How Monarch Butterflies Are Actually Nature’s Nurses

Imagine you’re feeling ill. You feverishly drag yourself to the doctor’s office and find yourself sitting atop a sterile table awaiting the arrival of the physician. The door opens and in flies a monarch butterfly, carrying a thermometer, waiting for you open wide and say, “Aaaaahhh.”

Okay, that’s just crazy. A monarch butterfly could never lift a thermometer.

However, recent scientific developments have suggested that monarch butterflies are exhibiting behaviors that model the same goal as our medical professionals. They are using medicinal means to protect and heal their young.

Jaape de Roode, a biologist who specifically studies these insects states,

I study monarchs because they get sick. They get sick like you. They get sick like me. And I think what they do can tell us a lot about drugs that we can develop for humans.”

What they can do, he found, is make a decision to lay their eggs on species of milkweed (the only plant monarch larvae eat) that has medicinal qualities as opposed to other species that do not display those same characteristics.

Monarch butterflies are often afflicted with a disease called ophryocystis elektroscirrha (don’t even try). This disease, that is essentially a parasite, infects the butterflies and greatly reduces their lifespans, hinders their ability to fly, and often kills them before they reach adulthood. This naturally occurring insect control has devastating impacts on butterfly populations.

De Roode found that some species of milkweed contained properties that naturally defend against these symptoms. He also found that mothers chose to lay their eggs on the medicinal milkweed sixty eight percent of the time. The spawn of these butterflies were studied as they grew on a diet of the milkweed. De Roode found that the offspring of these mothers lived longer and were considered “less sick” than the offspring that had been laid on the other grouping. Essentially, the mother butterflies were seeking out plants that administered the healing traits and protected their future young.

De Roode regards this revelation with incredible optimism expressing,

The discovery that these animals can also use medication opens up completely new avenues, and I think that maybe one day, we will be treating human diseases with drugs that were first discovered by butterflies, and I think that is an amazing opportunity worth pursuing.”

Watch his TED talk on his experiments with monarch butterflies: HERE.

RoboBee: Coming Soon To A Swarm Near You

Picture this: you’re taking a stroll on a balmy summer day. The sun is shining and the flowers are in full bloom, but wait… Suddenly you hear a mechanical buzzing noise and a robot no bigger than a penny lands delicately on your arm. But don’t swat it! That little bee is worth ten million dollars.

robobee

This is a RoboBee.

It was invented by the scientists at Harvard University and while it won’t likely be swarming your local meadows anytime soon, its development team hopes to put it to far more beneficial uses in the near future.

In fact, they’re hoping this buzzing bot will one day be able to assist in search/rescue missions, pest control, and artificial pollination efforts. Due to their small size, having only a three centimeter wingspan, developers are anticipating that they will be able to travel to locations (both rural and urban) that larger robots or human beings cannot. The United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency funded early models of Robobees with the intention that one day, they will be able to provide stealth surveillance in battlefield and high-risk situations.

However, creating a functioning robot on such a small scale presented many challenges. The first challenge was to make them fly. To do so, the scientists on the Harvard team invented a way of creating artificial muscles that allowed the wings to beat 120 times per second. As if that were not enough to make the rest of us look like simpletons, the scientists are now working on a means of giving Robobee the ability to use what they are calling “swarm intelligence” so that they can make decisions for themselves.

Not to mention, in recent developments, the Robobees are actually able to use static electricity to land and stick to surfaces. Also, in the name of leaving no stone unturned, Robobee can now dive into and swim beneath water.

robobee next to a flower

What will be next for the Robobee? Could it “bee” world domination?

I guess only time will tell.

Japanese Scientists Prepare To Fight Future Cockroach Overlord

Well, maybe not exactly….

But it does seem that the scientists at one Japanese pest control company do have some extra time on their hands.

You see, they are preparing for the monster cockroaches of tomorrow. The kind of bugs that typically emerge from, “There’s been a terrible accident at the chemical plant,” scenarios in your favorite Sci-Fi movies.

Allow me to explain:

Earth Chemical, the Japanese pest control company responsible for a wide variety of in-home pest control creations, has actually created a model of their cockroach trap that is 925 times its original size.

