Bug eat bug – controlling pests with other insects

It is not a job for someone who is scared of creepy crawlies.

The team of laboratory workers are busy collecting the eggs laid by thousands of bugs in large plastic containers.

They have to shake and brush away the insects, which scurry quickly to and fro over their hands.

The employees can then remove strips of fabric from the containers, and scrape off the attached eggs.

This is the itchy scene at a hi-tech Brazilian company called Bug Agentes Biologicos, or Bug for short.

Staff at Bug checking on some shield bugs
Image captionBug is able to breed insects in big numbers

The company is at the forefront of the growing global biological pest control industry – it produces bugs that kill other creepy crawlies, thereby removing the need for chemical pesticides.

Fuelled by growing demand from Brazil’s vast agricultural sector, Bug has developed a way to mass produce a tiny wasp called trichogramma that eats caterpillars and other pest insects.

Brazilian farmers then use drones to spray the wasps over their fields.

Bug was set up in Sao Paulo state back in 2000 by Brazilian scientists Diogo Rodrigues Carvalho and Heraldo Negri de Oliveira.

Heraldo Negri de Oliveira (left) and Diogo Rodrigues Carvalho
Image captionHeraldo Negri de Oliveira (left) and Diogo Rodrigues Carvalho wanted to help reduce the use of chemical pesticides

They wanted to help Brazilian farmers reduce their use of pesticides on crops – but never thought they would be good at running a business.

Mr Carvalho says: “Farmers used to just use chemicals to combat pests, and a lot of these chemicals were used in excess. This is bad for the environment and the people who work in the fields.

“Biological control using insects to control pests cuts pesticide use and brings more equilibrium to the countryside.”

Yet despite the two friends’ big ambitions, the firm didn’t make any profits in its first eight years. It was only kept in business thanks to research and development funding from the Brazilian government, and private investors.

A drone being used to spray wasps over cropsImage copyrightGEOCOM
Image captionThe wasps are spread over crops using drones

The big breakthrough came in 2008 when it started to breed thousands of wasps in each batch, which turned the start-up into a business that has grown by an average 30% each year ever since.

Mr Negri de Oliveira says that back in the firm’s early days they couldn’t simply call someone for advice, or order in the equipment they needed, because what they were doing was so new.

“Setting up a biological pest control company 17 years ago was not an easy thing to do,” he says.

“Whey you set up a pizza shop, you go to a supplier, and you buy everything you need to make pizzas.

A trichogramma waspImage copyrightBUG
Image captionBug is an expert at breeding the trichogramma wasp

“When you start a biological pest control company there is nothing on the market that helps you set it up. Everything we have here today is either something we adapted from another industry, or developed ourselves.”

Despite the company’s slow start, Bug’s ambition from day one was to try to produce bio-pests on a grand scale.

Mr Negri de Oliveira says: “When we set up our business, people would say ‘you will work with greenhouses or family-sized properties?’.

“And we would say ‘no, we will work in great [big] fields’. And we are going head-to-head with agrochemical producers.

“Our company’s greatest achievement was to find a way to use this solution in big, open fields.”


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The 1 Terrifying Way You’re Increasing Your Odds of Getting Bedbugs at a Hotel

Many people like to bring home a souvenir when they travel. But unless you’re an entomologist, you probably don’t want bugs of any kind coming home with you. That can happen not only if you travel to a tropical locale, but also if you vacation in one of the most bedbug-infested cities in the United States. You might think that you’re doing everything you can to avoid getting bedbugs when you stay at a hotel or Airbnb. But you may actually be making a common mistake that increases your chances of attracting the bugs.

 Below, learn about the seemingly innocuous habit that seems to attract tons of bedbugs to your hotel room. Plus, check out the best ways to avoid getting bedbugs when you travel.

What are your chances of getting bedbugs?

bed bugs

Bed bugs can ruin a vacation. | sahilu/iStock/Getty Images

Everybody has heard horror stories about bedbugs. Nonetheless, most people don’t know how likely or unlikely it is that they’ll encounter the little critters. (Much less their odds of ending up with the insects hitching a ride home with them._ As Slate reports, popular wisdom casts bedbugs as “world-class hitchhikers.” But are the bugs really that easy to catch if, for instance, you stay at a hotel that has them? As Slate reports, scientists haven’t quite figured it out yet. But the CDC reports, “Everyone is at risk for getting bed bugs when visiting an infected area.”

People — perhaps even you — are pretty scared of bedbugs. And for good reason

Bed bugs killer

You’r right, bed bugs are gross. | Brian Kersey/Getty Images

The New York Times notes that many people feel very scared of ending up with an infestation of the critters. “Some of the fear is rooted in fact,” The Times concedes. “The bugs, while they are not known to transmit disease, can travel on clothing, jump into pocketbooks and lurk in the nooks of furniture. And they do, of course, bite.” You’ll likely only fear the bugs more if you learn about their life cycle. As Popular Science explains, a fertilized female can lay three or four eggs a day until she dies. But it just gets worse:

Luckily, she only lives about nine months after being traumatically inseminated—regretfully, that is the actual scientific term—by a male bed bug. Traumatic insemination is, somehow, even worse than it sounds. Female bed bugs actually evolved a reproductive tract, but males don’t do anything so pedestrian as push a penis in there. Oh no. They use their hypodermic penises (again, the real term) to pierce their partner’s abdomen, injecting her with sperm.

They may not actually be that easy to catch

Bed Bug Fear

They’re not actually that easy to catch. | wildpixel/iStock/Getty Images

Back to the problem of bedbugs in hotel rooms. Popular Science notes that nobody truly understands how the tiny, flightless critters travel. But scientists do know that the bugs colonize beds because that’s where people reliably lie down for hours at a time, just waiting to be bitten. Slate concedes that not many researchers have looked at how infectious bedbugs are. But evidence seems to suggest that an infestation of the critters isn’t thateasy to catch. Slate explains, “The prevalence of bedbugs has clearly gone up in recent years, but the rate of freak-outs has been increasing even faster. It’s essential to recognize that the ‘disease’ is just not that easy to catch.”


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A 13-Year-Old Boy Caused $300,000 in Fire Damage to Building After Trying to Kill a Bed Bug

CINCINNATI — An apartment fire that caused nearly $300,000 in damage and displaced eight people was caused by a teen trying to rid his room of bedbugs.

The fire at the Hawaiian Terrace apartments started around midnight Wednesday when a 13-year-old boy tried to kill a bedbug by lighting it on fire, according to fire officials on the scene. His mattress caught on fire and quickly spread to the building’s attic.


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Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

Bugs survive the winter through a trick straight out of science fiction

  • Bugs don’t just do a disappearing act in the winter: some can tolerate extremely harsh, cold conditions.
  • One of their most common winter survival strategies, called diapause, allows mosquitoes and black ants to slow down their metabolism when it gets cold – temporarily freezing their development.
  • Some caterpillars burrow under leaves and become frozen icicles, thawing out in the spring. 
  • Those who aren’t winter warriors hunker down and rely on their fellow bugs (or humans) for seasonal warmth, or fly to warmer spots.

It’s not like bugs can just turn on the heater, zip up a fluffy parka, or tuck in to a warm cup of cocoa to stay warm in the winter.

The truth is that bugs have many different ways to make it through the winter alive.

Some simply fly to warmer spots. Others burrow into logs, hiding away in insulated nooks with hundreds of their friends to wait for warmer days.

But one of the most common ways that bugs have figured out how to last through the harsh winter cold turns out to also be one of the insect world’s most awesome secrets: bug hibernation.

How do bugs hibernate?

Bugs hibernate in a couple of different ways — including one that is straight out of science fiction. “Diapause” is the name for the way insects like mosquitoes and black ants slow down their metabolism when they sense that days are getting shorter, food is getting scarcer, and temperatures are dropping. The move freezes their development (and their bodies too) as they wait for warmer days to arrive again. That’s when they’ll thaw out and buzz away.

Professor Brent Sinclair, who directs the Insect Low Temperature Biology Lab at the University of Western Ontario, told Business Insider that bugs in this state of suspended animation “don’t do anything.” He said the processes at work in the insects when they move into diapause are a lot like the insulin signaling that humans do to regulate sugar levels, but it’s still not clear what prompts the bugs to shut their metabolism down in the fall, and how they know to re-start it again each spring.

Monarch butterflies fly at the El Rosario butterfly sanctuary on a mountain in the Mexican state of Michoacan in this November 27, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/Files  File photo of monarch butterflies at the El Rosario butterfly sanctuary in Michoacan Thomson Reuters

“They don’t develop. They just sit under the bark of trees where they’ve been feeding all summer,” Sinclair said.

“Quiescence” is a similar bug-freeze move that often happens right after diapause. In this phase, the bugs are a bit more active than in diapause, because they can still respond to stimuli in the environment as they await their next meal in the spring.

Different species of m osquitoesexercise both diapause and quiescence —  they go dormant either as eggs, larvae, or adults,  and  wait for the next biting season to come back around.

Diapause is like a literal “chill pill” for bugs.

Some use the ground as a blanket, others sink to the muddy bottoms of ponds

There are other ways to outlast the cold without leaving town. Insects that live in the water wait out chilly days at the bottoms of ponds, Sinclair said, while other bugs burrow into the soil, using the ground like a warm blanket to shield them from the ice above.

Periodical Cicadas ( Magicicada ) do this dirt trick in the extreme: They’re famous for their 13 and 17 year stints underground, after which they emerge for only a few weeks in the summer — just long enough to lay eggs. Those new eggs w on’t winter aboveground either. A fter six to 10 weeks they hatch and drop to the ground, where they burrow in to begin their own 13 or 17 year underground residency.

Ants burrow too. They can move deep into their underground nests and close up the exit with soil and leaves, making a shelter designed to keep out the cold.

Other bugs huddle together to keep cozy. Honeybees cluster in a big ball and divide up their warming chores; Bees at the core of the group move their wings to keep everyone warm, while outer bees act like insulation, staying very still.

Ladybugs daintily burrow into cracks in trees, or crawl into warm pockets like other small beetles, huddling together to stay warm. In general, they try to come in from the cold, and sometimes find their way into houses or barns for winter shelter.


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New York City Has Genetically Distinct ‘Uptown’ and ‘Downtown’ Rats

New York City is a place where rats climb out of toilets, bite babies in their cribs, crawl on sleeping commuters, take over a Taco Bell restaurant, and drag an entire slice of pizza down the subway stairs. So as Matthew Combs puts it, “Rats in New York, where is there a better place to study them?”

Combs is a graduate student at Fordham University and, like many young people, he came to New York to follow his dreams. His dreams just happened to be studying urban rats. For the past two years, Combs and his colleagues have been trapping and sequencing the DNA of brown rats in Manhattan, producing the most comprehensive genetic portrait yet of the city’s most dominant rodent population.

As a whole, Manhattan’s rats are genetically most similar to those from Western Europe, especially Great Britain and France. They most likely came on ships in the mid-18th century, when New York was still a British colony. Combs was surprised to find Manhattan’s rats so homogenous in origin. New York has been the center of so much trade and immigration, yet the descendants of these Western European rats have held on.

When Combs looked closer, distinct rat subpopulations emerged. Manhattan has two genetically distinguishable groups of rats: the uptown rats and the downtown rats, separated by the geographic barrier that is midtown. It’s not that midtown is rat-free—such a notion is inconceivable—but the commercial district lacks the household trash (aka food) and backyards (aka shelter) that rats like. Since rats tend to move only a few blocks in their lifetimes, the uptown rats and downtown rats don’t mix much.

When the researchers drilled down even deeper, they found that different neighborhoods have their own distinct rats. “If you gave us a rat, we could tell whether it came from the West Village or the East Village,” says Combs. “They’re actually unique little rat neighbors.” And the boundaries of rat neighborhoods can fit surprisingly well with human ones.

Left: a map showing two clusters of rats uptown (black, north of 59th Street) and downtown (white, south of 14 Street). Right: a map showing estimated migration rates of rats. (Combs et al. / Molecular Ecology)
Combs and a team of undergraduate students spent their summers trapping rats—beginning in Inwood at the north tip of Manhattan and working their way south. They got permission from the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, which gave them access to big green spaces like Central Park as well as medians and triangles and little gardens that dot the city. And they asked local residents. “More often than not, they were very, very happy to show us exactly where they had rats.” says Combs. A crowdsourced map of rat sightings also proved very helpful.

