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(Bio) Ants: How Ants Navigate (Insects)
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adedios
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 29, 2005 3:09 pm    Post subject: (Bio) Ants: How Ants Navigate (Insects) Reply with quote






How Ants Navigate
By Ker Than
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 16 November 2005
01:01 pm ET

Many insects go back and forth between their nests and a food source multiple times. But if the route to the food is very similar to the route away from it, then the foragers might get confused and not know which way to go.

Different insects have different ways of dealing with this problem. Bees use the Sun as their compass. But ants use visual landmarks and let their stomachs guide their way, a new study finds.

Wood ants were trained to walk in a straight line alongside a black wall to reach a sugar reward at the other end. In this way, the ants learned that the wall would be on their left side when walking towards the sugar but on their right side when walking away from it back home. The distance between home and the sugar reward was about 3 feet.

Later, the trained ants were set down midway along the wall and watched to see which way they would go. Some of the ants had already been fed while others were hungry.

The ants that already ate didn’t need the sugar so they headed home, keeping the black wall on their right. Meanwhile, those that were hungry headed towards the sugar, keeping the wall on their left.

Even when the wall was rotated, the ants had no trouble figuring out which way they needed to go, illustrating that compass directions had no effect on their decisions.

In a variation of the experiment, the researchers placed the trained ants in the middle of two black walls, one on their left side and one on their right. But even in this case, the unfed ants walked closer to the right wall when fed and closer to the left wall when unfed.

The experiment, detailed in the Nov. 17 issue of the journal Nature, gives insight into how social insects like ants and bees distinguish between complex sets of memories.

“Being able to store lots of memories is not much use unless you also have mechanisms for retrieving the appropriate memory when you need it,” said Rob Harris, a researcher at the University of Sussex in Britain who was involved in the study.

*************************************************************
Related Lessons (Elementary Level)


http://www.sciencenetlinks.com.....;DocID=210

*************************************************************

When did ants come about?

http://www.eurekalert.org/feat.....033106.php

What is an insect?

http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/e.....WHATIS.HTM

Here are some interesting facts about insects (including the answer to the question; Are spiders insects?)

http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/e.....dyoukn.htm

Here are some examples of insects:

Housefly;
http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/e...../FLIES.HTM

Mosquito;
http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/e.....squito.HTM

Grasshopper;

http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/e.....ASSHOP.HTM

Dragonfly;
http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/e.....agonfl.htm

Monarch Butterfly;
http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/e.....onarch.htm

Firefly;
http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/e.....irefly.htm

Honeybee;
http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/e.....neybee.htm

LadyBug;
http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/e.....adybug.htm

And here it is, all about ants!

http://ant.edb.miyakyo-u.ac.jp.....ge_02.html

Here are somes jokes, riddles and poems about insects:
http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/e.....NSTUFF.HTM

GAMES

http://yucky.kids.discovery.co.....index.html
http://www.cleverisland.com/te.....tory/6.asp
http://kidsranch.org/games/games.htm
http://www.pestworldforkids.org/
http://www.terminix.com/Fun/Kids/?menuOn=fun
http://www.kidscom.com/games/animal/animal.html
http://kids.discovery.com/game.....ds_leftnav


Last edited by adedios on Sat Jan 27, 2007 3:47 pm; edited 5 times in total
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saida



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2005 11:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

angel,

thanks for these valuable infos.....buti pa ang mga langgam may disiplina, they are not gluttons <LOL> but why do ants stop when they meet each other? siguro ay tinatanong kung matamis yung kinain nilang asukal <LOL>

saida
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 01, 2005 7:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Saida;

Thanks for visiting the forum. You are right, ants are social beings and they are very disciplined. A colony is divided into groups, each one assigned an important task. The ants we would normally see outside their nest are the gatherers (these are usually the older workers since ants realize that this task is the most dangerous).

Your question though humorous is actually very inquisitive. I gather that ants may have a storage in their body for food. This is my guess, an ant that has just came from the source, already filled with goodies meets another ant that is just on its way to the food source. This second ant is therefore tired and hungry so the first ant will feed the second ant so that the second ant would have enough energy to reach the food source.

Anyway, you might want to see this picture (ants do communicate with each other through several means, one of them is by touch and sometimes, they do share like this picture shows)

http://ant.edb.miyakyo-u.ac.jp.....ge_09.html

-Angel
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 02, 2006 8:32 am    Post subject: Young Ants in the Kitchen Reply with quote

Young Ants in the Kitchen

Emily Sohn

Holiday dinners can be a major affair. Someone has to cook the turkey, bake the potatoes, chop and steam the vegetables, stir the soup, mix ingredients for the pie, and more. Then, the chef has to sit down and wait until everyone is served before he or she can start eating.
Some ants go through a similar process of preparing food and patiently waiting to eat—but they do it all year round.

Tiny ants of the species Pheidole spadonia love to eat fruit flies (which are four times bigger than the ants). The grown-up ants are as small as the head of a pin, and their waists are so petite that solid food can't pass through to their tummies.

