Category Archives: General

General Discussion

Ants, Nature’s Engineers: Creativity by Necessity.

Ants are one of the few groups of animals which change their environment to meet their needs.  In their case, necessity is truely the mother of invention.

A single ant is  capable of carrying up to 50 times its own weight, so working together as a colony means they’re able to accomplish impressive and seemingly impossible feats. In fact,  a large army of garden ants can construct an underground city big enough to house thousands of insects, within one week.

Ant nant-nest-flatests come in all shapes and sizes. Many species build their colonies underground, but not all. Some build above-ground mounds, while others build colonies in trees.  Some ants will even build a colony within the walls of a building. The exact structure and whereabouts of the nest varies with the species, soil type and situation.

Ants are industrious creatures and excellent builders. Here are a few of their amazing constructs.

Anthills: These nests are created as a by-product of worker ants digging underground tunnels. In fact, ants in general move more ant-hill-in-forrestearth (soil) than any other organism, including earthworms. As the worker ants excavate the colony’s tunnels, they dispose of the displaced earth by carrying it back out of the colony and depositing it near the entrance. They also get rid of any garbage found in the colony in this way. They carry these tiny bits of dirt and garbage in their mandibles. Usually, this combination of materials is dropped off at the top of the anthill, so it does not slide back down the hole into the colony.  Some species of ants work hard to create a specific shape to their anthills.

Tree Nests:  Some ants, such as the Carpenter Ant, build their nests carpenter-antby hollowing out rotting wood; they do not eat the wood. Workers take mouthful-sized chips of wood to the nest entrance, where they deposit the chips. This results in a pile of sawdust at the base of a tree. The nest itself consists of meandering tunnels that are free of sawdust. Nests may be present in rotting wood in trunks, limbs, or roots and even wooden fence posts.

There are a few ant species whose nests are constructed using leaves. The green tree ant (Oecophylla smaragdina) sews together weaverantsnestleaves with the silk produced by their larvae. The colony expands by enlarging existing leaf nests or by adding new satellite nests. Other species use plant fibers to construct coverings which are attached to the surfaces of leaves. These ants live within the chamber formed by the covering and leaves.

Rafts:  During floods and heavy rainstorms, passageways and chambers within underground ant nests fill with water and force the evacuation of the colony.  Fire ants have the unique ability to come together as a colony and build an “ant raft” using their own bodies. ant-raft-of-fire-antsWhen waters start to flood the colony, worker ants link legs and mouths together, weaving a raft in a process that can take less than two minutes.  The fine hairs on the ants trap enough air that those on the bottom layer of the raft avoid being completely submerged. Fire ants can survive in a raft up to several weeks, although they eventually to need reach dry land if they are to restart their colony.

Towers: Fire ants build complex towers as a means of avoiding

Candler Hobbs, Georgia Tech.
Candler Hobbs, Georgia Tech.

trouble.  Without any planning, using trial-and-error and only their own bodies, they create a bell-shaped tower structure that helps them survive. According to one study, an individual ant, can support as many as three other ants, which it connects to using sticky pads on its feet. Scientists think that their towers act like makeshift shelters until the ants can build more safe and durable accommodations.

Rules for building ant towers:

  1. Don’t move if there are other ants on top of you.
  2. If you are on top of other ants, keep moving you’ll find your spot.
  3. If you find an open parking spot next to other immobile ants, pull in and link up with your neighbors.

Bridges: Army ants build living bridges, moving ant-bridgehundreds of thousands of ants daily. They are creating shortcuts through their environment saving time and energy, and optimizing traffic flow. Other ant species form structures out of their bodies, but their constructs are not such a huge part of their lives and daily behavior as is the bridge building of the army ants.  Building “living” bridges across breaks and gaps in the forest floor allow their notoriously large and vicious raiding swarms to travel efficiently.

Fun Facts about Ants: On the order of 10 quadrillion ants live on the planet at any given moment. That’s about 1.4 million ants per human, based on a world population of 7.3 billion people.

Beach Bugs, They’re a Real Summer Bummer!

It’s Summer and the California beaches are the vacation destinations of millions of people.  It’s where we have fun in the sun, cool off in the water and relax on the sand under colorful umbrellas with cool drinks ansecluded-beachd our favorite books.



