The Global Honey Bee


Placing Bee Hives in an Almond Orchard

Bee keeping is global. The honey bee, Apis mellifera is not native to North America. It was intentionally introduced by Europeans who migrated to North America. Ever since, there has been movement of honey bees between Europe and many parts of the globe. Trade has greatly increased in the past quarter century as bee keepers ship bees to share their stock.

The increase in trade has its downsides. The Varroa Mite, is an exotic parasite of honey bees introduced to North America late last century. The spread of Varroa Mite eliminated most feral honey bee colonies and bee keepers in North America were forced to control mites in their bee hives. Global trade is suspected of transporting additional bee parasites and pathogens. Further facilitating the spread, commercial bee keepers transport over half the bee hives in the US to California for almond pollination every year. The close contact allows pathogens to freely pass between hives enhances continental spread.

Australian bee biologist, Robert Owen* writes about these issues. His article is a call for bee keepers to reexamine practices and make modifications that limit the spread of disease and parasites.

*Robert Owen.  Role of Human Action in the Spread of Honey Bee Pathogens. Published: 06 April 2017 J Econ Entomol tox075.
DOI: https://10.1093/jee/tox075

Posted in by jjneal, Invasive Species, Pest Management | 1 Comment

The Easter Cockroach


A visit from the Easter Cockroach
Female German Cockroach with Ootheca

Easter is the “egg” holiday when the Easter Bunny brings colored eggs to all the good girls and boys. The bad boys and girls, who leave food on the table, in the sink and on the floor, get a visit from the Easter Cockroach.

The Easter Cockroach does not bring colored eggs. The cockroach eggs are encased in a shiny brown ootheca. The female cockroach carries her egg clutch with her ovipositor, the ootheca partially exposed. The eggs in an ootheca removed from a female may hatch, but the success rate of egg hatch is lower.  This female  cockroach supplies the ootheca with secretions that enhance survival of the eggs. Easter Cockroach Eggs will hatch, feast on the uncovered food and thrive in unsanitary conditions. Unlike Easter Eggs which must soon be eaten or spoil, the Easter Cockroach Eggs are an unwanted gift that keeps on giving.

Posted in behavior, by jjneal, Insect Inspired, jokes | 1 Comment

Living With Bites

The insects most likely to bite humans in Indiana are mosquitoes, flies, fleas and more recently bedbugs. Most blood feeding insects that pierce the skin have salivary secretions that are injected into the bite area. These secretions typically contain anti-coagulants, proteins and other factors that prevent the blood from clotting and blocking the feeding tube or digestive system of the insect. When the insect finishes feeding, it leaves behind proteins and other feeding secretions that can trigger an allergic reaction.  The red itchy bump on the skin results from the human immune system recognizing and removing the proteins.

Most allergic reactions are mild, accompanied by a small red bump on the skin, and dissipate in an interval of a day or less. Insect bites that get attention of the medical community typically cause more severe immunological effects such as anaphylaxis or are secondarily infected by other pathogens.

My Arm After a Visit from a Mosquito.

Photo: jneal

What to do for an insect bite? There is a lot of anecdotal evidence but what about scientific studies? This topic is reviewed in Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB 2012;50:45-48 doi:10.1136/dtb.2012.04.0099 ) “Management of simple insect bites: where’s the evidence?” The article notes the need for controlled studies and that current recommendations are primarily based on clinical experience and expert opinion. The need for controlled studies is clear because many of the reported symptoms of insect bites disappear after a brief period with no treatment at all. There is very little evidence to suggest that over the counter products applied to mosquito, fly, flea or bed bug bites are effective. Millions of dollars are spent on home remedies each year for products to treat insect bites and stings. For most insect bites, the evidence suggests that consumers should save their money, ignore the bites and let them go away. Applying OTC products to insect bites may cause consumers to be bit twice, once by the insect and once in the wallet.

Posted in by jjneal, Health | 1 Comment

Zika Update

Mosquito Bite

Mosquito Bite

A group of scientist working on a vaccine for Zika reported a vaccine that successfully protected mice from contracting Zika. This is a big step toward producing a vaccine that is safe and effective for humans.

Texas, which had 6 cases of Zika transmission within the state in 2016 is issuing new guidelines for Zika testing. Zika symptoms are similar to other viral infections. People presenting with 3 of these 4 symptoms: rash, fever, redness in the eye, and joint pain are asked to get a Zika test. This is to help public health officials track the spread of Zika in the state and direct control measures.

For six counties near the Rio Grande River where Zika transmission occurred in 2016, the state would like anyone with 2 of the 4 symptoms to be tested. Additionally, pregnant women in those area are to be tested for Zika virus. Transmission increases during the warmer weather of the spring and summer mosquito season. Texas reported an infant death from microcephaly in 2016. The case was travel related, but officials warn people to take precautions against mosquito bites.

As with many public health programs access to medical services for all people living in the area is critical.

Posted in by jjneal, News, Zika | 1 Comment

Poaching Butterflies


Large Blue Butterfly
Photo: PJC&Co, Wikimedia Commons

Poaching brings to mind elephant tusks and exotic African mammals. However, any animal that can be sold is subject to poaching. Recently, Phillip Cullen of Bristol in the UK was found guilty of illegally collecting protected butterflies and chasing butterflies in protected nature preserves. He had many trays of butterflies in his home of protected or endangered species. Unscrupulous collectors can greatly reduce populations and damage conservation effort. Most serious collectors understand and follow the rules and discourage the scofflaws.

Posted in by jjneal, Endangered Species, Policy | 1 Comment

Living With Endangered Species


Large Blue Butterfly
Photo: PJC&Co, Wikimedia Commons

The Large Blue Butterfly, Phengaris arion, was declared extinct in the UK in 1979. Populations still existed in Europe and its reintroduction from those populations has been successful. The UK is now thought to have the largest population of Large Blue Butterflies in the world.

What is responsible for the remarkable success? Most important was understanding the life history of the butterfly. The Large Blue depends on ants to collect the early stage larvae, haul them to an ant nest and feed the butterfly larvae until they reach maturity. This understanding led conservationists to create and manage preserves to support robust populations of both ants and butterflies.

Posted in behavior, by jjneal, Endangered Species, Environment, Policy | 1 Comment

Fire Ants


Posted in behavior, Biomaterials, by jjneal | 1 Comment