A few news stories from the past few weeks:
Locust Outbreaks in Madagascar, Egypt, and Israel
About half of Madagascar is currently experiencing the largest locust plague since the 1950’s (news reports here and here). Because locusts consume large amounts of food plants of people and livestock, the plague could cause hunger in up to 60% of the population. Managers estimate that $41 million dollars over the next three years will be needed to combat the locust plague.
This site has amazing photos of another locust plague moving from Egypt to Israel.
Two articles (here and here) discuss several new scientific publications about insect pollinators. Researchers find that wild bees do a better job of pollinating than managed bee colonies. Other papers find that pollinator diversity is important to effective pollination, but that pollinator diversity has declined since the late 1800’s.
NPR has a related story about beekeepers in California suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to protect bees. The beekeepers claim that the EPA has been too slow to evaluate and regulate chemical pesticides that harm bees.
Edit: After posting this news roundup, I can across a New York Times article on declining bee populations. It discusses the potential harmful effects of pesticides on bees.
Just a few stories for this week:
Studies of insect vision used to build robots
Our last news roundup included a story about scientists using moths as a model for building robots that can smell. This week, we have a story about scientists using locusts as a model for building robots that can see. Scientists in the United Kingdom have built a computerized system that can drive robots. This system is based on their studies of locust vision. They hope to use their research to eventually build sensors into vehicles that can prevent car collisions.
Beetle trade in Cameroon
Insect collecting can be lucrative business and beetle collecting has become more and more common in Cameroon. Researchers and managers are hoping to use the beetle trade to provide sustainable incomes to local people in Cameroon as well as providing motivation for conservation efforts. Currently, there is no legislation dealing the insect trade in Cameroon, but regulation could increase revenues. For example, there are no permits required for foreigners to collect beetles in Cameroon and take them out of the country. Conservation efforts to preserve beetle populations and the habitats they live in will not only provide a sustainable income to local people through the beetle trade, but will also protect habitats that provide food and other services to locals.
Mosquitoes become less sensitive to deet over time
A recent study shows that mosquitoes become less responsive to deet after repeated exposures!