Reality check: what we often find are crowds, screaming kids, sand in awkward places, sunburn,  packed parking lots, traffic jams, and “Bugs”!

crowded-beachBe prepared to share your summer beach experience with these annoying, “Beach Bugs”.

Sand Fleas:  

sand-fleaThe common sand flea (Orchestia agilis), that is found on California beaches, is really an amphipod, or a small, shrimp-like crustacean. They burrow into the sand and they feed on decaying plant and animal matter that washes up on the shore, especially seaweed. They do not want anything to do with people. They obviously are not fleas, not even insects. However, they jump, similar to the way fleas do and they live in the sand, so hence the name sand flea.  On other beaches, around the world, different species of sand fleas present problems for humans, and other mamals, as they bite to gather blood in order to reproduce and carry diseases, not unlike mosquitoes.

Sand Flies:

sand-flies-on-legsThis is a general term that can be applied  to any biting fly you might encounter at the beach, besides a mosquito. This could even be a type of horsefly that is associated with that type of beachy habitat. Most commonly, the name sand fly refers to flies in the family Ceratopogonidae. These are small biting midges, sometines refered to as no-see-ums, only 1-4 millimeters in length that live in aquatic habitats all over the world. Like mosquitoes, it is only the female that sucks blood to get protein in preparation for laying her eggs. The bite itself is too small to feel. It’s not until later when your skin starts to react with the proteins in their saliva that you start to feel the itch, and oh brother, what an itch!

Salt Marsh Mosquitos: 

black-saltmarsh-mosquitoThe Aedes taeniorhynchus, commonly known as the black salt marsh mosquito, and the   Aedes sollicitans are frequent biters at Southern California Beaches.  They lay their eggs in brackish and saltwater pools left over from rising then receding tides. There is no mystery about these agressive ladies. They’re big, they’re hungry and they will come after you any time of the day whether you’re swatting at them or not. They are larger than many freshwater mosquitoes, so their bites are bigger too. In other parts of the world, they are vectors of Venezuelan and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Luckily, in our area, this is not a problem, but they are a prime vector of dog heartworm, so if you live near the beach, keep your dogs on a heartworm preventative.

Sea Lice or Baby Jelly Fish (not bugs but they will bug you!)

What we callsea-lice-baby-jellyfish sea lice are actually larvae of jellyfish that float around in clouds in the ocean. Although they are tiny, they still possess those nasty stinging cells or nematocysts. If you’re swimming in the ocean, they can become trapped between your bathing suit and skin. This is when you can be stung. The stings cause intense itching and burning which result in a rash with small raised blisters.  The rash can last anywhere from two days to two weeks, but most of the time they go away with no medical attention necessary, just lots of cortisone cream and Benadryl! Prime time for ‘Sea Lice” is May through August.

So, grab your sunblock,  your bug repellent (with deet) and head out to the beach. Have fun, play safe and don’t let the “beach bugs” bite!  going-to-the-beach

T-Rex Ant: Not Living Up To It’s Fearsome Namesake, The Tyrannosaurus Rex

There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet got it right.  Man has a limited knowledge of his own universe and there truly are, new and exciting things discovered every day. One of the newer discoveries is the T. Rex ant (Tyrannomyrmex rex).  Originally, dead  ant specimens were discovered in Malaysia in 1994 and were our only evidence of their existence until recently, when Mark Wong (National Geographic Young Explorer) and Gordon Yong (both, of the University of Singapore) discovered a thriving colony in northern Singapore.

It was nt-rex-antso small fete to find these ugly brutes, since their preference for nesting sites is moist, rotting wood buried under inches of soil. These ants create nest chambers inside the rotting wood, where they live, work and breed.  As luck would have it, military training activity and the debris left behind by soldiers (various trash items) brought them to the surface and to the attention of researchers.

Being named after the fearsome dinosaur, T. Rex, because of its hellishly, unique appearance, has proven a misrepresentation of its true personality.  This ant is no tyrant, it is shy, seemingly nocturnal and a picky eater. What surprised the scientists most was, when offered what

Photo by Gordon Yong, National University of Songapore
Photo by Gordon Yong, National University of Songapore

ants normally eat (honey, termites, insects and other ants) these denizens of the dark preferred to eat their own. Cannibalism is not unknown in the insect world but this finding reveals how much of a mystery these asian ants are.

According to these two intrepid entomologists, Wong and Yong, “There is this amazing world right beneath our feet, which we have hardly explored and we are excited to get started.”

Here are some interesting statistics:

To date, less than five percent of the ocean has been explored. The ocean is the lifeblood of Earth, covering more than 70 percent of the planet’s surface, driving weather, regulating temperature, and ultimately supporting all living organisms.

Worldwide, 17 percent of land is still virtually untouched — mostly because it is inhospitable to humans. In areas, capable of growing basic crops, and therefore most able to support people, untouched lands have diminished to 2 percent of the total.

Alaska holds the vast majority of least-altered lands in the United States.

If ants are occupying more of your personal space than you would like, and you need to get rid of ants, check out this link or call a professional ant exterminator today. 


Asian Needle Ants vs Argentine Ants: GAME ON!

As an invasive species, Argentine ants have been extremely successful invaders. These aggressive, territorial ants, which can live in super-colonies comprised of thousands of queens and millions of workers, easilyargentine_ant displaced native species as they spread across the United States. No other ant species has successfully stood up to these super troopers — until now.


So, what gives Asian needle ants (Brachyponera chinensis or Pachycondyla chinensis) an edge over the competition? Researchers have come to the conclusion that the Asian needle ant’s ability to tolerate cooler temperatures is a major factor in their success. In cooler months, both species become dormant and their basic activities slow way down. This temporarily stops reproduction, diminishing populations. Asian needle ants wake up and become

active much earlier inthe year than Argentine ants, getting a jumpstart on their competitors. They start to reproduce, forage for food, and build new colonies in Argentine ant territory as early as March, while the Argentine ants take another couple of months to rise and shine and get going. Finding their old territories already occupied, the Argentine ants typically move on to other areas.

In forests, Asian needle ants nest in rotting logs, under leaves and mulch, and under rocks. In human environments, they can nest anywhere from potted plants to under door mats, in landscaping materials, and even under dog bowls.

While they love to eat termites, Asian needle ants will consume just about anything it can get its’ mandibles around, from dead insects to other ants to human garbage.  Its’ aggressiveness, habitat versatility and eating habits could mean a great change to our eco-systems.  When these guys move in they eat other ants, devour their food sources, and take up their nesting spaces, forcing native ant species, such as Wood ants, Acrobat ants and Thief ants, to disappear. This is a problem because, these native species play important roles in the ecosystem. Many native ants are gardeners—they till the soil and plant seeds, and the loss of these ant species will impact the health of our forests, and in the long-run, destroy them.

Acrobat Ant


Redwood Ant
Redwood Ant





Thief Ant
Thief Ant

Not only is this ant of concern to its’ adopted habitats but it is also a health concern as it’s venomous sting causes burning and site redness (with dull nerve pain lasting up to 2 weeks) and in some extreme cases, allergic reactions (anaphylaxis).  Scientists have deduced that more people are allergic to Asian ant stings than to Honeybee stings.

Although not yet arriving in California, in great numbers, they are heading our way.  They have already been stopped 6 times at our boarders and appear to be hitch-hiking on imported food products, landscaping and plant materials and grandma’s potted plant.

What does an Asian ant look like?  It is shiny, black with lighter orange legs, has a stinger and is only about 0.2 inches long. The Argentine ant, in comparison, ranges in color from light to dark brown, doesn’t have a stinger (but they do bite) and are about 0.08 inches in length,  much smaller than the Asian needle ant.

For more info on common ants in California, follow this link:


Brown Recluse or Not Brown Recluse! Busting the Bite Myth.

Here in California, the brown recluse spider has been elevated to a major urbanspider-face legend alongside UFOs, Bigfoot, the Jackalope and Elvis.

There is a great “fear” of brown recluse spiders in California, mostly because of misguided and sensationalized media hype. So say spider experts from the entomology department at the University of California, Riverside.

brown-recluse-and-pennyThe common name “brown recluse spider refers to one species of spider, Loxosceles reclusa, which lives in the central Midwest: Nebraska recluse-spider-map-of-u-s-from-ucrsouth to Texas and eastward to southernmost Ohio and north-central Georgia. It gets its name from its color and its shy, reclusive, nocturnal nature.

This species of violin spider is not native to California and only a handful of these spiders (less than 10) have ever been collected here.  Of those that were, there was some relationship between the spider and a recent move or shipment of goods from the Midwest.

