Category Archives: Ickyology

Household entomology

Keep Them Aphids in Line

Ants and Aphids

Scientists have discovered a new way ants control their farmed food source: aphids. It has long been known that certain ant species have domesticated aphids, and use the piercing-sucking insects for their honeydew (mmmm…honeydew….).

It was once thought that aphids stayed in the protection of the ants because the ants were able to fight of natural predators, and ants routeinly gnaw off aphid wings to keep them from flying away. Scientists found recently, though, that the same chemicals in the ants’ feet that they use to mark their territory, have an affect on aphid behaviour. Aphids walking over the chemical become sluggish and don’t move as quickly as aphids not exposed to the chemical. Interesting!


Drunk again? Genes Say if You're a Lightweight

Fruit fly

Scientists are getting flies drunk again. Not for any nefarious purpose, mind you, but to discover the genetics behind ability to hold your liquor. They’ve discovered the gene that allows someone to drink their friends under the table, and they are manipulating it in fruit flies. This may lead better treatment for alcoholics (everything is going gene therapy now-a-days!)


Scientists Able to Kill Bt Resistant Bugs


Bt toxins kill insects by punching holes in their guts. However, many insects have become resistant to the Bt toxin, causing scientists to scramble, trying to find new pesticides to kill such pests as the bollworm (shown above).

For the first time, scientists study the mechanism of action in a pesticide and use it to design new drugs that will kill the Bt resistant pests. Go scientists!


The Mommy Gene Found

Polistes metricus wasp

Scientists have discovered that the basis of eusociality (the tendency of sterile females to raise the young of a common queen) found in bees, wasps, and other social insects is genitically based. Lots of study has been done on Apis meliferia, or the European Honeybee, but very little has been done on wasps.

This particular study was run on Polistes metricus, (family Vespidae) a rather primative wasp. Investigators used their knowledge of Honeybee genetics to identify the materinal gene in the wasp’s genome. Given that it was the same as the honey bee’s, they found that the tendency to be eusocial is an evolved trait that ensures the genes are passed on from generation to generation.