5 metres long.

All of which suggests that there are some much bigger fossil spiders out there, waiting to be discovered.

See to Believe: Insect Store

April 20, 2011

‘Glee’ star Matthew Morrison’s home infested with rats

April 19, 2011

‘Glee’ star Matthew Morrison’s home infested with rats

(NewsCore) – LOS ANGELES — “Glee” star Matthew Morrison recently experienced his “worst night ever” after discovering a massive rat infestation in his Los Angeles home, FOXNews.com reported Monday.

“I came home and World War III broke out in my house,” Morrison told “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush’s radio show. “There was rat poop all over my house when I got home. I go upstairs and there was a huge rat in my bed. And like, poop and feces all over my bed.”

The fat rat that took residence in Morrison’s bed was not leaving without a fight. “I tried to catch the rat and he darted away. And I kind of cornered him,” Morrison explained. “I thought he was dead on my bed, so I put a bunch of plastic bags on my hand, and I went to grab him and he just darted off. He was on the windowsill, kind of just eying me. We were playing cat and mouse — or Matt and rat, I guess.”

After finally nabbing the rodent, Morrison “ran downstairs in [his] underwear and threw him in this far away trash can.”

But Morrison’s war with vermin was far from over.

“I get up, run over and turn the light on, and this big guy is on my nightstand and he jumps on my bed,” Morrison said. “And he’s looking at me like, ‘What are you doing on my bed?'”

Morrison finally had enough and headed to a nearby hotel. After his night of rodent-fueled horror, the “Glee” star is thinking about moving to new digs.

“This is my house that I own,” he said. “Now I want to put it back on the market.”

Read more: http://www.myfoxboston.com/dpp/entertainment/glee-star-matthew-morrisons-home-infested-with-rats-25-ncx-20110418#ixzz1Jzx0UFHk

msnbc.com: Think bedbugs are bad? Meet the stink bugs

April 18, 2011

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39396630

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

South Florida Customs stops 5 insect pests never seen in U.S.

April 15, 2011

South Florida Customs stops 5 insect pests never seen in U.S.

MIAMI (AP) — Customs inspectors in Miami have intercepted five pests that had never been seen before in the U.S. during this year’s first three months.

The list includes a longhorn beetle found in railroad ties from Argentina, a leafhopper in a mint shipment from Colombia and a moth in a container of fresh okra from Honduras.

The bugs were found by Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists at Miami International Airport and Port Everglades in Broward County.

Some of these insects can cause agricultural or environmental damage and they often have no natural enemies in the U.S. Officials say it’s particularly important to keep problem insects away from the environmentally sensitive Everglades, which has recently been invaded by nonnative Burmese pythons.