There are other Loxosceles spiders in California, the most common desert_recluse_-_loxosceles_desertabeing Loxosceles deserta, found in sparsely- populated areas of the eastern California desert. There are no established populations of native Californian violin spiders in urban non-desert locations. In southern California, a South American violin spiderLoxosceles laeta, chilean-reclusealso known as a Chilean recluse, which is supposedly more venomous than the brown recluse, inhabits a small area of Sierra Madre, Alhambra, San Gabriel and Monterey Park. According to researchers, there has not been one verified bite incident involving L. laeta in California because they mostly live in basements and steam tunnels and they rarely, hang out in plain sight, in people’s homes.

Busting the Bite Myth!

Rick Vetter, a retired University of California, Riverside entomologist, along with lead author Dr. W. Van Stoecker and Dr. Jonathan Dyer, both dermatologists in Missouri who specialize in treating brown recluse bites, have co-authored a recently-published paper in JAMA Dermatology that describes skin conditions that are often misdiagnosed as bites from the much maligned, brown recluse. Their paper introduces a mnemonic device NOT RECLUSE that describes the most common skin conditions that are misdiagnosed as a brown recluse bite.

Not Recluse: Red, elevated and persistent or chronic wounds.

Recluse bites are whitish blue or purple (not red), flat (not elevated) and don’t last more than three months.

Open wound from Brown recluse bite


Brown Recluse Bite -minor reaction

So, if a patient has a wound that is elevated or red or persists more than 3 months, something other than a brown recluse bite should be considered.

A red lesion would indicate a bite or sting by another insect/spider or might be a bacterial infection caused by :

MRSA-Staph Infection


Anthrax Infection

streptococcus or anthrax or the result of both.


According to Dr. Vetter, brown recluse spiders are no longer than a half-inch in body length and have a dark brown violin shape on their body. They are venomous, but about 90 percent of bites self-heal, ab

Healed Brown Recluse Bite

out 10 percent result in a rotting flesh lesion, and less than 1 percent cause a systemic reaction that can be fatal.

There is no denying that necrotic wounds are occurring in California but as long as people keep the myth of the brown recluse, alive, the real causes of these wounds will continue to be misdiagnosed and effective treacarter-recluse-wife-1080x1080-002tment delayed.


Here’s a little Recluse Humor!  Enjoy!

Find more chuckles at CorkysNoon


South American Palm Weevil, The Darth Vader of Weevils Annihilating Palms As It Travels North

The South American palm weevil has ignored the boarder wall and is headed straight into California on its never-ending quest for plentiful food and abundant breeding grounds. Here in San Diego County,palm-weevil-in-hand with our iconic landscape palm trees, like the Canary Island date palm and others, we have everything these invasive weevils need to sustain their ever-growing populations.

Historically these tree killers are well known from Argentina and Paraguay north through South America and Central America to central Mexico and into the Caribbean.

Since 2010 they have been attacking and killing palms, primarily Canary Island Date Palms, in Baja California adjacent to San Diego.  Then in 2015, they were found to be the cause of death of 10 Canary Island Date Palms in a neighborhood of San Ysidro,

Credit: Forest & Kim Starr Biologists

which is in the southern part of San Diego.  More recently, this year, they have been detected in these same palms, in Rancho Santa Fe, in North San Diego Country, where treatment is commencing to safe-guard these beautiful, expensive landscape trees.

If left unchecked, these invaders will be a real threat to the region’s ornamental and palm industry. The ornamental palm industry in California, has an estimated value of $70 million while commercial date producers in the Coachella and Imperial Valleys contribute about $30 million to the state’s economy. These guys could put a big dent in California’s already challenged economy.

Despite the weevil’s large size, it is often difficult to detect infestations because they live inside the palms. However, infested palms will often exhibit yellowing and suffer notched or chewed looking new fronds or internal damage to the top of the crown. In advanced stages of infestation, the tops of palms can droop and collapse.

UC Riverside CISRdamaged-crown-of-date-palm



The devastation comes not from the adult weevils themselves, but their larvae, which eat the palms from the inside out, typically in the crown of the tree. That makes it impossible for the tree to grow new fronds and causes it to die from the top down.

The South American palm weevil can also transmit another palm-killer — the red ring nematode — which has not been found in California to date, and Fusarium Wilt – an infectious fungal disease, that kills the palm and infects the soil surrounding the palm for years.