Enter the cockroach trap “Gokiburi Hoy-Hoy:”

cockroach trap

This seemingly innocent, and disturbingly cheerful, cardboard box houses some of the most lethal adhesive on the market. It is designed to tempt cockroaches in, using alluring scents, and trap them in their very own “Hansel & Gretel”-esque prison.

The giant model, featured in a video below, was meant to show the effectiveness of the product by testing it not on insects, but three human volunteers including: a scientist, a sprinter, and a sumo wrestler. They measure each on their levels of skill, stamina, intelligence, power, and speed.

The Jouji Lab is a branch of Earth Chemical created to focus on projects deemed “sci-fi” in nature. They have created the following video in which they hilariously depict the first trial run of their creation:

After going through each candidate, not one makes it close to the other side of the board and the scientists deem the “Mission Complete.” While its modern day practical applications may be a little questionable, it’s safe to say that the product is undeniably effective. We can all rest easy tonight knowing that there are pest control companies out there doing their part to protect us from current and future pest invasions…

I mean…

cockroach trap

Ouch.

That’s gotta hurt.

10 Times Mosquitoes Exercised Their Reign of Terror Over The Masses

We live in a plush society. There was a time when everything, literally everything, outside of your front door could kill you. Today we live in our ivory towers of vaccinations, guarded by flyswatters, and we clip citronella to our belts just to go to the mailbox.

Not to mention, we have the honor of sharing airspace with people who wear these:

Mosquitoes Suit

I mean…what a time to be alive.

But did you know that mosquitoes have been plotting against us since nearly the beginning? They’ve been making cameos in some of the most pivotal events in history, that have shaped the course of mankind, and for the most part have proceeded unbeknownst to the general populace. What? How? You might ask. Allow me to explain:

1.INDIA: 500 B.C-

A priest nudges his friends and says, “Hey, I think mosquitoes might be to blame for how malaria is spread*.” As with all breakthroughs, absolutely no one paid attention to him until 1902 (many, many, many years after his death) upon which someone else took entire credit for his ideas. Yay science!

2. BABYLON: 323 B.C.-

Alexander the Great, the subject of many low budget films and the man responsible for the (almost) unification of the Greek Empire, was bitten by a mosquito and died of malaria, his ideals dying along with him. He was only 32.

3. ROME: 410 A.D.-

Alaric, a Visgoth leader, is busy picking the bones of what is left of the once prosperous, unstoppable Roman Empire. The Romans cannot defend themselves because they have taken large casualties from, you guessed it, malaria given to them from mosquitoes! In a satisfying twist of events, Alaric himself was later killed by the disease, given to him by the same flying foe.

4. AFRICA: 1593-

Malaria and yellow fever voyage across the ocean via mosquitoes stowed away on slaving ships introducing these deadly diseases to the New World.

5. ENGLAND: 1658-

Oliver Cromwell, the Protector of the Commonwealth of England is struck down by a nasty bout of malaria given to him by way of mosquito. His downfall led to the uprising of the British Monarchy. So thanks mosquitoes, for bringing us the greatest love story of all time, Will and Kate!

6. STOCKHOLM: 1902-

Remember our priest friend from India in 500 B.C.? Well his ideas are finally catching on (nearly 2,400 years later) and Dr. Ronald Ross wins the Nobel Prize, despite being late to the party, for deriving the connection between mosquitoes and malaria.

7. PANAMA: 1905-

Mosquitoes carry on their reign of terror by scaring workers away from their duties at the site of the Panama Canal for fear of yellow fever. Construction was halted for a significant amount of time and the project was nearly scrapped.

8. COLORADO: 1939-

DDT, or dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (try saying that five times fast), is tested as an insecticide. It worked at first. But unwilling to go down without a fight, mosquitoes developed a resistance to its effects.

9. GENEVA: 1995-

The WHO (the World Health Organization, not the band responsible for “Who Are You?”) declares dengue fever originating from mosquitoes to be a “WORLD EPIDEMIC.”

10. MOSQUITOES TODAY:

Mosquitoes infect around 250 million people a year with malaria and around 2-3 million will die from it. Protect yourself from mosquitoes!

But please, don’t be the guy wearing the mosquito suit. No one likes the guy wearing the mosquito suit…

 

*not an actual quote