Rats, although abundant, are not easily fooled into traps. They’re wary of new objects. To entice them, the bait was a potent combination of peanut butter, bacon, and oats. And the team placed their traps near places where rats had clearly crawled. They looked for rat holes, droppings, chew marks on trash cans, and sebum marks—aka the grease tracks rats leave when they traverse the same path to the garbage over and over again.

For the DNA analysis, Combs cut off an inch or so of the rats’ tails. (Over 200 of these tails are still saved in vials in a lab freezer.) The team also took tissue samples for other researchers interested in studying how rats spread diseases through the urban environment. And some of the rats they skinned and stuffed for the collections of the Yale University Peabody Museum of Natural History, where they will join stuffed rats from 100 years ago.


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What Room In Your House Has The Most Bugs? This Study Figured It Out, & It’s Actually Surprising

Last year, I moved to a part of Los Angeles that, surprisingly, had an abundance of bugs. Creepy crawlies of every variety invited themselves inside and made themselves comfortable. If you’ve ever wondered which rooms in your house have the most bugs, a new study in the journal Scientific Reports revealed where bugs like to hang out in your house or apartment. While I technically don’t live in the country, Los Angeles varies greatly in topography, from the foggy beach to the hot high desert, the type of bugs you see largely depends on which part of the city you live in.

Near the beach, you’re likely to get an infestation of roly-poly bugs, while the valley where I live is basically a bug bonanza that includes everything from wolf and brown widow spiders to Jerusalem crickets, earwigs, fire ants, and sugar ants. And, I’m not kidding when I say that staying on top of bugs can feel like a full time job. While you can exercise some level of denial when you don’t actually see the bugs, an article from KCET’s environment news project Redefine, made me feel a little uneasy.

“There are brown widows underneath every piece of lawn furniture in LA County,” Brian Brown, entomology curator at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, told Redefine. “I’m sure of it.” So, now that you know that brown widows are living underneath my outdoor furniture, just where are the bugs hanging out in your house? The study found that the kitchen and the living room are favored by your uninvited insect guests. And, the study, which examined 10,000 bugs from a sample of 50 homes, found almost 50 different families of harmless insects living inside of the average home.

Home Is Where The Bugs Live

In my old apartment near Hollywood, I rarely ever saw a bug. But, a few weeks into “country” life, insects began to appear in alarming numbers. One night after my roommate had gone to bed I saw a wolf spider crawling across the living room floor. I grabbed the first thing I saw, which happened to be a foam roller, and smashed the spider. I should also mention that I hate bugs. They elicit a totally irrational fear in me that usually results in my screaming like a four year old. You know those TV shows where can win hundreds of thousands of dollars for eating bugs? Yeah, I wouldn’t last a second.

You’d think that’d would be the end of the spider story, but much to my horror, what seemed like hundreds of tiny spiders scattered off the bigger spider like a scene from some kind of horrible insect horror movie. It took every ounce of self control I could muster not to scream and wake my roommate. I later learned that wolf spiders carry their babies on their backs and basically have their own little baby-wearing community, which made me start to obsess about the number of potential toddler spiders that could be hanging around having their own babies to wear on their backs.

Another time, my roommate texted me and said she shook out the living room curtains before vacuuming, and dozens of different types of bugs fell onto the floor. “It was a hot bed of critter activity,” she told me. Both of these incidents happened in the living room, which is one of the spots in your home where bugs like to congregate and have their little meetings about how to terrorize you. And, if you have carpet, you’re providing an even more attractive environment for these freeloading insects, though the study did not identify why bugs prefer carpet. Maybe it reminds them of grass.

If that’s not bad enough, the study reported that, “When we considered lifestyle characteristics of residents within particular homes, we found that the diversity and the composition of the core arthropod community did not significantly vary between houses based on presence of cats or dogs, number of houseplants, pesticide usage, or relative levels of clutter and dust accumulation.”


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Man tries to kill spiders with blow torch – ends up burning his house down

There is nothing worse than a spider infestation, except possibly a blazing inferno engulfing your entire home.

One man found out the hard way the true danger of a blow torch when he tried to destroy spiders in his home using fire.

Instead of simply removing the eight-legged pests, the man burned his house to the ground. He accidentally created a massive blaze that required 23 firefighters to contain it.

The unnamed man, from Tucson, Arizona, US, was suspected of using a propane torch to kill spiders and burn spiderwebs underneath his mobile home.

It took 23 firefighters to put out the blaze (Picture: Tucson Fire Department) Officials say a propane torch used to get rid of the spiders caused the blaze (Picture: KVOA-TV)

But instead his house caught fire, with the blaze tearing through the inside, leaving it completely gutted.

The fire, at around 9.20pm local time on Monday night, forced the man and an elderly woman out of their home.

Fire crews were called to the blaze and when they arrived, described seeing the woman being carried out of the burning house by her son and several neighbors.

Tucson Fire Department confirmed the woman suffered minor injuries after being treated by paramedics at the scene. It took firefighters 11 minutes to put out the fire, but by that time, the inferno had ripped through the entire home.

Meanwhile houses in the UK are under threat from 150 million sex-mad giant spiders.


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Airport terminal forced to remove seating because of bed bugs infestation

It’s not the news you want to hear before the holiday travel season, but Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport says they’re dealing with a bed bug issue inside Terminal 4.

An official with the airport says yes, bed bugs are here, but no, it’s not necessarily a shocking thing.

They cited statistics that say 200,000 people travel through Sky Harbor every day, and officials told us with that kind of volume, sometimes  bed bugs can happen. They say they are dealing with it as we speak.

They say the bugs were isolated in three padded benches located in the pre-security area of the airport. They got rid of those benches overnight, and this may not be an unexpected problem, but that doesn’t make it less disgusting.

Bed bugs can live wherever there are people to bite, and they can even live for several months without biting someone. Which means they can linger for some time until they eventually find another food source, meaning another human being.


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British Airways apologizes after passengers say bedbug-infested flight left them ‘covered in bites’

An hour into an overnight flight to London, Heather Szilagyi recalls, the first bug crawled out of her in-seat TV.

“It was just the one, at the time,” she said.

So she rang the bell and informed a flight attendant — quietly, lest she alarm her 7-year-old daughter or the passenger into whose seat back the thing had disappeared — that British Airways Flight 84 might have a bedbug problem.

“The flight attendant said, ‘We don’t have anywhere to move you. I’m really sorry,’ ” Szilagyi said.

Now British Airways says it’s sorry, too. The airline apologized in a statement to CTV News after Szilagyi, her daughter and at least one other passenger reported walking off the nine-hour flight from Vancouver covered in red welts.

Szilagyi used to clean hotel rooms, she said, and so knows a bedbug when she sees one. She and daughter Molly are allergic to them, but Szilagyi tried to stay optimistic on the Oct. 10 flight.

As the cabin lights dimmed and Molly drifted off to sleep, Szilagyi tried to convince herself that the bedbug that crawled out of her TV was a random stray — perhaps left there by some unfortunate passenger before her.

Likewise, when she looked down from her dinner tray a bit later, she said, she hoped it was just a flax seed that lay in her lap.

But seeds don’t move.

“This one I grabbed and squished in Kleenex,” Szilagyi said. Then she rang the bell again.

The flight attendant thanked her and took the insect away as if it were just a discarded coffee cup, she recalled. Then Szilagyi spotted two more bugs and debated in whispers with her fiance whether to risk a panic by alerting the other passengers.

“I knew it was a real infestation,” she said. “But we didn’t want to ruin someone else’s trip, and there’s nothing they could do anyway.”

So Szilagyi drank two glasses of wine, closed her eyes and tried her best to accept the inevitable.

Come daylight and the end of the flight, she said, she saw bites on Molly thighs. The family had traveled to Europe for a funeral but spent their first night on the continent throwing pillows in a hotel dishwasher and soaking their clothes in scalding water.

“The next morning, me and Molly were just covered in bites,” Szilagyi said.

Over the next week, she said, her daughter’s welts became infected and bled. Szilagyi said she and her fiance spent much of the trip on hold with British Airways, in a fruitless effort to ensure they didn’t share the flight home with yet more bedbugs.


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Watch two rats fight over a french fry in New York

Why don’t they just call Fidelity?