According to experts, a detection and monitoring program must accompany any treatment program. Monitoring for any change in tree appearance is crucial. Insecticide treatments alone do not necessarily guarantee eradication. In addition to any proposed treatmepalm-weevil-monitoringnt, keeping a palm as healthy and vigorous as possible may reduce the likelihood of an infestation, since weak, sick or damaged trees attract these harmful pests.

Insecticidal treatments can be made if the surrounding environmweevil-insecticidal-treatmentent allows for a safe and proper application. Applications should be made by a licensed and trained professional.


Agriculture officials are hoping to locate and stop the invasive South American palm weevil before it gets a foothold in California. Therefore, they are encouraging anyone who sees a large long nosed black beetle, to report it.

Researchers at the University of California Riverside are encouraging anyone who spots palm weevils or palm trees damaged by the pest to fill out an online form on the website of the Center for Invasive Species Research. The CISR website also provides wonderful photographs to help with identification.

No-See-Ums: A Plague of Invisible Blood Suckers

Producing extreme wet weather conditions, Mother Nature is gearing up for another blood thirsty assault on mankind and this time we won’t see them coming.

The same conditions that encourage mosquitoes, give rise to the infamous “the-swarmNo-See-Ums”, also called, Sand flies (which they really aren’t) or Biting midges, in Western North America, “Punkies” in the Northeast, “Five-o’s” (because they do their biting around 5PM) in Florida and Alabama, “Pinyon gnats” in the Southwest, and “moose flies in Canada.

But no matter what they’re called, their bites are extremely annoying and reactions to these bites range from small red welts at the bite site to locamidge-bites-and-reactionlized allergic reactions with burning and extreme itching, sometimes lasting hours.

Ceratopogonidae, or biting midges, are a family of small flies (1–4 mm long) in the order Diptera. Coastal and mountain areas provide their primary habitat and they love wetlands and salt marshes. They will also breed in, backyards, tree-holes, mud and damp leafy areas; anywhere there is moisture.biting_midge01

No-see-ums are the smallest blood-sucking insects on earth, and like the mosquito, only the females bite as they require the proteins from blood to produce their eggs.  They have serrated mandibles (mouthparts) biting-midges-feedingthat take a chunk out of your skin, leaving a hole that fills with blood. Then they suck it up. They feed both on humans and other mammals. Several species will suck the blood of  insects, including mosquitoes. Some species spread the livestock diseases Blue tongue and African horse sickness and a condition called Sweet itch.  In some countries, particularly in tropical regions, these insects can transmit parasites and diseases such as filarial worms in humans, but none are known to transmit diseases to humans in the U.S.

Almost invisible, no-see-ums appear at dawn and dusk, just like mosquitoes, and have a 4- to 6-week life cycle. Late Spring and summer are  their peak swarming season.  Unfortunately, they continually breed, even during the winter months. In winter, they just slow down tmidge-life-cycleheir life cycle and wait for favorable conditions in other life stages, like eggs and larvae. Their sole purpose in life is to breed, so after mating (males) and after egg laying (females) die. Females may lay 30-100 eggs in a clutch and up to 7 clutches before she dies. Because they do not feed, adults live for only 3 to 5 days. The biting midge larvae are bright red in color and live in the water until fully mature, and able to fly.

No-See-Ums are often confused with mosquitoes. Thimidge-comparison-for-sizes is because midges closely resemble mosquitoes (although much smaller)and their immature stages (eggs and larvae) share many of the same water sources. Like mosquitoes, midge larvae survive quite well in polluted, stagnant water.

Midge or a mosquito?look_alikes

  • Midges, raise their forelegs at rest, while mosquito adults do not.
  • The wings of midges are shorter than their  body, while mosquito wings are slightly longer than their body.
  • Midges have nonfunctional (reduced) mouth parts, while mosquitoes have a long proboscis (needle like projection). Mosquitoes pierce the skin with mouthparts like a syringe and suck up the blomouthparts-culicoidesod. Midges, however, cut the skin with sharp mouthparts like a mosquito-mouth-partspair of scissors and then suck up the pool of blood that forms by rolling its mouth into a short feeding tube.
  • Midges form large mating swarms in the evening, which may occur over several days. While male mosquitoes may swarm when mating, they are typically in a defined location and difficult to see.
  • Midges only live long enough to mate and lay their eggs, while certain species of mosquitoes can live for months at a time.

midge-protectionBecause of their prolific breeding habits and the fact that a lot of their breeding areas are protected by state law, midges are impossible to control completely.  So, if you can’t kill them all, the next best thing is….