The young ants (larvae), on the other hand, look like little snowmen that have fallen over on their backs. They do all the kitchen work. The larvae can't do much more than drool, but powerful chemicals in the liquid turn fruit-fly meat into a baby-food-like pile of moist protein slush.

To find out exactly how the larvae prepare and serve dinner, scientists from Florida and Arizona took videos of Pheidole colonies. What they found was a complicated system of meal preparation and eating etiquette.

When the researchers left a fruit fly for the ants, the grownup workers dragged it into the nest. There, adult workers immediately pulled off and threw away the wings. They took off the head and legs and gave them to the larvae. Then, they divided the fly's body into chunks, which they placed in hairy indents on top of the larvae's bellies.

For about 5 hours, the larvae oozed digestive juices onto the meat, dissolving it into a slurpable meal. During the process, adults regularly checked on the stew, taking away liquid that was ready to eat and serving it to the group.

Amazingly, the larvae almost never took a sip themselves until a grownup had collected all the stew. The larvae then took a gulp from the adult's mouth.

The researchers were able to confirm this by using food coloring to dye some of the fly chunks green. The larvae are almost see-through, so it was possible to see any green bits getting swallowed. It never happened. The larvae ate only from the mouths of adults.

The videos show that larvae play an important role in ant societies, long before they grow up to be working adults. And stewing meat on your stomach is a thankless job, indeed.—E. Sohn

http://www.sciencenewsforkids....../Note3.asp

From Science News for Kids Jan. 4, 2006.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2006 8:38 pm    Post subject: Ant School: The First Formal Classroom Found in Nature Reply with quote

Ant School: The First Formal Classroom Found in Nature
By Bjorn Carey
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 11 January 2006
01:03 pm ET

Ants teach other ants how to find food using a poking and prodding technique called "tandem running," a new study reveals.

Researchers say the experiment reveals the first non-human example of formal instruction between a teacher and pupil in which there is two-way feedback and an adjustment of the course curriculum.

When female worker ants of the species Temnothorax albipennis set out for food, they often find another ant to make the journey with. If the second ant doesn't know where to find food, the leader teaches her through tandem running.

The process is slow. The follower pauses every once and a while—creating a gap between it and the leader—to search for landmarks. When she''s ready to continue, the follower catches up and taps the leader on the hind legs.

Mutual feedback

Researchers carefully analyzed the ants' movements and determined that the process is controlled by mutual feedback between the two gatherers. If the gap between them gets too large, the leader slows down and the follower speeds up. The opposite occurs if the gap becomes too small.

Studies have shown that bumblebees can learn to find food by watching others, and that chimpanzees can teach their mates how to get at food with a stick. But the researchers say this is the first non-human example of bidirectional feedback teaching—where both the teacher and pupil modify their behavior to provide guidance at a rate suitable for the pupil's abilities.

Getting directions from a lead ant helped the followers find their way to food much more quickly—on average 201 seconds with help versus 310 seconds without. But showing the way is costly for the lead ants, which can move nearly four times faster on their own.

It takes longer partly because the followers make large loops as they go, probably in search for landmarks to find their way back with.

The next generation of leaders

So why do the leaders take the time?

"They are very closely related nest mates and their society as a whole will benefit," study leader Nigel Franks of the University of Bristol told LiveScience.

In fact, the follower's return path was generally faster and straighter than its leader's before the tandem run. Often, the followers learn the path so well that they become leaders and help spread the time-saving information throughout the colony.

Sometimes a lead worker will simply sling a follower on her back and march to food. This method works three times faster than tandem running. Carried ants, however, do not learn the way, possibly because they're upside down and backwards.

This research is detailed in the Jan. 12 issue of the journal Nature.


Video

http://www.sciencenews.org//ar.....tteach.avi


Last edited by adedios on Mon Jan 16, 2006 7:40 pm; edited 1 time in total
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saida



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Location: Saida Cagandahan Dulay

PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2006 11:01 pm    Post subject: Re: Ant School: The First Formal Classroom Found in Nature Reply with quote

adedios wrote:

Ants teach other ants how to find food using a poking and prodding technique called "tandem running," a new study reveals.


this is very amazing, quite interesting! we human beings have so much to learn from these ants. thanks for this Angel. very educational, and also for all the very interesting science lesson topics that you are patiently feeding our young students...and oldies like me! Wink Wink Wink
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 07, 2006 11:00 am    Post subject: Ancient ants arose 140-168 million years ago Reply with quote

Harvard University and the National Science Foundation
7 April 2006


Ancient ants arose 140-168 million years ago

Insects needed flowering plants to flourish
Ants are considerably older than previously believed, having originated 140 to 168 million years ago, according to new research on the cover of this week's issue of the journal Science.
But these resilient insects, now found in terrestrial ecosystems the world over, apparently began to diversify only about 100 million years ago in concert with the flowering plants, the scientists say.

"This study integrates numerous fossil records and a large molecular data set to infer the evolutionary radiation of ants, which have deeper roots than we thought," said Chuck Lydeard, program director in NSF's Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research.

The study was also supported by the Green Fund.

Led by biologists Corrie Moreau and Naomi Pierce of Harvard University, the researchers reconstructed the ant family tree using DNA sequencing of six genes from 139 representative ant genera, encompassing 19 of 20 ant subfamilies around the world.

"Ants are a dominant feature of nearly all terrestrial ecosystems, and yet we know surprisingly little about their evolutionary history: the major groupings of ants, how they are related to each other, and when and how they arose," said Moreau. "We now have a clear picture of how this extraordinarily dominant - in ecological terms - and successful - in evolutionary terms - group of insects originated and diversified."

Moreau, Pierce and colleagues used a "molecular clock" calibrated with 43 fossils distributed throughout the ant family tree to date key events in the evolution of ants, providing a well-supported estimate for the age of modern lineages. Their conclusion that modern-day ants arose 140 to 168 million years ago pushes back the origin of ants at least 40 million years earlier than had previously been believed based on estimates from the fossil record.

"Our results support the hypothesis that ants were able to capitalize on the ecological opportunities provided by flowering plants and the herbivorous insects that co-evolved with them," said Pierce. The herbivorous insects that evolved alongside flowering plants provided food for the ants.

The researchers found that the poorly known ant subfamily Leptanillinae is the most ancient, followed by two broad groups known as the poneroids (predatory hunting ants) and the formicoids (more familiar species such as pavement ants and carpenter ants).


###
Other co-authors of the Science paper are Charles Bell at Florida State University and Roger Vila and S. Bruce Archibald in Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology.

NSF-PR 06-058

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of $5.58 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 1,700 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 40,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes nearly 10,000 new funding awards. The NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

Receive official NSF news electronically through the e-mail delivery and notification system, MyNSF (formerly the Custom News Service). To subscribe, visit http://www.nsf.gov/mynsf/ and fill in the information under "new users".

Useful NSF Web Sites:
NSF Home Page: http://www.nsf.gov
NSF News: http://www.nsf.gov/news/
For the News Media: http://www.nsf.gov/news/newsroom.jsp
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PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2006 6:49 pm    Post subject: Why Ants Rule the World Reply with quote

http://www.livescience.com/ani....._rule.html
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2006 3:47 pm    Post subject: Ants More Aggressive When in Gangs Reply with quote

Ants More Aggressive When in Gangs

By Abigail W. Leonard
Special to LiveScience
posted: 31 July 2006
12:38 pm ET



Whether in a bar or on the battlefield, it’s easier to fight knowing friends have your back. The same is true in the ant world.

A new study shows ants are more aggressive when they think they’re part of a larger group.

The research showed that ants fighting for a piece of tuna soaked in pineapple juice—a precious commodity for the invertebrates—acted more aggressively if they felt they were part of a community.


For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/ani....._ants.html
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2006 7:33 am    Post subject: Ants on Stilts Reply with quote

Ants on Stilts
9 August 2006

Emily Sohn

If you want to know how far you've walked, you can choose among several strategies. You can measure your route on a map. You can wear a handy gadget, such as a GPS device that calculates distances or a pedometer that counts your steps. Or you can ask someone who already knows the answer.
It turns out that people aren't the only animals with distance-measuring skills. Certain ants have a built-in pedometer that tells them how far it is from here to there.

For the full article:

http://www.sciencenewsforkids....../Note3.asp
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2006 10:18 am    Post subject: Vicious Ants Made to Attack Their Own Reply with quote

Vicious Ants Made to Attack Their Own

By Jeanna Bryner
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 14 September 2006
06:00 pm ET

They may be tiny, but Argentine ants can kick some ant butt. This invasive species has nearly wiped out native ants in California.

Now scientists have discovered a way to turn one of the ants' strongest weapons into a weakness.

By altering the identifying chemicals coating the ants' bodies, researchers turned typical cooperative behavior into an ant-family feud.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/ani.....fight.html
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2006 1:38 pm    Post subject: New study explains why hotter is better for insects Reply with quote

University of Chicago Press Journals
2 October 2006

New study explains why hotter is better for insects

Organisms have been able to adapt to environments ranging from cold polar oceans to hot thermal vents. However, University of Washington researchers have discovered a limit to the powerful forces of natural selection, at least when it comes to the adaptation of insects to cold temperatures.

"For thermodynamic reasons, cold temperatures present a challenging problem for ectothermic [cold-blooded] organisms because they slow biological processes, thus reducing rates of movement, feeding, and population growth," explains author M. R. Frazier.

Many researchers believe that biochemical adaptations can eventually compensate for the effects of low body temperatures, but Frazier and his colleague's recent thermodynamic model, forthcoming in the October issue of The American Naturalist, argues against such compensation.

To address this controversy, the researchers conducted a comparative analysis of published data on the thermal dependence of population growth rate for 65 insect species. They found that insects adapted to cold environments have slower maximum population growth rates than those adapted to warm environments, despite their long evolutionary history in such environments.

"At least with respect to insect population growth rates," says Frazier, "our data suggest that hotter is better. We see little evidence of evolutionary compensation."

This research suggests that adaptation to warmer or to colder temperature inevitably alters the population dynamics of insects, a result that has important consequences for agriculture, public health, and conservation.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2006 10:33 pm    Post subject: Insect Close-Ups Reply with quote

Week of Oct. 21, 2006; Vol. 170, No. 17

Insect Close-Ups
Science Safari
ScienceNews


Psychology professor David Yager of the University of Maryland has focused his research on the evolution of hearing. In the course of this work, he has produced extraordinary, close-up portraits of a variety of insects. His image of a Cuban cockroach recently won second place for photography in the National Science Foundation's annual Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge.

Go to: http://www.newsdesk.umd.edu/sc.....cleID=1351 and
http://www.bsos.umd.edu/cebh/yagerlab/
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 28, 2007 8:19 am    Post subject: Urban Ants Handle Heat Better Reply with quote

Urban Ants Handle Heat Better

By Charles Q. Choi
Special to LiveScience
posted: 27 February 2007
08:35 pm ET

The heat of cities is transforming how urban ants respond to extreme temperatures, providing glimpses of the impacts that changes in global climate might trigger, an international team of scientists now reports.

Cities can be 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than surrounding rural zones, with their asphalt roads and other features absorbing and holding more of the sun's energy than natural landscapes. Researchers call this the urban "heat island" effect.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/env....._ants.html
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PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2007 10:28 am    Post subject: Red Fire Ants Facing Killer Virus Reply with quote

Red Fire Ants Facing Killer Virus
Betsy Blaney, Associated Press

May 7, 2007 — Imported red fire ants have plagued farmers, ranchers and others for decades. Now the reviled pests are facing a bug of their own.

Researchers have pinpointed a naturally occurring virus that kills the ants, which arrived in the United States in the 1930s and now cause $6 billion in damage annually nationwide, including about $1.2 billion in Texas.

The virus caught the attention of U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers in Florida in 2002. The agency is now seeking commercial partners to develop the virus into a pesticide to control fire ants.

For the full article:

http://dsc.discovery.com/news/.....02-ak-0000
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PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2007 8:56 am    Post subject: Farfetched? Hint of Free Will Found in a Fly Reply with quote

Farfetched? Hint of Free Will Found in a Fly
By Charles Q. Choi, Special to LiveScience

posted: 15 May 2007 08:05 pm ET

A spark of free will may exist in even the tiny brain of the humble fruit fly, new findings that could shed light on the nature and evolution of free will in humans.

Future research delving further into free will could lead to more advanced robots, scientists added. The result, joked neurobiologist Björn Brembs from the Free University Berlin, could be "world robot domination."

"Seriously though," Brembs said that programming robots with aspects of free will "may lead to more realistic and probably even more efficient behavior, which could be decisive in truly autonomous robots needed for planetary exploration."

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/ani.....ewill.html
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PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2007 8:19 pm    Post subject: Little Beetle, Big Horns Reply with quote

Little Beetle, Big Horns
Roberta Kwok



May 23, 2007

A dung beetle is squirming in my hand. It's only the size of my pinky fingernail, but I can feel its spiny legs poking my skin.
I try not to think about where those legs have been. Why? Because I know that Armin Moczek, a biologist at Indiana University at Bloomington, just dug up the beetle from a container of dirt and cow manure.

For the full article:

http://www.sciencenewsforkids......ature1.asp
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PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2007 11:39 am    Post subject: Fire ants are emerging nuisance for Virginians Reply with quote

Virginia Tech
24 May 2007

Fire ants are emerging nuisance for Virginians


Blacksburg, Va. -- Red imported fire ants (RIFAs), which have caused trouble in Florida and Texas for decades, are now advancing in Virginia. Colonies of the tiny, highly aggressive insects have been observed in the commonwealth since 1989 and, in recent years, have caught the attention of Virginia Tech scientists who are trying to learn more about the increasing number of fire ant infestations.

"Virginia Cooperative Extension has begun a research and outreach program to train Extension agents and industry officials in southeastern Virginia about this emerging problem," said Dini Miller, Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist on urban pest management and associate professor of entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Miller and Peter Schultz, Extension specialist of horticulture crop insects and entomology professor, are leading Extension’s efforts to research RIFAs and educate Virginians about this issue.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) currently manages and treats all fire ant infestations in the commonwealth. Most homeowners and landscape workers do not have the training or resources needed to stamp out a fire ant infestation. This often requires a multi-faceted approach using a bait and low-toxicity granular formation, techniques not commonly used for similar pests in urban areas. Burning a fire ant mound, for example, will not work and may even cause the colony to scatter and multiply.

RIFAs are the one of the most aggressive insects in North America. When a colony of these ants perceives a disturbance to the nest or a food source, they respond quickly by rushing forward and grasping onto the enemy with barbed mandibles. While still biting, these ants repeatedly sting their enemy, injecting toxic venom and leaving a small, acutely painful wound. A day or two later, small, blister-like pustules will develop on the victim, which may lead to secondary infection or permanent scarring without proper care.

"This is a horrid, obnoxious pest that we do not want in Virginia," Miller said. "What’s worse, to an untrained eye the red imported fire ants and their mounds are difficult to distinguish from other ant species."

RIFAs are believed to have first arrived in the United States in the 1930s. According to Schultz, they may have been introduced from their native habitat in Argentina and Brazil from the soil used as ballast in cargo ships. Although humans are most commonly to blame for the spread of RIFAs, the insects have extended their range to nearby territories during annual mating flights and by moving into a new region in search of food or a better nest site. They have also rafted to new locations during floods.

Since the 1930s, fire ants have spread to infest large parts of the southern United States, including Puerto Rico and as far west as Texas and parts of California. The ants, which have a high reproduction rate, experienced dramatic growth during the housing boom of the 1950s, likely from sod and nursery plants being transported from production sites to areas under development for housing or commercial use.

"Today, the red imported fire ants are still extending their range from the south to the north," said Schultz, who is also director of the Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Virginia Beach. "Even though sod and nursery plants are treated and must meet strict guidelines to be transported from areas with fire ant infestations, you can never be 100 percent sure that the material is free from the tiny insects."

The ants have been increasing their numbers ever since they were first spotted in the commonwealth. Although mostly concentrated in the Tidewater area and nearby areas in Eastern Virginia, RIFAs have recently been observed at mall construction sites in Richmond and Roanoke. Fire ants caught the public’s attention in 2006 when a 30-year-old landscape worker in Virginia Beach died after a fire ant attack. Although reports of human deaths are rare, Miller explained that people who are allergic to bee stings might also have severe reactions to fire ant stings.

In Virginia, fire ants have only been found in urban areas and are not currently an issue for the agricultural industry. In other states, however, RIFAs pose a threat to both crops and livestock. They feed on almost any plant or animal material, alive or dead, and are known to damage more than 50 cultivated plants such as corn, sorghum, and soybeans by feeding on germinating seeds. The fire ants can also damage developing fruit and flower buds on tomatoes and other plants. "They also pose a problem for young or debilitated livestock," Miller added. "A calf may not have the strength or mobility to escape an attack by ant workers, especially if it is disabled in some way."

Although a significant agricultural, economic, and safety problem, Miller and Schultz emphasized that a fire ant infestation is not the end of the world.

"Homeowners and landscape workers in Florida and Texas have been dealing with this issue for decades now," Schultz said. "Virginians need to be more careful and be aware of their surroundings when outdoors. If you know that there are fire ants in your area, you must be cautious when setting up for a picnic or mowing your lawn. What the fire ants really bring is a lifestyle change."

###
Learn more at http://www.ext.vt.edu/pubs/ent.....4-284.html
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PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2007 8:48 am    Post subject: Flexible genes allow ants to change destiny Reply with quote

24 May 2007

Flexible genes allow ants to change destiny
University of Leeds

The discovery of a flexible genetic coding in leaf-cutting ants sheds new light on how one of nature’s ultimate self-organising species breeds optimum numbers of each worker type to ensure the smooth running of the colony.

Research at the University of Leeds shows that despite an inherited genetic pre-disposition to grow into a particular worker caste, ant larvae can be triggered by environmental stimuli to switch development depending on colony’s workforce needs.

“Our previous research suggested that genetics did indeed play a part in caste determination - but not how much of a part,” says evolutionary biologist Dr William Hughes of the Faculty of Biological Sciences. “This left us with a conundrum: ant colonies are a model of social efficiency, yet if genetics ruled caste development, then this would be a very rigid - and therefore very inefficient - method of ensuring an optimum workforce balance.”

“It seems that ants have evolved their own solution to this problem. Given that it takes an ant eight weeks to develop from an egg into an adult, ant colonies have to predict the need for different types of worker well in advance, and a flexible combination of nature and nurture will help them do this.”

Dr Hughes’ research used colonies of Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants, which have two distinct worker castes: large workers, which forage and build the nest and small workers, which care for the ant larvae and the fungus they eat. Worker ants are always female and the large workers are up to three times the size of the smaller ones. “Males don’t do much other than eat, fly off, mate and die,” says Dr Hughes.

As leaf-cutting queens mate with multiple males, they make good candidates for examining role of genetics in caste determination. With the same mother and rearing conditions, the only differences between workers within a colony will be the genes inherited from their different fathers.

To see if genetic pre-disposition was fixed, all the large workers were removed from a colony to stimulate the need for more larvae to develop into this caste. The results showed that genetic types that didn’t normally develop into large workers did so when the need for this caste was increased, proving that the genetic influence is adaptable.

Leaf-cutting ants have an enormous ecological impact because of the amount of leaves they harvest and are a significant pest for several crops. They particularly like citrus and Eucalyptus trees and a colony of the Atta species can defoliate a tree in a single night. They have been estimated to remove 17 per cent of leaf production in some tropical forests. Understanding how colonies function may well offer new opportunities to control their impact.

“We don’t yet know what environmental cues influence the caste destiny of the larvae – it could be the food they’re fed, the temperature, or even pheromones,” says Dr Hughes.

Dr Hughes’ research has been published online in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

Further information from:

Clare Elsley, campuspr. Tel: 0113 258 9880 Mob: 07767 685168
Email: clare@campuspr.co.uk

Simon Jenkins, University of Leeds Press Office. Tel: 0113 343 5764
Email: s.jenkins@leeds.ac.uk

NOTES TO EDITORS:

Dr Hughes is a Lecturer at the Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology in the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds. The key theme of his work is evolutionary biology, looking at models of social, symbiotic and sexual relationships in insect species, including the leaf cutting ant.

The research has been carried out in collaboration with Dr Jacobus Boomsma, University of Copenhagen, and funded by the Carlsberg Foundation, Denmark.

The University of Leeds’ Faculty of Biological Sciences is one of the largest in the UK, with nearly 150 academic staff and over 400 postdoctoral fellows and postgraduate students. The Faculty’s current active research grant portfolio is around £77M and funders include charities, Research Councils, the European Union and industry. The Faculty has an outstanding research record and all major units of assessment were awarded Grade 5 in the last government (HEFCE) Research Assessment Exercise. www.fbs.leeds.ac.uk

Leaf cutting ants: some facts

There are two types of leaf-cutting ant, Atta and Acromyrmex. Atta have large colonies of up to 7 million workers, with nests up to 7m deep and 10m across. Acromyrmex are much smaller with up to tens of thousands of workers.
Leaf-cutting ands are only found in the Neotropics, from Argentina in the south, to Texas in the north.
Leaf-cutting ants cut leaves which they use for growing a particular fungus they feed on. The ants need the fungus to feed on, and the fungus needs the ants to reproduce – neither can survive without the other.
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PostPosted: Sun May 27, 2007 8:05 am    Post subject: Ants show us how to make super-highways Reply with quote

University of Bristol
26 May 2007

Ants show us how to make super-highways

Army ants form living pothole plugs to speed up delivery
Certain army ants in the rainforests of Central and South America conduct spectacular predatory raids containing up to 200,000 foraging ants. Remarkably, some ants use their bodies to plug potholes in the trail leading back to the nest, making a flatter surface so that prey can be delivered to the developing young at maximum speed.

The raid always remains connected to the nest by a trail of forager traffic, along which prey-laden foragers run back to run back to the nest. This trail can be extremely uneven and full of ‘pot holes’ as it passes over leaves and branches on the forest floor.

The study, by Dr Scott Powell and Professor Nigel Franks at the University of Bristol, and reported in the June issue of Animal Behaviour, shows that these living ‘plugs’ improve the quality of the surface. This increases the overall speed of the traffic and results in an increase in the amount of prey delivered to the nest each day.

Professor Franks said: "I think every road user who has ever inwardly cursed as their vehicle bounced across a pothole – jarring every bone in their body – will identify with this story. When it comes to rapid road repairs, the ants have their own do-it-yourself highways agency."

"When the traffic has passed, the down-trodden ants climb out of the potholes and follow their nest mates home," added Powell. "Broadly, our research demonstrates that a simple but highly specialised behaviour performed by a minority of ant workers can improve the performance of the majority, resulting in a clear benefit for the society as a whole."

Their experiments showed that individuals size-match to the hole they plug and cooperate to plug larger holes. "We did this by getting the ants to literally ‘walk the plank’, said Powell. "We inserted planks drilled with different sizes of hole into the army ants’ trails to see how well different sizes of ant matched different sizes of pot hole. Indeed, they fit beautifully", explained Franks.

Overall, this behaviour results in an increase in the average speed of prey-laden traffic. Moreover, calculations suggest that under a range of realistic scenarios, plugging behaviour results in a clear increase in daily prey intake. In other words, the behaviour of the pothole pluggers more than compensates for them not carrying prey themselves.

This study provides rare quantitative evidence from animal societies that extreme specialisation by a minority can significantly improve the performance of a majority to benefit the group as a whole. It also suggests that these benefits are a consequence of the unusual and derived foraging strategy of the army ant (Eciton burchellii). This highlights the importance of considering ecology and evolutionary history in the study of social organisation in animal societies.

For a kids' version of this article:

http://www.sciencenewsforkids....../Note2.asp


Last edited by adedios on Sat Jun 02, 2007 7:54 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sun May 27, 2007 9:47 am    Post subject: biblical Reply with quote

the ants were used in parables, compared to a grasshopper.
The industrious ants and the lazy, easy-go-lucky grasshopper. Then the calamity/storm started and the grasshopper became hungry and the grasshopper ask whether the ants could spare some food.........

The story goes and God wants us to be like the busty ants and not the grasshopper.......
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PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2007 1:41 pm    Post subject: FOR MANY INSECTS, WINTER SURVIVAL IS IN THE GENES Reply with quote

FOR MANY INSECTS, WINTER SURVIVAL IS IN THE GENES

Ohio State University
30 May 2007

COLUMBUS , Ohio – Many insects living in northern climates don't die at the first signs of cold weather. Rather, new research suggests that they use a number of specialized proteins to survive the chilly months.

These so-called “heat-shock proteins” ensure that the insects will be back to bug us come spring.

A study of flesh flies and a handful of other insects suggests that they have an arsenal of protective heat-shock proteins that are turned on almost as soon as the temperature dips. Until this new study, researchers knew of only two such proteins that were activated in flesh flies during cooler weather.

“Insects need heat-shock proteins in order to survive,” said David Denlinger, the study's lead author and a professor of entomology at Ohio State University. “Without these proteins, insects can't bear the cold and will ultimately die.”

Denlinger and his colleagues found nearly a dozen additional heat-shock proteins that are activated during diapause, a hibernation-like state that insects enter when temperatures drop. Insects can stay in this state of arrested development for several months.

“We certainly didn't expect to find that many proteins active during diapause,” Denlinger said. The researchers report their findings in the current online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Insects and other animals, including humans, produce heat-shock proteins in response to extremely high temperatures. The proteins are so named because they were initially discovered in fruit flies that were exposed to high heat. Humans make these proteins when we run a high fever.

"But insects make these very same stress proteins during times of low temperature as well as during exposure to high levels of toxic chemicals, dehydration and even desiccation," Denlinger said.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“There may be steps we can take to disrupt the diapause process and make an insect vulnerable to low temperatures,” Denlinger said. “At this point, the findings broaden our palette of players that contribute to cold tolerance in insects.”
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

He and his colleagues first figured out how many genes were turned on only during the flesh fly's dormant state. The researchers extracted and compared RNA from both dormant and non-dormant fly pupae – the developmental stage between larva and adulthood. They used a laboratory technique that let them separate out genes that were turned on only in the flies in this dormant state.

The researchers found 11 previously undiscovered genes that turn on heat-shock proteins during diapause. Until this study, they had only known of two such proteins.

Denlinger and his team also examined the expression of one of those previously discovered heat-shock proteins, Hsp70, in five additional insect species that aren't related to the flesh fly. Each insect is a fairly common agricultural pest: the gypsy moth, the European corn borer, the walnut husk maggot, the apple maggot and the tobacco hornworm. Collectively, these species cause millions of dollars of damage annually.

Hsp70 was active while all of the insects were in diapause.

When Denlinger's team knocked out the Hsp70 gene that makes the heat-shock protein, the insects were unable to survive at a low temperature (in this case, insects were exposed to -15°C, or 5°F.)

“This underscores the essential role of this gene for winter survival, suggesting that this particular heat-shock protein is a major contributor to cold tolerance in insects,” Denlinger said. “It's highly likely that the other heat-shock proteins we found during diapause in the flesh fly are also important to an insect's ability to endure months of cold temperatures.”

Denlinger has no plans to develop a method to get rid of heat-shock proteins in insect pests, but he says that it is important to understand how insects survive through the winter.

“There may be steps we can take to disrupt the diapause process and make an insect vulnerable to low temperatures,” Denlinger said. “At this point, the findings broaden our palette of players that contribute to cold tolerance in insects.”

He said the next step is to figure out the unique functions of each heat-shock protein.

“We assume it's not simply redundancy in the system, but that each protein makes a unique contribution somehow,” Denlinger said. “This protective mechanism is much more complex than we envisioned.”

Denlinger conducted the study with colleagues from Ohio State; the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Station in Fargo, N.D.; the Harvard School of Public Health; and Liverpool University in the United Kingdom.

Funding for the work came from a USDA-National Research Initiative Grant, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 28, 2007 8:28 am    Post subject: Wood ant queen has no egg-laying monopoly Reply with quote

University of Chicago Press Journals
27 June 2007

Wood ant queen has no egg-laying monopoly

Workers usually prevent any reproduction except the queen's, but not among the wood ants
The reproductive monopoly of the ant queen is not as strong as is often thought. Dr. Heikki Helanterä and Prof. Lotta Sundström, biologists working at the University of Helsinki, Finland, investigated worker ovary development and egg laying in nine Northern European wood ant species of the genus Formica, and revealed wide spread reproductive endeavours by workers. For example, in species such as Formica cinerea, Formica pratensis, and Formica truncorum approximately one in five workers is fully equipped to lay eggs. Furthermore, genetic analysis of egg parentage showed that these workers are really laying eggs on a large scale. For example in the species with the most worker reproduction, Formica truncorum, as many as one in four of eggs are indeed laid by the workers.

The ability of workers to lay unfertilized male eggs even if they cannot mate is widespread in social insects, such as bees, wasps, and ants. However, worker reproduction as frequent as observed in Formica is exceptional, especially in colonies this large. Wood ant colonies range in size from several hundred to hundreds of thousands of workers, and usually species whose colonies are this big, such as honey bees and leaf cutter ants, have very little worker reproduction. This is because the majority of the workers favor the queen as the egg layer, and prevent reproduction by egg laying workers. When the worker control is effective, egg laying workers do not gain any reproductive benefits, and over the course of evolution may give up trying to reproduce almost completely. “It is obvious that such surrender has not taken place in wood ants,” says Heikki Helanterä, currently at University of Sheffield, UK, “the big questions are then why are the workers so persistently trying, and how does this ongoing conflict over reproduction affect colony functioning as a whole.”

###
Heikki Helanterä and Liselotte Sundström, "Worker reproduction in Formica ants" (open access), The American Naturalist (2007) 170:E14–E25 DOI: 10.1086/518185

Founded in 1867, The American Naturalist is one of the world's most renowned, peer-reviewed publications in ecology, evolution, and population and integrative biology research. AmNat emphasizes sophisticated methodologies and innovative theoretical syntheses—all in an effort to advance the knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2007 12:10 pm    Post subject: Insects to solve crimes Reply with quote

2007/7/4

Insects to solve crimes
Basque Research

Insects make up more than half of the known animal species on our planet and they can be found in all kinds of habitat and feed on all kinds of nutrients. They can even be used in evidence in court cases. So we are talking about forensic entomology.

The work of the Forensic Entomology Service in the Department of Zoology and Animal Cell Biology at the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU) involves drawing up a census of insect species of forensic interest. These are basically necrophagous diptera, i.e. flies that live on dead tissue, cadavers. Such flies detect a dead body in a question of minutes and at times at a distance of several kilometres. They colonise the cadaver and lay their eggs there. In a matter of hours the larvae are born and the new individuals begin to develop, feeding off the cadaver until they reach full size.

Fly larvae, once developed and when about to pass to the adult stage, abandon the dead body because their predators are around. This is why, by the time a crime is investigated, there may be no insect larvae. But there may be other insects in the area which can also provide clues.

After studies of development, succession studies have to be undertaken, i.e. we try to see what lands on the cadaver over the succeeding days. This is where things become quite complicated – especially in the Basque Country where there is scant knowledge about necrophagous insects that exist and that colonise dead bodies, or about what their cycle of developments are and their distribution patterns.

Colonisers of cadavers
The UPV-EHU researchers are working on identifying these colonisers of cadavers and their life and development cycles. The first task is fieldwork and setting traps that have bait to attract those insects of interest to the study (those that eat the remains of decomposing animal flesh). They place animal visceras — they smell strongly and attract a lot of these kinds of insects – as bait, mainly to attract female adults, these being the most difficult to identify. Males have features that are more evident, so the larvae from the females are allowed to develop and the resulting male individuals make the identification of the species that much more reliable.

Thus, in the case of collecting only females, they are kept in cages for a number of days until they lay eggs and these develop to produce a new generation, one which can be identified more precisely. Besides, having a population of males and females, they can be kept in order to continue to breed and lay eggs, thereby creating what is known as a breeding colony. The eggs are laid on a culture medium so that they eat and drink under conditions similar to that of a dead body, and a daily growth graph is drawn up. These growth graphs are carried out at various temperatures, given that the decomposition of a cadaver in winter is different from that in winter.

Moment of death
The team has described all the larval stages of some species. These are useful in determining the time of death of the body, given that, if the larvae are found in the body and knowing their species and corresponding growth table, a calculation of how long the person has been dead can be made. The research team is undertaking a reference collection of insects of forensic interest, including all their larval stages, and which will be a fundamental consultation source for future forensic research in the Basque Country. This is the basis of this forensic research.

With the studies carried out to date, the researchers at the UPV-EHU are getting to know which species are found here in the Basque Country. To date, they have undertaken sampling in the Leioa campus and in Bilbao and they have found that there are differences between insects that live in urban areas and those in natural zones. For example, species found at the Leioa campus but not in Bilbao and viceversa. This could be a significant piece of data to be taken into account if the crime is committed in one place and the body then transferred to another.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2007 11:14 am    Post subject: The Truth About Cockroaches Reply with quote

The Truth About Cockroaches
By Robin Lloyd, LiveScience Senior Editor

posted: 31 July 2007 08:59 am ET

Cockroaches might plague your kitchen, but these widely misunderstood creatures are typically not household pests.

Scientists consider only 1 percent of all cockroach species as pests.

This fact and other details about the group of widely loathed insects called Blattodea are now available in the first online database of the world's cockroaches, launched this month by the Natural History Museum, London.


For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/ani.....talog.html
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