Insects and people: News from this week

Weekly, well be posting news stories about how insects affect people. Here are a couple of stories from the last few days.

Crickety energy

Many people have been suggesting now that one way to make our food source more sustainable is for people to eat insects. Theyre cheap and a good source of protein. Its not uncommon in other countries, but most people I know are still freaked out about in the US. Theres even a TED talk about it. And a very well-done blog devoted to it. And even Dr. Oz recommends it! (So it MUST be good, right?) This movement has been growing some momentum, and its even considered in to eat insects right now, according to The List of whats supposed to be in/out this year. Although lots of different companies market things like insects in candy as novelty items, this week, there was a news story about a company using cricket-enriched flour in their energy bars. The crickets are milled, so youre not going to bite into a crunchy leg. The company hopes this is a way to ease Americans into eating insects. I, personally, really like this idea. So, maybe a meal of mealworms isnt that far away for you!

Waxing and endangered crabs? (Not the delicious kind.) 

A bloomberg news report (and subsequently, many other news outlets) suggest that waxing will cause crabs to be endangered. (Not the kind you had for dinner last night.the itchy, pubic lice variety.) Make sense, right? No hair, no place for these itchy insects to live. But making an appointment at your local waxer is not likely to completely eradicate this species. A well-reasoned (and hilarious) response from @bug_girl shows there really no data to support this. The paper thats often cited in these news stories shows a decline in pubic lice from a certain area in England, yes. But they dont show data on waxing rates. From anywhere. They tell anecdotal stories about it. Bug Girl dug into the topic a little more, and shows that baldness is the least used pubic hairstyle, even for college-age women, who are more likely to groom in this manner. And if theres hair around, there is the potential for crabs! So, in short, waxing may get rid our your crabs (ewwyou have crabs?), but the species isnt likely to be wiped off the planet anytime soon. BUTwhat if it was? Slate News reported a satirical piece on if this happened, and it involves Sex in the City, dinosaurs, crabs and asteroids.

Corpse eating flies help reveal hidden species

Insects are often used as bio-indicator speciesan organism that is used to signal something about the environment. For instance, the composition of insects in a stream can indicate pollution levels in a stream because only a few insects can live in a very polluted stream.  Last year, scientists reported that they are able to detect rare animals living in the forest of Vietnam by sequencing DNA found in blood from leech guts. It is hard to study rare species simply because theyre hard to find, and mammals, like other animals, often try to avoid detection by potential predators by making them selves hard to see in the thick forest. This week, scientists published data showing that they are also able to use DNA sequences from gut contents of insects, flies that feed on corpses of animals, to detect rare mammals in the rain forests of Côte dIvoire. Sampling carrion-eating insects may prove a valuable tool in the future for studying endangered species, and ultimately, understanding how best to conserve these species. Yay, flies!

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