Protect Yourself”.

  • Avoid areas that are known to have high biting insect activity.
  • cut-grassKeep vegetation surrounding dwsunshine-and-birdellings to a minimum.  Mow tall grasses and cut dense foliage. Let the sunshine in. Dry out wet, muddy areas and pick up leaf litter. Get rid of breeding areas.
  • Reduce moisture around the house. Get rid of standing water, don’t over water and empty any water holding containers (plant pots, toys, tires, stagnant ponds and pools etc.).
  • Batten down the hatches.  Fix broken screen_rippedwindows, install screens with extra small mesh, caulk openings into the interior of dwellings.  Keep windows and doors shut if unscreened. Keep outdoor lights off during evening hours or install yellow outdoor lighting to deter midges.  They’re attracted to light, but less so to yellow lighting.
  • Midges are weak fliers and do not like to seek blood meals when a moderate breeze is blowing, therefore, ceiling fans or other air circulation devices that increase air flow, inside dwellings, may also decrease biting midge activity indoors.
  • Wear light colored, long sleeve clothing and cover expinsect-repellent-applicationosed areas of skin, when outdoors during midge activity periods, usually early morning and late afternoon, to minimize exposure.
  • Personal insect repellents (containing Deet) applied to the skin and clothing as directed usually give several hours protection.
  • spraying-plantsSynthetic pyrethroid barrier sprays, applied around vegetation and exterior walls may substantially reduce midge adult numbers around treated premises for many weeks. Continuous, periodic, or seasonal treatments to the landscape is recommended.

Midges, even the biting kind, are important to the eco-system. They make up an essential part of the food chain as they provide food for fish and other aquatic animals, bats, other invertebrates, birds, lizards and even carnivorous plants like sundews and butterworts.

So, like tman_shooing_flies_lg_clrhe mosquito, we don’t want to live with No-See-Ums but our world can’t survive without them.

Doctor Dolittle Talked to the Animals…….Plants Talk to Animals and Each Other.

From the “Eentsnts”, tree-like creatures, created by J.R.R. Tolkien for his Middle Earth fantasy world, to the “Womping Tree” of Harry Potter fame, to “Groot” of the scienaudrey-ii-lightce fiction thriller/comedy “Guardians of the Galaxy”, and you can’t forget “Audrey” from The Little Shop of Horrors, talking plants, plants that communicate between themselves and others, have fascinated fiction enthusiasts and hardcore realists alike .

Contrary to the long-held idea that plants are silent, stoic, and uncommunicative, recent research has made it clear that many species have litalking-flowersvely and informative conversations with each another. Scientists have revealed that plants communicate through the air, by releasing odorous chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and through the soil, by secreting chemicals for transport along thread-like networks formed by soil fungi. This is the plants version of “wireless communication” and they’re having more than gossip sessions: these signals warn of the many dangers facing plants.  No longer can we call reclusive individuals, wall flowers, because now we know plants have active social lives.

Plants aren’t limited to conversations between themselves.  It turns out thatwasp-attacking-catapiller plants can also summon help from the animal kingdom, when under attack — when corn plants (Maize) or tobacco plants are munched on by caterpillars, they can give off an odor that attracts caterpillar-eating wasps!  A chemical in the armyworm’s drool triggers the leaves of corn and tobacco seedlings to scream for protection and aide from armyworm predators.   If you’re a corn or tobacco farmer, you might want to start using this trick to defend your crop against aphids.

There’s also evidence that plant-eating insects are intercepting the chemical communications of their prey. Ted Farmer, noted researcher from the Department of Plant Molecular Biology, University ofplant-intelligence-79-638 Lausanne, Biophore, Lausanne, Switzerland,who found evidence of an electrical nervous system in plants, has also found evidence that insects actively try to minimize the chemical defenses of the plants they feed upon.  (Read his paper, Differential gene expression in response to mechanical wounding and insect feeding in Arabidopsis.) Ants, microbes, moths, even hummingbirds and tortoises (Farmer scientifically verified their responses) all detect and react to these blasts of plant defensive chemicals.

This is what we know about plant communication:

  1. Plants can call for help.  When you smell the sweet odor of cut grass or cut flowers you are really smelling the plants “distress call”.  The plant is calling in help from insects that will eat the insects currently feeding off of it.  The grass or flower treats the lawnmower or scissors as it would a hungry insect chewing its body parts.
  2. Plants listen in to other plants private conversations. talking-plants They evesdrop!  Plants can pick up chemical signals from unrelated, plants in their surrounding area.  When they pick up a strangers’ chemical “SOS”, they start to produce their own defensive mechanisms pro-actively.
  3. Plants will defend their home territory.  Plants are competitive organisms.  Thflowers-in-gardeney compete for sunlight, water, and nutrients.  Certain species of plants can emit chemicals into the soil that will kill foreign plant species.  Then there are plants that can nullify the effects of these toxic emissions with their own chemical concoctions, effectively protecting themselves and other unrelated plants close by.
  4. Plants can recognize their relatives and siblings.  They tend to recognize and support their relatives.  They become less competitive for resources when in close proximity to their own family members, sharing rather than hogging available resources, promoting the health of their species.  One for all and all for one.
  5. Plants can communicate, not only with insects, but with mammals.  Plants usebat-talking-to-plant their communication skills to attract animals that bring them beneficial help. Whether its food they need or defense from enemies, plants are not shy when it comes to asking for “Help”.  The carnivorous, Pitcher Plant, is able to communicate acoustically with bats making it easy for bats to find them and deposit guano into the plant, providing nourishment.

So, go ahead, talk to your plants.  Find out whats bugging them, then call a plant pest professional to save the day!

Here’s a little pest humor. Get ready to Smile!fly-trap-cartoon

Danger Will Rogers, There Are More Bugs in Space Than Astronauts.

A wide variety of animals have been launched into space, including monkeys, dogs and bugs.

The United States launched flights containing monkeys and primates  ( Ham seen here in his flight couch) between CHIMPANZEE "HAM" IN FLIGHT COUCH FOR MR-2 (MERCURY-REDSTONE2) (REF# LOD 61C-1141948-1961 with one flight in 1969 and   another in 1985. France, launched two monkey-carrying flights in 1967. The Soviet Union, launched monkeys between 1983 and 1996 and during the 1950s and 1960s  dogs,  were used in  the Soviet space program.

But the very first animals sent into space were Bugs.bug-astronautsExperiments on fruit flies have advanced our knowledge of genetics, cell biology and medicines, since 1909.  So, they were an obvious choicfruit-fly-singlee,to launch into orbit aboard a U.S. V-2 rocket, on February 20, 1947. The objective of the fruit fly experiment was to investigate the effects of radiation exposure at high altitudes. At the end of their space flight, The Blossom capsule was ejected successfully and the fruit flies were recovered alive.


Silkworm larva and eggs have also become accomplished space travelers. They have hung out, in space, with vasilk-worm-expiramentsrious astronauts on NASA space shuttles for decades.  But, their role, providing information crucial to mans’ space exploration changed as Chinese scientists demoted them from micro-astronauts to high protein space snacks. 

On July 28, 1973, the first spiders in space, garden spiders named Arabella and Anita,were passengers on the Skylab 3 flight along with pocket mice, a fish and three (3) human astronauts.  A Lexington, Massachusetts high school student, named Judith Miles, proposed a “spider” test as part of a student focused Skylab 3 experiment. At first, the spiders were frantically swimming in place due to the lack of gravity, but after two days, Arabella began Skylab Spider Arabellabuilding a web and then Anita spun one shortly thereafter. Their webs were finer and much sloppier than ones spun on earth. The “test” revealed quite a bit about the effect of zero  and micro-gravity on motor coordination. Both spiders died in orbit, their sacrifices giving scientists quite a bit to chew on, and those fascinating tidbits have helped further the study of zero or microgravity. Arabella’s body was put on display at thUS Space and Rocket Museum, and the cages where they spun their webs, at the Space Science exhibition at the National Air & Space Museum.

Spiders were again launched into orbit in 2008.  Two Oorb-weaver-webs-in-spacerb Weavers, lost their battle with zero gravity, experiencing the same problems as their predecessors: the inability to produce the strong, beautiful web designs they are known for here on earth.  Oh, what tangled webs they weave, in space!

In 1984, NASA sent 3500 Honey bees into space, in an effort, to find out if they  hold the key to off world crop pollinationResearchers bees-in-space-1984found that they build honeycombs quite well in microgravity and their behaviors remain constant whether in space or on earth.  Subsequent experiments are taking place back here on earth in zero gravity chambers.

Monarch and Painted Lady butterfly larvae had their turn in space in 2009.  Astronauts had the privilege of witnessing the birth of the most beautiful butterflies on earth.butterflies-in-space Painted lady and Monarch butterfly eggs and larvae, flew aboard space shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station, where their life cycles, in zero and microgravity, were studied. Students here on earth, in grades K-12, used original photos from the mission to conduct open-ended scientific investigations in classrooms.

Ants made it into the limelight of space exploration, on the International Space Station in 2013 through 2015. The objective of the “Ant” experiment was to compare behavior differences in groups of ants, in this case Pavement ants, living in normal gravity against those in microgravity conditions. It measured how the interactions among ants, in a group, depended on the number of ants in a given area. Their behaviors may be important in determining how swarm intelligence works.  Understanding swarm ants-in-spaceintelligence will help scientists create mathematical processes for solving complex human problems, such as routing trucks, scheduling airlines, or telecommunications efficiency. Cameras recorded ants living on the International Space Station, and software analyzed their movement patterns and interaction rates. Students in grades K-12 got to watch the videos, in near real-time, and conducted their own classroom experiments.

If you’re tired of home-invasion-antsBugs invading your space and want to stop experimenting with ineffective control methods.  Follow this link and get professional help today!


Featured image: Fine art America –  spiders-in-space–she-waits by JamesTemple.

In The Game of life, Humans Need to Take a Page Out Of The Ants’ Play Book.

Researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology say that ant colonies become more efficient when workers have a work-life balance, according to an article on The study found that depending on the size of the colony, up to 80% of workers could be doing nothing at any given time. This helps conserve food, enesleepy-antsrgy and resources, and is especially helpful in larger colonies. So, it seems ant colonies increase their efficiency by letting workers take time off.

Current studies show, that as a colony’s population grows, the numbers of “Lazy” workers increase dynamically and a majority of those slacker ants could be doing nothing but grooming, aimlessly walking around or just lying still. Does this sound like a few co-workers, that shall remain nameless?

Ants try to hit a balance between the need for new resources, and the need to conserve those already stored. Inactive workers may represent a bet-hedging strategy in response to random environmental changes.

lazy-ant-in-color-on-hamockThe ‘lazy’ ants, therefore, are an important asset to the colony. Just how important is still being researched but some theories on the subject are:

  • Ants rest by rotation, so there’s always a pool of fresh workers to replace the ones too tired to continue their assigned tasks.
  • They can be called upon in an emergency,  like a reserve army or repair crew.
  • They are there to take the place of those ants that die in the line of duty.
  • They are too young or too old to actively participate in colony life.

Whatever the runion-ants-jpegeasons for some ants, specializing in “doing nothing”, this laziness benefits the colony and increases its’ sustainablity.



Many people confuse frantic energy with effectiveness. So not true!

Observing how ants maximize efficiency by balancing some work with a lot of rest could help make human society more productive and increase its’ longevity.

In the 1800s, during and following the industrial revolution, industrialists and unions alike agreed that workers needed a day off. This later became a two-day weekend. But in those days, work was mostly manual labor, and once workers left the job site, they also left their work behind. They were genuinely able to rest, away from work, without having to think about it or worry about what might be going on in their absence.

work-overloadToday, recent technological changes  have made it possible for workers to stay in touch 24/7.  Smart phones, hand held computers and other remote working technology have made it possible to work, on breaks, at lunch, after hours and  even on vacation.  People find it hard to “shut down” and genuinely rest and in most working environments people are expected to be “on call”, at all times. This never ending work schedule strips them of their ablity to have a life outside work.  Our work, life balance is way out-of-whack.  Stress is our enemy. It shortens our lives, damages our bodies and takes away our quality of life.  And it makes us fat!

It’s time to take a page out of the Ants’ Play Book!  Productivity, effectiveness and our general health individually and as a society depends on balancing work and rest.

Yep, It’s time for that power nap!


                Follow this link to get the scoop on how and why ants sleep.


If the ants, on your property, are wide awake and heading into your house, it’s time to call a professional!  Follow this link to the best ant control service program in California, maybe even the world.

Featured Image by illustrator Tina Do, entomologist.