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Entries in Insects (7)

Thursday
Mar072013

Crickets in an Energy Bar?

Pat Crowley(SALT LAKE CITY) -- A small Salt Lake City food company called Chapul has a new line of energy bars that are raising eyebrows for their unique ingredients.  Their Thai Bar has coconut, ginger, lime -- and crickets.

A chart in a video on the Chapul website shows that both cows and insects are 57 percent protein, but cows are 43 percent fats, while insects are just 22 percent fats.

“It basically means that insects have similar protein contents [to] livestock, but are healthier because they have less fat,” Chapul founder Pat Crowley said.  “We thought the people who would be most receptive are environmentally conscious and food conscious people who already eat healthy products and energy bars.”

Insect diets are common in many countries, globally speaking, but they are mostly absent in the United States and Europe.

Crowley wants to introduce insects into American cuisine, but feels his main obstacle is that there is a psychological barrier Americans have about eating insects because it isn’t part of the culture. So he looked into other industries that had to deal with the same barriers, and came to sushi, saying Americans were “repulsed” by the thought of eating raw fish before sushi became mainstream.

Crowley wanted to introduce insects into the American diet delicately by using other ingredients like chocolate and peanut butter, the way sushi was introduced into American cuisine with the subtle California Roll.

According to Steven R. Kutcher, an entomologist based in Arcadia, Calif., there are insects in almost everything Americans already eat.

“When you eat rice, flour, beans or anything, there are going to be insects in them, but people don’t see them,” Kutcher said.  “So that’s always been part of the human diet, especially before there was processed food.”

Kutcher confirmed that insects are high in protein, but pointed out one negative aspect to eating insects.

“The downside is, especially with something like crickets, they have spines, they have claws, they have exoskeletons made from chitin and it’s not digestible, so it goes right through you,” Kutcher said.  “When you eat crab or lobster, you don’t eat the whole thing, you take off the shell.  That’s the chitin, but with something like crickets, you can’t remove the chitin.”

Chapul grinds the crickets into a flour in its bars so there are no legs, claws or antennae present.  When they are ground that way, Kutcher said, the chitin is still not digestible, but consumers don’t have the problems that come from eating all the body parts and they still get all the nutrients.

Aside from online sales, Chapul energy bars are sold in approximately 30 locally-owned stores in 12 states and are looking to double that in the next month.

“A lot of our expansion comes from people contacting us saying they want to stock bars and their stores, so we’re always eager to hear from people who want to give us a try,” Crowley said.

“We’re getting a lot of response from Europe now," Crowley said. "There is a lot of talk now from universities and companies in France, Germany and Netherlands about increasing insects into the diet, because the environmental footprint is much less than the majority of our mainstream food products.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May032012

Bees Drink Human Sweat, Tears

Illustration. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Though they’re not as popular as their honeybee cousins, sweat sucking and tear drinking bees are making a buzz in cities across the country.

“They use humans as a salt lick,” John Ascher, who oversees the a database of 700,000 species of bee at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, told the Wall Street Journal.

Ascher discovered Lasioglossum gotham, New York City’s very own sweat bee, while walking through Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. The tiny insects rarely sting and might even go unnoticed on a sweaty arm or leg. But researchers in Thailand went one step further, allowing bees to sip from their eyes.

“On landing, automatic blinking with the eye often prevented the bee from getting a firm hold, causing it to fall off the eyelashes,” the researchers wrote in a study titled, “Bees That Drink Human Tears.” “If so, the bee persistently tried again and again until it was successful, or finally gave up and flew off.”

When the odd bee did latch on, the researcher was often unaware. But when several bees set up shop, it was a different story.

“The experience was rather unpleasant, causing strong tear flow,” the authors wrote in the 2009 study published in the Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society. “Once a bee had settled and more were approaching, these tended to settle near each other in a row. Closing the eye did not necessarily dislodge bees but some continued to suck at the slit. They were even able to find and settle at closed eyes.”

Sweat suckers and tear drinkers favored bodily fluids over smoked fish, fresh meat, gruyere cheese and the chocolaty treat Ovaltine, according to the study. The researchers suspect salt or other proteins and sweat and tears provide vital nutrients for the tiny workers — something to keep in mind on those hot summer days.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar162012

The Top 50 US Cities for ... Bed Bugs

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Cities enjoy being identified as safe and affordable. Being labeled as having a lot of bed bug treatments, not so much.

Rollins, the corporation that owns seven pest control companies, including Orkin, says it has seen a 33.6 percent increase in bed bug business compared to 2010.  The company has just released its rankings of U.S. cities in order of the number of bed bug treatments from January to December 2011.

And the winner … is Cincinnati.  Chicago is ranked second, followed by Detroit, Denver and Los Angeles.  The report says L.A. moved from 25th to fifth on the list.

Here are the top 50 U.S. cities, ranked in order of the number of bed bug treatments.  The number in parenthesis is the shift in ranking compared to January to December 2010:

1. Cincinnati
2. Chicago
3. Detroit (+1)
4. Denver (+2)
5. Los Angeles (+20)
6. Columbus, Ohio (-3)
7. Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas (+43)
8. Washington, D.C. (-3)
9. New York (-2)
10. Richmond/Petersburg, Va. (+6)
11. Houston (-1)
12. San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, Calif. (+35)
13. Cleveland/Akron/Canton, Ohio (+1)
14. Boston (+4)
15. Dayton, Ohio (-7)
16. Las Vegas (-1)
17. Honolulu (+55)
18. Baltimore (-6)
19. Raleigh/Durham/Fayetteville, N.C. (+9)
20. Philadelphia (-9)
21. Atlanta (+24)
22. Lexington, Ky. (-13)
23. Syracuse, N.Y. (+25)
24. Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (+27)
25. Colorado Springs/Pueblo, Colo. (+19)
26. San Diego (+13)
27. Seattle/Tacoma, Wash. (-3)
28. Omaha, Neb. (-11)
29. Buffalo, N.Y. (-16)
30. Pittsburgh (-3)
31. Indianapolis (-12)
32. Milwaukee (+6)
33. Charlotte, N.C. (+13)
34. Phoenix (+19)
35. Louisville, Ky. (-3)
36. Hartford/New Haven, Conn. (-16)
37. Grand Junction/Montrose, Colo. (+30)
38. Knoxville, Tenn. (+4)
39. Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo/Battle Creek, Mich. (-17)
40. Nashville, Tenn. (+15)
41. Sacramento/Stockton/Modesto, Calif. (+24)
42. Des Moines/Ames, Iowa (-13)
43. Salisbury, Md. (+46)
44. Albany/Schenectady/Troy, N.Y. (-23)
45. Cedar Rapids/Waterloo, Iowa (-22)
46. Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn. (-20)
47. Lincoln/Hastings/Kearney, Neb. (-17)
48. Salt Lake City (-8)
49. Charleston/Huntington, W.Va. (-13)
50. West Palm Beach/Ft. Pierce, Fla. (+6)

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb232012

Spiders Appear Bigger When You Fear Them

Duncan Smith/Thinkstock(COLUMBUS) -- If you suffer from an irrational fear of spiders, you may perceive the critters to be much larger than they actually are, according to a new study published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders.

Researchers from Ohio State University recruited 57 people who suffered from arachnophobia, a fear of spiders, to better understand how perception affects phobia.  In the study, participants agreed to encounter tarantulas that varied in size (1 to 6 inches wide) five different times within an eight-week period.

In the first experiment, participants stood 12 feet away from a tank containing a spider, and moved closer to it upon instruction. Participants rated their own fear level using a distress scale of zero to 100 as they moved closer, and once beside the tank, researchers told them to move the spiders around with an eight-inch probe.

Afterwards, researchers took the spiders out of the room and participants were instructed to draw a single line to show how long the spider was that they saw.  Researchers found that, the more fear the participant expressed while encountering the spiders, the larger, and more inaccurate, they guessed the spiders to be.

“Given that our informal observations suggested the occurrence of the bias, we were not surprised that we found evidence for it in our study,” said Michael Vasey, lead author of the study and a psychologist at Ohio State University Medical Center. “However, it is fair to say that we were very surprised by the magnitude of the bias. We have seen highly fearful participants draw lines that are two to three times as long as the actual spider.”

Even in other research, Vasey said participants have looked directly at the spider while drawing the line and still estimate a larger-than-actual size.

The findings suggest that such biased perceptions may be a useful target for treatment, which could help patients recognize their observations, and then discount them and adjust for them, experts said.

Vasey said treatments for phobias are remarkably effective, although many who live in fear may not even know about them. The treatments typically come in the form of cognitive-behavior therapy, which assists the person in encountering the thing they fear so that they can correct the mistaken beliefs about the object that feeds their phobia. Nevertheless, most people who suffer from arachnophobia do not seek treatment.

“Individuals with phobias typically avoid the thing they fear or engage in safety behaviors, [or] behaviors designed to minimize risk despite encountering the feared object or situation, and therefore they are sheltered from discovering that their expectations regarding the feared object are wrong in ways that feed the fear,” said Vasey.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jul132011

Stinky Feet, Scented Deodorants Attract Mosquitoes

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(MOUNT LAUREL, N.J.) -- From perfume, to the color of your shirt, right down to the smelliness of your feet, mosquitoes seem to find any reason to sink themselves into human skin.

Scientists say that stinky feet and socks can be added to the list of factors that attract mosquitoes to feed off human blood. One African scientist is now using that bit of research to help fight malaria in Tanzania by creating traps that give off chemically replicated smelly foot odors, hoping to lure the bloodsuckers that carry the disease to their hosts.

"Scientists have known for a long time that mosquitoes smell people; that they do not see us, but instead they smell us," wrote Dr. Fredros Okumu in an email from Tanzania where he heads the research project at the Ifakara Health Institute. "It is the things that we produce in our breath, sweat of skin that [mosquitoes] use as a signal to find us. So if you are wearing socks, these skin-derived chemicals remain on the sock fabric and can still be detected by mosquitoes even after you have removed your socks."

Okumu's project received a $775,000 grant Wednesday from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Grand Challenges Canada to fund the traps and help further development.

But unclean feet and dirty socks aren't the only things that entice a mosquito to go in for the kill. Experts say that Limburger cheese has also been found to be attractive to certain mosquito populations. Ned Walker, a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at Michigan State University, studies mosquitoes extensively. Walker said that everything from body build to the type of perfume you wear can be the difference between deterring and attracting the pests.

However, determining why some people leave a picnic covered in bites while others escape without a battle wound is still up for debate.

Joe Conlon, technical adviser at the American Mosquito Control Association, said genetics as well as fair skin may also play a role in appealing to mosquitoes, although scientists remain unsure whether the bites are simply more noticeable on people with fair skin.

And while fair skin might be more attractive to the insects, lighter colors of clothing turn them off.

Conlon said that the only surefire way of preventing mosquitoes from biting is to wear a repellant, to watch what clothes you wear and to get rid of standing water that collects in places like at the bases of flower pots and in the bottom of air conditioning drip pans.

He also cautioned against using any substitutes to DEET repellants like vitamin B, saying that double blind tests have proven these remedies not to work effectively.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun212011

Summer Dangers in the Backyard and Beyond

Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/ Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- With summer officially underway, now is a good time for parents to tune in to warm weather dangers to keep their children safe this season.

In a study released Monday, researchers found that during the warmer months, on average, one child drowns every five days in a portable above-ground pool -- including those small inflatable pools filled only with a few inches of water, as well as larger portable pools that can hold as much as four feet of water.

"Because portable pools are generally small, inexpensive and easy to use, parents often do not think about the potential dangers these pools present," said Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio, senior author of the study.

Keeping children safe around pools of any size means preventing access to the water by unsupervised children, as well as constant supervision when children are in and around the water, the study says.

But aside from drowning, children face many other dangers during the warm summer months.  Here's a look at some of them and what parents can do to protect their kids from harm:

SUN: Cover your children in broad spectrum sunblock before going outdoors, applying it before putting clothing on.  And remember to re-apply every two hours, and after going in water or sweating.

The FDA will begin regulating sunblock next year.  In the meantime, consumers should choose sunblock containing zinc oxide or avobenzone, according to Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician based in Austin, Texas, and co-author of Baby 411 and Toddler 411 guides.

Heat stroke is another danger on hot and humid days, particularly in the beginning of summer, before the body has had a chance to adapt to the warmer climes.  Make sure children are properly hydrated if they're playing outdoors.  It also may be prudent to look for indoor fun or shade play for your children during the hottest time of day, doctors say.

WHEELS: Many families pull bikes and scooters out of the garage when the mercury heats up, but whatever time of year, helmets are essential to saving lives.  Smith recommends parents make sure the helmets they purchase have the Consumer Product Safety Commission seal.

Helmets should sit level on the head, above the eyebrow line and straps need to be secure, said Andrea Gielen, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy.

WEATHER: Lightning claims the lives about 300 people in the United States annually.  If a lightning storm is coming, head indoors.  Do not stay in an open space, like a football field or a golf course, where you would be the tallest object, Smith cautions.  Common wisdom still holds: Do not stand under a tree during a lighting storm.

PLAY: Prevent injuries with supervising children at the playground and by making sure the surface of the playground where your child plays can absorb impact during falls.

BUGS: During evenings and cooler times of day when mosquitoes are likely to bite, cover skin with a bug repellent that includes DEET, experts say.

For those uncomfortable using the chemical, Brown recommends looking for products that contain picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus, which is approved for use in children ages 3 and up.  All three options repel not only mosquitoes, but ticks too.  She also suggests using a mosquito net over a baby stroller.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar172011

Will Bugs Be the Next Meat Alternative?

Jeffrey Hamilton/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Bumble bee burgers, grasshopper pie, and beetle tacos -- are you hungry yet?

While these foods may sound outlandish and even unappetizing to most, scientists are predicting that as the global population grows, so will the demand for animal protein.

These factors -- along with the considerable strain that traditional methods of raising mainstream animal protein place on the environment -- make insects as a cheap and nutritionally sound alternative to beef, pork, chicken and other proteins consumed in Western culture a true possibility.

Long before Survivor contestants ate bugs, insects were considered a source of nutrition for ancient Romans.  Even the Bible mentions creepy crawlers as food in its reference to John the Baptist's diet of "locusts and wild honey."

However, insects as a main course isn't a relic of antique times, as a wide variety of insects are used in global cuisine.  Traveling throughout Asia, it's not uncommon to come across insects incorporated in rice dishes, snacks, and even delectable desserts.  Similarly, Mexican cooking is noted for making use of crispy grasshoppers, and many nouveau restaurants both at home and abroad are experimenting with insects in traditional dishes.

The Food and Drug Administration already permits "natural" and "unavoidable" allowances of insect matter in processed foods such as chocolate, peanut butter and fruit juice, which means that on average, most Americans eat about a pound of insects a year.

Furthermore, the traces of insects found in our food are anything but harmful, as less than 0.5 percent of insects carry harmful diseases and bugs are notably rich in zinc and iron, while low in fat and high in protein, making them the perfect food source.

Spearheading the movement to popularize insects as food in the Western world are entomologists Marcel Dick and Arnold van Huis of Wageningen University in the Netherlands.  The two are working under the umbrella of a federal $1.3 million research program to explore the possibility of using insects as food given rising food demands and production costs in a swelling global society.

In a recent publication, Dick and van Huis tackled the most controversial reasons regarding insects as a viable food source, maintaining that raising insects in a hygienic environment is cheaper, more nutritious, and more resourceful than raising a protein like cattle given increasingly expensive agricultural land prices, the rising risk of herd infection, production expenses, and the cost of fodder and water.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio