Wild Tracks

On behalf of the world's wild species

Bug Bits

Insects of the world must have a new press agent. They’ve been all over the nature news lately – here’s a buggy summary from around the world.

red3-bullet-003s-whiteEcologists in Australia may have found a solution to the problem of introduced cane toads. Apparently the cane toads are far more susceptible to being killed and eaten by meat ants than native frogs. Scientists compared habitat use and activity patterns in meat ants, cane toads and seven native frog species.

Cane toads live in open habitats and are active during the day, just like the meat ants. They are also less well equipped to escape attacking meat ants, as their hops are shorter and slower than the native frogs. The native amphibians were also more vigilant for meat ants than cane toads.

red3-bullet-003s-white1In May 2008 the island of Guam became a living laboratory for scientists as they attached acoustic equipment to coconut trees in order to listen for rhinoceros beetles. The coconut rhinoceros beetle is a serious pest of coconut palms.

Recordings were made of beetles and larvae that were reared at the university, and those in coconut trees and logs. Results showed that beetles communicate with each other in hidden environments, and that acoustic monitoring devices can be useful in limiting the damage to coconut trees through monitoring and early detection.

red3-bullet-003s-white2Apparently many parts of the US are undergoing a bedbug outbreak. Tiny reddish-brown insects, last seen in great numbers before World War II, are on the rebound. They have infested college dormitories, hospitals, homeless shelters and swanky hotels from New York City to Chicago to Washington. They live in the crevices and folds of mattresses, sofas and sheets. Then, most often before dawn, they emerge to feed on human blood.

One of the problems, according to researchers and the pesticide industry, is that there are few chemicals on the market approved for use on mattresses that are effective at reducing bedbug numbers. The appleseed-sized critters have also developed a resistance to some of the chemicals on the market.

red3-bullet-003s-white3A widespread species of tropical ant has become asexual and only produces only females, according to a new study. The ants reproduce via cloning – the queen ants copy themselves to produce genetically identical daughters. All of the female ant colonies are thriving and appear to have stopped producing males a long time ago.

Lead author Anna Himler explained that a life without sex might not be so bad after all. “Sexual reproduction is costly in several ways and asexual reproduction — the lack of sex — can be advantageous,” she said,offering four reasons.

  • asexuality avoids the energetic cost of producing males, and thus doubles the number of reproductive females produced each generation from 50% to 100%
  • there is no need to expend energy trying to find a partner
  • genes are not broken up
  • the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases or parasites goes out the window

There is absolutely no way for me to top that one, so I’ll stop writing now.

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One response to “Bug Bits

  1. Ailurophile April 16, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Wow, what a nice blog. I came here from your lens on squidoo. Great to come across another animal lover. Loved the article on black-footed cats, alongside the pretty picture of the cat. All the best with your conservation efforts for our nature and wildlife 🙂

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