Ecology & Zoology

One day a few years ago, while working on wasps in a rainforest in Costa Rica, entomologist Kevin J. Loope, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Riverside, began reading about the enigmatic matricidal behavior of some social insects. In most social insects, such as bees, ants and wasps, the workers, which are all female, work their whole lives to help the queen produce new offspring. Yet, in the literature Loope found anecdotal reports of workers killing their queen, presenting a fascinating evolutionary puzzle.

Nature reserves and national parks play a crucial role in sheltering wildlife, such as African elephants, from hunting and habitat destruction, but they have no problem at all exhausting the wildlife around them.

Researchers have examined the effect elephants have on the woody plant life in Kruger National Park, the largest protected area in South Africa, and found that elephants are the preserve's leading causes of fallen trees.

Horses need help when it comes to insect pests like flies but many horse owners are in the dark about how best to effectively manage it.

A new overview of equine fly management in the latest issue of the Journal of Integrated Pest Management, an open-access journal that is written for farmers, ranchers, and extension professionals.

One fly-management method that is gaining ground is the use of wasps that are parasitoids of fly pupae. The female wasp inserts an eggs into the fly puparium, and when the egg hatches, the wasp larva eats the fly pupa.

The authors conducted research on two wasp species that are sold commercially to see what type of manure they preferred.

When flowering plants are surrounded by a large number of insects, usually both sides profit from the encounter. Feasting on the plant juice and pollen, the insects pollinate the flowers and thus secure the survival of the plants. However, sometimes the insects - in this case a certain species of leafhoppers - can bring disaster to the plants, which they are not able to overcome. 

Like seeds, pollen loses most of its water during maturation, entering a state of suspended animation. This allows it to survive its journey from male to female organs of a flower, where it is rehydrated by sugary fluids secreted by the female organ, and springs into life again.

But rehydrating is a dangerous process, one that can kill the pollen grain before it can fertilize the egg if not properly controlled.

New research from the lab of Elizabeth Haswell, PhD, associate professor of biology in Arts&Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, shows how pollen survives the reanimation process. A specialized protein with ancient origins helps the hydrating pollen grain relieve excessive pressure and survive the stressful transition.

Chemical signaling among social insects, such as bees, ants and wasps, is more complex than previously thought, according to researchers whose results refute the idea that a single group of chemicals controls reproduction across numerous species.

Many humans like to start the day with a jolt of caffeine and it turns out bees do also.

They may even select caffeinated nectar over an uncaffeinated but otherwise equal alternative. As a result, researchers say, plants may be lacing their nectar with caffeine as a way to pass off cheaper goods.

"We describe a novel way in which some plants, through the action of a secondary compound like caffeine that is present in nectar, may be tricking the honey bee by securing loyal and faithful foraging and recruitment behaviors, perhaps without providing the best quality forage," says Margaret Couvillon of the University of Sussex.

The Mediterranean Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus euryale) is a bat species that, which the name implies, occurs in the Mediterranean region and Balkan peninsula. Unfortunately, the populations of these bats are declining. Conservation efforts have so far focused on protecting the area where the bats occur/hunt. However, Aitor and his colleges say that that will not be enough.

Researchers have been able to watch the interior cells of a plant synthesize cellulose for the first time by tricking the cells into growing on the plant's surface.

"The bulk of the world's cellulose is produced within the thickened secondary cell walls of tissues hidden inside the plant body," says University of British Columbia Botany PhD candidate Yoichiro Watanabe, lead author of the paper published this week in Science.

"So we've never been able to image the cells in high resolution as they produce this all-important biological material inside living plants."

Since publishing our study on “A scientific basis for regulation deep-sea fishing by depth“ we’ve been subjected to criticism online and in print from fisheries organizations and most recently on this website in an article by Magnus Johnson.