Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bugs, Even The 'Bad' Ones, Can Be Educationally Beneficial, New Book Says

Date:
March 23, 2005
Source:
University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign
Summary:
We have much to learn from bad bugs, according to Gilbert Waldbauer, whose book “Insights From Insects: What Bad Bugs Can Teach Us” was published today (Prometheus Books).

We have much to learn from bad bugs, according to Gilbert Waldbauer, whose latest book is “Insights From Insects: What Bad Bugs Can Teach Us.”
Credit: Photo by Kwame Ross

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — We have much to learn from bad bugs, according to Gilbert Waldbauer, whose book “Insights From Insects: What Bad Bugs Can Teach Us” was published today (Prometheus Books).

Related Articles


“We know a lot about pests, because so much money is spent on their research,” said Waldbauer, professor emeritus of entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Of the 900,000 known species of insects, a mere 2 percent are considered pests. Just as some plants growing where they are not wanted are considered weeds, insects are considered pests only when they adversely affect people, Waldbauer writes.

For example, homeowners typically think of termites as pests, but in forests termites are important for recycling dead wood.

Waldbauer spent 15 years studying the cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia), which he collected by driving along streets in Urbana, Ill., and retrieving cocoons from trees. With its colorful 5- to 6-inch wingspan, the nocturnal cecropia moth is the largest North American moth.

In “Insights From Insects,” Waldbauer describes 20 different types of pests. He includes how each pest is destructive to humans, how it sustains itself through feeding, reproduction and avoiding predators, and the various methods that people use to get rid of pests. The book is written for a general audience.

“Many basic biological concepts such as evolution and genetics can be learned through pests,” Waldbauer said. For example, he described recent evidence of how a new species of fruit fly is evolving based on how its diet differentiates it from other fruit flies.

Waldbauer uses examples from history, his career and conversations with his entomologist colleagues to illustrate what we can learn from bad bugs.

Many of the pests he describes are found in Illinois, including the corn rootworm. Other regional insects also are mentioned, such as the evergreen bagworm that spans the east coast of the United States and stretches westward to Nebraska and Louisiana. Other pests with wider ranges, such as disease-toting mosquitoes, produce-feasting fruit flies and sap-sucking aphids, also are featured.

The history of how many insects were spread to the United States also is discussed. For example, in 1869, the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) arrived in Medford, Mass., from Europe when the French naturalist Leopold Trouvelot brought them to use in silk culture experiments. A few escaped as caterpillars and their descendants thrived, leading to rampant defoliation 20 years later.

Such destruction has led people to devise various methods to exterminate bad bugs.

“The least creative way to get rid of bad bugs is by using insecticides,” Waldbauer said. Biological control, a practice in which natural predators are introduced, is a more creative and effective way to control pests, he said. In the book, Waldbauer explains many historic and recent examples of how people control pests without insecticides.

For example, in 1886, the cottony cushion scale (Icerya purchasi), accidentally imported from Australia, threatened California’s early citrus industry. At times these pests, whose sucking beaks are permanently attached to and suck juice out of leaves, infested trees so densely that the trees appeared to be covered with snow.

Introduction of 129 Australian ladybird beetles (Rodolia cardinalis), a natural predator of the scale, to a Los Angeles orange grove destroyed almost all of the pests within six months. “By the end of 1889, the scale was no longer a threat anywhere in California,” Waldbauer wrote.

Waldbauer also recounted a more recent study in which tsetse flies were feasting on and causing infections in cows in Zimbabwe. Entomologists led by Steve Torr of the University of Greenwich in the United Kingdom placed 60,000 fake cows made of cloth and steeped in insecticide on cattle ranches. Instances of infections dropped from 10,000 to 50 per year. These findings were reported in the journal Science in 2001.

Not only do insects interact with people, some insect species share characteristics with humans, Waldbauer said. For example, the tsetse fly has an analogue of a mammalian uterus. “Milk-secreting glands that empty into the ‘uterus’ feed the developing larva. Tsetse milk is white and chemically similar to human or cow’s milk,” Waldbauer wrote in a chapter titled “Guaranteeing descendants: The role of parental care.”

Waldbauer emphasizes that insects can be useful to humans. For example, he said, maggot therapy has been used to remove gangrenous tissue while leaving healthy tissue intact. Because of the increasing prevalence of bacterial resistance, the therapy has been used recently to replace antibiotics.

Since retiring in 1995, Waldbauer has written several books, including “The Handy Bug Answer Book,” “What Good are Bugs” and “Insects Through the Seasons.” He is now completing work on his next book, “Aquatic Insects: Bugs In and Over the Water.”

Meredith Waterstraat illustrated “Insights From Insects.” Waterstraat, a former Illinois graduate student in mathematics education, also illustrated “What Good are Bugs.” Waldbauer and Waterstraat began working together after he saw and was intrigued by her paintings of beetles at the Anita Purves Nature Center in Busey Woods in Urbana.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign. "Bugs, Even The 'Bad' Ones, Can Be Educationally Beneficial, New Book Says." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 March 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050308140056.htm>.
University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign. (2005, March 23). Bugs, Even The 'Bad' Ones, Can Be Educationally Beneficial, New Book Says. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050308140056.htm
University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign. "Bugs, Even The 'Bad' Ones, Can Be Educationally Beneficial, New Book Says." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050308140056.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Christmas Kissing Good for Health

Christmas Kissing Good for Health

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) Scientists in Amsterdam say couples transfer tens of millions of microbes when they kiss, encouraging healthy exposure to bacteria. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) Cambridge scientists have unravelled the genetic code of a rare tapeworm that lived inside a patient's brain for at least four year. Researchers hope it will present new opportunities to diagnose and treat this invasive parasite. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Fish Species Discovered, Setting Record for World's Deepest

New Fish Species Discovered, Setting Record for World's Deepest

Buzz60 (Dec. 22, 2014) A new species of fish is discovered living five miles beneath the ocean surface, making it the deepest living fish on earth. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) Polish scientists isolate bacteria from earthworm intestines which they say may be used in antibiotics and cancer treatments. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins