New antifreeze molecule found in Alaska beetle

More about insects enduring the winter cold: researchers at University of Alaska Fairbanks have isolated a previously unknown molecule that allows an Alaska beetle able to survive temperatures below -100 F. The new molecule, called xylomannan, has little or no protein, which makes it completely different in form and mechanism than other known biological antifreezes. Continue reading

E.O. Wilson interview

A lengthy but informative video interview with ant expert E.O Wilson about the emergence of molecular techniques during his career.

Evolution – the Molecular Landscape Interview with EDWARD O WILSON interviewed by Jan Witkowski | SciVee.

British bees go urban!

The "Beehaus" by Omlet, on the roof of a house in London.

A new and improved design of beehive could be used by city dwellers to harvest up to 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of their own honey each year, according to Natural England, a British government conservation agency. The hives could also help stem the decline of bee populations. Continue reading

Acacia plant controls ants with chemical signal

The mutually beneficial relationship between acacias and the ants that guard them is a little better understood, thanks to researchers in the UK and Sweden. They found that the ants are deterred from entering the flowers–and thus competing with pollinators–by a chemical the plant produces. This chemical is produced in addition to the food rewards provided to the ants. Continue reading

Avocado growers fear spread of fungus-bearing beetle

Will guacamole become a sometime food? After enjoying a season of near record-high avocado prices, farmers of Florida’s second-largest tropical fruit crop are now worried about a potential invasive pest, the Asian redbay ambrosia beetle.The beetle is moving Southward, carrying with it a fungus that can kill trees, including avocado trees. To date, there is no known treatment for the fungal disease, although some trees in Asia have a natural resistance to it.

The beetle has evolved a symbiotic relationship with the fungus. It carries it in a pouch in its mouth, inoculates trees with it, and then feeds off it as the fungus digests the tree.

from the Miami Herald

10 insect superpowers!

  1. The male silk moth is estimated to “smell” chemicals of female silk moths in the air at the ratio of a few hundred molecules among 25 quintillion (25,000,000,000,000,000,000) molecules in a cubic centimeter of air.
  2. Houseflies find sugar with their feet, which are 10 million times more sensitive than human tongues.
  3. It takes about one hundred Monarch butterflies to weigh Continue reading

Warmer = more insects eating = higher CO2?

Fossilized leaf damage caused by insects

Fossilized leaf damage by Paleocene–Eocene insects

Today I’m doing some quick research on insects and climate change. Here’s a 2008 paper that provides food for thought: Currano et al. found fossil evidence that an abrupt warming event 55.8 mya was correlated with increased leaf-eating by insects, which in turn releases more CO2 into the atmosphere. The warming event–called the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum–was an abrupt change linked to a transient increase in atmospheric CO2 and is considered to be comparable in rate and magnitude to modern anthropogenic climate change. Continue reading