Sunday, December 19, 2010

How Cockroaches Are Helping Farmers

Cockroaches are well known for their role as decomposers, but the Asian cockroach (Blattella asahinai) is actually helping Texas cotton farmers to reduce populations of cotton bollworms. In 2006, cotton farmers in Texas discovered these cockroaches in cotton fields. Recently, scientists found that these cockroaches eat cotton bollworm eggs, instead of the plants.
German and Asian cockroaches are almost identical. However, Asian cockroaches have longer and narrower wings and smaller egg cases. In addition, the German cockroaches live indoors, while Asian cockroaches like to burrow in mulch or compost outdoors.
Eventhough this cockroach preys on agricultural pests, scientists are hesitant to make recommendations to mass release this cockroach for the control of lepidopteran pests. Since the Asian cockroaches have been recorded to fly 120 feet in a single flight, they can easily fly into nearby residential neighborhoods. They are attracted to light-colored surfaces or brightly lit surfaces at night and they can enter into structures under doorways or window sills.

Asian Cockroach. Photo posted on USDA website:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tarantulas Helping People Get Over Fears

According to Reuters Life!, scientists are using tarantulas to determine how the human brain responds to fear based on the proximity, direction and preconceived assumptions of a terrifying object. Researchers from the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, England used functional magnetic resonance imaging to follow brain activity in 20 volunteers as they watched a video of a tarantula. Scientists found that different parts of the brain control different parts of the “fear network,” so when the spider moves closer, the brain changes from anxiety to panic. Their results could help scientists diagnose and treat patients who suffer from phobias.
For more information, please visit: