21
Apr

Why are there Spiders in My Bathroom?

We are all familiar with the bathroom-spider. The one spider that stays quietly creeping in the corner near the ceiling. Or perhaps it is a new spider every day, the first begetting the next and so-forth so that there is a constant flow of closely related bathroom-spider buddies. Whatever your guess, whether winter or spring, we have all been haunted by these pesky spiders that climb in through small cracks in the window or get carried in from other rooms in the home.

To a homeowner, the bathroom seems like the farthest place any insect would want to be. It's nowhere near the kitchen and no amount of human-food has ever passed over its threshold. Despite all of the unattractive qualities of the full bathroom, spiders seem to love to make it home. And, to those familiar with the biological needs of insects and bugs, we know this is no accident.

What bathrooms provide to spiders is a water-park paradise. Spiders and insects have what is called a poor surface-area-to-volume ratio. The small size of spiders keeps there volume very low, while their surface area is still significant. This makes them prone to evaporation, removing great amounts of water through their exoskeleton into the air. Like all creatures, spiders need water to survive. Because they cannot risk becoming dehydrated, living near a source of water helps them to survive.

So despite our paranoia that spiders choose to lurk in bathroom corners to strike us when we are most vulnerable, they are likely equally displeased to see us. Each time we enter the bathroom, we replenish their fountain of life so that they can live another day. And as we leave, they can take advantage of the drops of water we have left behind and sweep up other insect visitors into their webs to satiate their hunger.

21
Apr

Are You a Good Bug or a Bad Bug?

For the past several weeks I have been working to complete a presentation to show that many bugs that are considered "bad", make a lot of helpful environmental contributions. For someone new to Royal Pest, they may think that to be in the pest industry, you must want to destroy all matter of insects and pests. But at Royal, working alongside knowledgeable entomologists, they realize that some insects should be protected.

While termites inside an individual's home can cause expensive damage and be dangerous, it is not necessary to crush every termite you may see as you take a leisurely hike through the forest. As termites break up wood and soil, they create rich mulch that aid in the growth of new vegetation. Additionally, as they travel through the soil, they help to aerate the earth to produce hearty growing conditions. Termites are very helpful in producing new growth.

Ladybugs are easily recognized by all. We are taught at an early age to recognize the beauty of the ladybird beetle (its "scientific" common name) and its wish-fulfilling properties. With the exception of the gardening community, few know that they are wonderful at eliminating harmful insects like aphids from from garden flowers and vegetables. While aphids feed on the sugars of plants and can ruin their productivity, the ladybugs eat them all up and protect the plant.

Taking this concept one step further, ladybugs are VORACIOUS predators - especially as larvae. They have immense appetites and will eat nearly any insect small enough to eat. I remember my early days of insect catching. I was not familiar with the appearance of the ladybug larvae and accidentally caught a live one in my vile. Before I knew it, nearly half of the other bugs had been devoured by the hungry critter! Most are not taught that, while beautiful, these small, red beetles have lion-sized appetites!

ladybug_larvae

 

7
Apr

Insect-Inspired Design: Honeycomb Humvee Tires

Humvee_NPT01

Despite a lack of consciousness, insects never cease to surprise me with regard to their nearly unfaltering programming. Insects are truly hardy insects that continue to evolve to withstand constant environmental changes. Their actions appear to have true purpose. The pattern and color on a butterfly's wing, the birth of an ant into a worker or a queen - each action is driven by a biological knowledge of what is best for the species.

As researchers grow to understand more about insect behavior, innovators are inspired by insects' efficiency. A simple Google search of "insect-inspired design" brings up a wealth of articles. Fashion designers are inspired by a tropical beetle's colors and an architect uses the structure of a dragonfly's wing to design a green building for a city landscape. However, I was drawn to a particular design by Resilient Technology, a Wisconsin-based polymer engineering company. In 2008, they designed an air-less wheel for Humvees, inspired by the structure and strength of a honeybee's hive.

Opening a beehive will reveal a beautiful display of hexagonal honeycomb. These wax structures are home to developing larvae and store pounds of honey and pollen for food. The use of hexagons, although often overlooked, should be recognized as having great purpose. Hexagons in this array are able to withstand great amounts of pressure without compacting. The strength of this design makes it desirable for other purposes.

These Humvee tires, while still in development, will be able to maintain the great weight of the Humvee while eliminating the need for air in the tires. Air-less tires, as the developers suggest, will create safer conditions for drivers and passengers in the vehicle. Traditional tires run the risk of blowouts which could leave service men and women in a dangerous situation, but a honeycomb design will enable the vehicle to continue to move regardless of circumstances. In fact, testing has indicated that even after the destruction of  large portion of the comb (about 30%) the tire can still function normally.

It is encouraging to see insects receiving the recognition they deserve for innovative and constructive behavior. Insects continue to inspire the work of artists, engineers and architects in ways that are streamlined and beneficial to all.

For more info: http://www.resilienttech.com/images/pdfs/Resilient-Tech-Airless-Tire_Diesel-Progress.pdf

 

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