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The History Of Termites In The Panama Canal

The History Of Termites In The Panama CanalAnts

As the rate of global trade intensified during the 1800s, large shipping vessels became more and more of a necessity. However, the isthmus that connects North and South America used to slow the rate of global trade significantly. In order to access the Atlantic Ocean from the Pacific Ocean, ships were forced to steer around the entire continent of South America. In order for ships to access the Atlantic from the Pacific more quickly and easily, an artificial lake was constructed. This artificial lake allowed ships to pass through the narrow Central American isthmus through Panama. This convenient manmade waterbody became known as the Panama Canal. Unfortunately, this area is also a termite hotspot.

The Panama Canal is one of the most monumental and ambitious of all construction projects ever undertaken by mankind. Unfortunately, native termites in Panama occasionally threw a wrench into the construction process. After the canal was finished, several of the canal’s offices and various structures were damaged by termites. Even nearby military bases suffered devastating termite damages. Experts soon realized that Panama contained an extremely high amount of termite species, even for a tropical country. The termite diversity prompted entomologists to carry out numerous termite-related studies in the country. The location and the many different termite species available for study made Panama an ideal region for carrying out termite studies.

When the Panama Canal was completed in the early 1900s, the heavy construction in the region led to the formation of a coastal island. This Panamanian island is now known as Barro Colorado Island. Starting in 1943, researchers began testing certain chemicals on termites in an effort to identify compounds that are toxic to termites. These experiments led to many future termite control methods. For example, the now infamous insecticide known as DDT was first developed in Panama. The science involved with soil treatments was thoroughly explored on the island as subterranean termites were the primary test subjects available. Although no modern insecticides were developed at the site of the Canal, the Panamanian testing grounds allowed researchers to gain a tremendous amount of insight into termite behavior and how termite control measures should be conducted.

Would you be interested in reading any of the old termite studies that took place at or near the Panama Canal following its construction?

A Man’s Home Is Being Overrun With Rats That Originated From His Next Door Neighbor’s Abandoned House

Everyone has experienced a difficult neighbor or two in the past, but one man living in Louisiana is being driven crazy by all of the rats flooding into his home from his neighbor’s rat-infested house. Homeowner Dwayne Scott of Ascension Parish has been struggling for the past year to keep his home free of rats. Not only are the rats on Scott’s property coming from his neighbor’s home, but his neighbor decided to leave his home and the surrounding property littered with mounds of garbage before he decided to abandon the property a year ago. Not surprisingly, this garbage is attracting massive amounts of rats, and they must be out of edible garbage because they are rushing into Scott’s home at a near constant rate. In an act of desperation, Scott requested that the local government clean the trash from his neighbor’s property, but Scott’s requests were ignored. In response to being ignored, Scott contacted a local news station in order to share his story with reporters. Luckily, this move may have prompted local government leaders into finding a solution to Scott’s dilemma.

Before asking local government leaders for help resolving his problem, Scott personally asked his next door neighbor to remove the garbage due to the rats gravitating toward his house. However, Scott’s neighbor clearly had no intention on cleaning his property, as he abandoned the house not long after Scott requested he clean his property. At the moment, the trash on his neighbor’s porch and surrounding property is piled knee high. At one point, local government leaders sent Scott’s neighbor a notice demanding that he remove all the trash from his yard and home, but the neighbor never responded, and the rat infestation within Scott’s home became worse. According to city council members, Scott’s neighbor is only in violation of the law if his property contains appliances or unregistered vehicles. Apparently, the council is now considering legal action against the neighbor, but a judge will have to force the neighbor to remove all trash if he is in violation of city ordinance.

Have you ever experienced an animal infestation that originated from a neighbor’s property?

Can The Termite Species That Inhabit The US Damage Underground Electric Cables?

Unlike drywood and dampwood termite species, subterranean termite species are unique considering the massive degree of destruction that they cause. Drywood and dampwood termite infestations are not nearly as common as subterranean termite infestations, and it is usually only subterranean termites that infest a home’s timber frame. Unfortunately, subterranean termites are not just destructive to timber-framed homes, as they are also known for causing widespread power outages by chewing on electric cables located beneath the ground.

Formosan and Asian subterranean termites are typically recognized by experts as being the most destructive termite species in the world, and both of these species have established an invasive presence within the United States. Considering their reputation in this regard, one would think that if any termite species could chew through power cables, then it would definitely be one of these two, or both. However, researchers were surprised to find that this is not necessarily the case, as some of the typically less destructive subterranean termite species damage power cables more often than the most destructive species.

When considering a particular termite species’ ability to cause power outages, it must first be determined which termites are capable of penetrating cable sheathings. Generally, cable sheathing that is made from low density polyethylene is one of the least termite-resistant sheathing materials that are commonly used while PA12 (Nylon 12) has been demonstrated as the most resistant to termite pest activity.

Surprisingly, Formosan and Asian subterranean termites only cause minimal, if any damage to cable sheathings despite these two species inflicting the most costly structural damages of all termite species. The R. flavipes, or the eastern subterranean termite, which is the most destructive termite species in the US in front of the invasive Formosan species, is not capable of causing damage to any common cable sheathing. This is good news for Americans, but the termite species that causes the greatest amount of destruction to cable sheathings are the Australian species known as C. acinaciformis and M. darwiniensis. This is not surprising, as these termites have been destroying electric cables since they were first installed below the ground in the country back in 1911.

The unusually large mandible size of worker and soldier termites in these two species is probably what enables them to chew through cable sheathings more effectively than other species. Both the native and non-native subterranean termites that inhabit the US are not capable of inflicting serious damage to underground cables. Subterranean termite damage to power cables has only been a problem in Australia, and to a much lesser extent, Asia.

Do you believe that termites in America can still cause power outages by damaging telephone poles or other forms of infrastructure?

 

Swarms Of Stable Flies Are Keeping Tourists Away From Popular Vacation Spots In The United States

The stable fly exists all over the world, and it feeds on the blood of livestock and horses, but they will also feed on humans when these options are unavailable. Stable flies are synanthropic, which means they exploit human habitats and food sources in order to survive. Stable flies are well known for their extremely painful bites and their tendency to swarm toward people gathered outdoors. In fact, this swarming behavior has become significant enough to deter tourists from vacationing in Florida’s panhandle, where stable flies are common. The annual threat of stable flies has also prevented people from vacationing near the great lakes and other areas located near large bodies of water.

Stable flies have long been known for swarming tourists in Florida’s panhandle region, as northerly winds carry these flies to highly populated beaches where they cannot be deterred from biting beachgoers. Due to these repeated attacks, Florida’s tourism industry has taken a major hit, as past visitors have no desire to relive the horrors of past attacks. Stable flies have also attacked people vacationing around the Great Lakes. According to Howard Russell, an entomologist at Michigan State University, when cows are not around, horseflies prefer to bite people’s ankles and knees, which draw significant amounts of blood.

Stable flies multiply their population numbers within various forms of organic matter including silage, crop residue, hay, grain, manure and soiled animal bedding. When highly active breeding sites are located, pest control professionals sometimes uproot these sites, but this is not always sufficient for removing all stable flies from an isolated area. When stable fly swarms abruptly appear within populated areas, mainly beaches, pest control professionals can be dispatched to the affected site in order to conduct aerial insecticide operations. However, wind often blows stable fly swarms away before pest control professionals arrive to the site.

Have you ever witnessed a swarm of stable flies while visiting a beach location?

 

Edible Insects May Be Illegal To Eat In Some Western Countries

Edible Insects May Be Illegal To Eat In Some Western Countries

Eating insects is such a commonplace habit in the world that most countries don’t have any specific laws that either ban or approve of insects as a food source. Most countries in the world recognize insects as a given food source. In fact, the only countries that do legally regulate the consumption of insects are located in the European Union and North America. On an international level there are some standards laid out by the World Health Organization and the United Nations concerning what constitutes unsafe food preparation. These standards, which are outlined in a text referred to as the “Codex Alimentarius”, are not legally binding in international law. The codex exists simply as a guide. At the moment, insects are only referred to in the codex as “impurities”. Each country’s government is free to write their own laws concerning edible insects. Most countries in the west do not even specifically address insects unless illegal or regulated food contaminants are being mentioned.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has not yet officially recognized any insects as food. FDA regulations mention insects as contaminants that must be limited in food products during processing and packaging. Luckily for the few Americans that cannot get enough edible insects, officials with the FDA have gone on record to say that insects can be legally considered food if they are being consumed as food or ingredients in food. The FDA does forbid “wildcrafted” or foraging insects due to concerns over pesticide contamination.

In Canada and the EU, federal regulatory agencies must evaluate the safety of  what is legally referred to as “novel foods”. Foods that have been recognized as having a long history of consumption by humans are legally permitted for consumption. However, it must be proven that insects fit this category before Canadian regulators permit the sale of edible insects. In the EU “novel foods” include foods which have not been consumed to a significant degree in Europe. Of course, this includes insects, which makes edible insects technically illegal to consume under EU law. But edible insect aficionados in Europe do not have to despair as European researchers are working fast to demonstrate the safety of consuming edible insects.

Do you think that the European Union will officially declare edible insects as safe to consume before the Food and Drug Administration will?

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