About a month ago, my apartment had some unwelcome visitors in the form of cream-colored little worms writhing about on my kitchen and bathroom floor. Maggots. It was deeply unsettling, but, as always, science was on my side, with its pressurized cans of grocery store poison, specifically calibrated for my particular pest problem. Sure, we were sweeping up scores of dead fly bodies for weeks, but at least they were dead.
This amazing/disturbing picture is of a giant weta, the world's biggest insect at a whopping 71 grams in weight. Wetas are cricket- or grasshopper-like insects native to the smaller islands of New Zealand, having been eradicated from the larger islands due to recently-introduced rats and other mammals. It's been officially named as the heaviest adult insect in the world (though some insects, like the Goliath beetle, attain higher weights in their larval stages).
Micro air vehicles, or MAVs, make for a tantalizing option for intelligence and surveillance agencies looking to surreptitiously gather information or deliver surveillance devices without being seen. But MAVs--usually modeled after small birds or insects-- are notoriously unstable in flight and difficult to maneuver in cluttered environments. So the Pentagon is handing out research contracts to make the DoD’s little robotic bugs more stable by making them more bug-like.
Scientists hard at work at eradicating malaria have often focused on the malaria-carrying mosquito, creating solutions ranging from genetic modification to malaria-attacking fungi to stinky sock lures (and about a billion more). The latest is a radiation treatment that effectively makes some male mosquitoes sterile--which, due to the particular mating habits of these mosquitoes, could have a drastic effect on mosquito populations.
Plant and human genome researchers have uncovered myriad pathways toward understanding health and longevity, determining genes that code for things like disease tolerance and nutrient needs. A new bug gene-sequencing project aims to do the same — only the goal is to find genomic Achilles’ heels, to help people kill insects more easily.
After a half-century of relative inactivity in the U.S., bedbugs returned in the late 1990s. Nationwide, 95 percent of pest-control companies have treated an infestation in the past year. A decade ago, it was just 22 percent.
Fire ants might be infuriating little beasts, an invasive species we'd all be pleased to see banished to its native Brazil, but it turns out a fire ant colony has some pretty amazing properties. In groups, they knit together, more like a fabric than anything else, and are waterproof, totally flexible, and nearly indestructible. A mechanical engineer describes these groups as behaving like a thick liquid.
To combat malaria, why not skip the step of genetically altering mosquitoes and try some transgenic fungus instead? In a new study, researchers sprayed mosquitoes with a fungus that had been modified to deliver compounds that target the malaria parasite. They found the treatment could reduce disease transmission to humans by at least five-fold.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.