Researchers Discover Four New Mite Species Living Inside Ibis and Spoonbill Feathers

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By Meredith Swett Walker If you were to page through a field guide to birds searching for species that look as if they were dreamed up by Dr. Seuss, you’d probably choose some from the family Threskiornithidae, which includes ibises and spoonbills. For instance, the Eurasian spoonbill, a leggy bird that looks like it has […]

Dust Baths and Longer Beaks Can Make Cage-free Chickens into Mite-free Chickens

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By Meredith Swett Walker Life is improving for America’s chickens. Due to consumers’ increasing interest in animal welfare, large portions of the poultry industry are shifting towards less restrictive housing. Many poultry farmers are replacing the conventional conjoined small wire cages, called “battery cages,” with cage-free housing in large open poultry houses. Cage-free housing gives […]

Researchers Raise Maggots on Chicken Blood to Save Darwin’s Finches

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By Meredith Swett Walker In 1676, the great scientist Isaac Newton (of gravity fame) wrote a letter to another scientific titan, Robert Hooke (who had coined the biological term “cell”), in which he humbly stated, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” Even in using that line he was […]

Tree-killing Hemlock Woolly Adelgids Hitch Rides on Birds

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By Meredith Swett Walker At first glance, you might not think these little bits of fluff could pose much of a threat. But, like Star Trek’s troublesome tribbles, hemlock woolly adelgids (Adelges tsugae) can quickly multiply and wreak havoc. When these tiny sap-sucking insects were introduced to the forests of the Northeastern United States, they […]

Battling Chicken Mites with Bags of Brimstone

Ornithonyssus-sylviarum

By Meredith Swett Walker The northern fowl mite (Ornithonyssus sylviarum) plagues chickens, causing inflammation, anemia, and basically making them itch like the devil. The mites are the most common ectoparasite found on poultry. But researchers from the University of California, Riverside have come up with a diabolically clever way to control the little bloodsuckers — […]

Controlling the Asian Tiger Mosquito, a Potential Zika Vector, is Possible but Difficult

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By Meredith Swett Walker Is there a tiger lurking in your neighborhood? The Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, is spreading in the U.S. and its preferred habitat is urban and suburban areas. Unfortunately Ae. albopictus is not simply a nuisance at backyard barbecues — the mosquito is a potential vector for Zika as well as […]

Harvester Ants Have a Taste for Exotic Seeds

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By Meredith Swett Walker Harvester ants live up to their name. Like a farmer bringing in a crop of grain, the ants are busy seed collectors. In some habitats they are the dominant seed predators. But do harvester ants play favorites? When faced with a cornucopia of seeds, do they select certain species over others […]

Five New Flea Species Discovered in Indonesia

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By Meredith Swett Walker What do the United States Navy, the famous naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, and bizarre genitalia have in common? They are all part of the story of a newly discovered genus of fleas from Indonesia. In the latest issue of the Journal of Medical Entomology, David K. Mardon and Lance A. Durden […]

Backyard Chickens Harbor Greater Diversity of Ticks, Mites, and Lice than Farm-raised Chickens

By Meredith Swett Walker Today’s backyard chickens are not your grandmother’s birds — they sport jaunty sweaters, go for walks on leashes, and dine on treats like “chunky chicken caviar.” As keeping chickens has become more popular, the bird’s status has been elevated from practical livestock to pampered pet. And though they may indulge in […]

Forensic Entomologists Mite Start Looking at Acarids for Clues

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By Meredith Swett Walker In 1879, long before TV shows like CSI and Bones created a generation of armchair forensic entomologists, Jean Pierre Mégnin, one of the first scientists to use insect evidence to aid death investigations, examined the desiccated body of a female infant found in a vacant lot in Paris. “The mummy of […]