Tag Archives: Bugs

The Adventures of Thalia and Friends: Lit!

Not everyone knows this, but cockroaches are pretty much universally hated. Like, it’s not that they’re unpleasant. I mean they are, but so are rats, so I can’t really judge them for that. The real problem with roaches though, is how flat out dumb they are.

“Whoo! We’re gonna party hard tonight!”

I sighed as Euterpe bounced around the pipes. Ever since he’d moved in with the letter-shirt humans he’d been especially insufferable. Calliope and I were fairly certain he was mimicking them, and his open invitation to all of the buildings residents to join him for a party inside the ceiling tiles was further proof of our theory.

“You look miserable, you know that?” Calliope said, sounding more amused than concerned for my well being.

“Do I? Can’t imagine why,” I said, rolling my eyes. “It’s not like I was promised food and haven’t gotten any.”

Calliope laughed. She always had a better humor for these things.

“Check it!” Euterpe said, waving his antennae at a large glass bottle that was half filled with an absolutely foul smelling liquid.

“Is that human stupid juice?” Calliope asked. Euterpe nodded, practically buzzing with excitement.

Continue reading The Adventures of Thalia and Friends: Lit!

The Adventures of Thalia and Friends: The Break-In

I didn’t know who or what decided the weather, but around here, when it got cold, it was cold, and I felt pity for anyone who didn’t have the option of retreating into the relative warmth of a dorm building.

Mostly, I felt bad for Polyhymnia, as her ongoing attempts to break into the building only got more desperate on days like today.  She’d spent the last hour or so attempting to climb the fire escape, and the windowsill I was sitting on gave me the perfect view. It wasn’t going well.

“She still at it?” Calliope asked. She had given up on watching  Polyhymnia fall and was now digging through the accumulated food in the small room. Why the humans piled up perfectly good food with random stuff and locked it all up in a small room was beyond my understanding, but I appreciated the ease of access.

“Yep. She’s trying to use a little tree to lean over onto the metal platform. It’s not really working,” I said.

“Poor Polly,” Calliope said. “I wish there was a way we could help her out.”

“How? She can’t fit through the holes we use to get in and out,” I said. I like Calliope, but sometimes I think she’s a little too nice for her own good. Maybe it’s a mouse thing?

“I know, Tals, but what if we could get the humans to open a door for her? Or maybe prop one open!” Calliope said. I sighed.

“Cali, I love you, but that’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard,” I said. “You know how the humans get when they spot us, we’d never pull something like that off. And even if we did, they’d spot Polly in an instant. What if she got hurt?”

Calliope sighed. “I know, but I hate seeing her struggle like this.”

Just as she spoke there was a crash outside, followed by a human screaming. I looked back out the window to see that the little tree Polyhymnia had been using had been uprooted, and had crashed into the building. There was now a human screaming and pointing at Polyhymnia while another human chased her away with a broom.

“I think she’s giving up now,” I said, watching her walk off.

“We should bring her something to cheer her up,” Calliope said. “I think I smell some pizza in here. The humans never try to stop us when we drag that around.”

“Sure, let’s do it,” I said, hopping down from the window to help Calliope look.

The Adventures of Thalia and Friends: The Starbucks Run

The upside of living on a college campus is that students tend to leave food everywhere. Sometimes they’ll even just give you food, if you do something funny for them.

The downside though is that they never give you the food you want. Ask for the hot dog, and you get part of the bun. Just one piece of pepperoni? They’ll give you a glob of cheese. Trying to get some of that divine smelling chicken? Hope you like pickles, cause that’s probably what you’ll get instead!

Personally, I don’t like trying to get food from humans. It’s a lot of effort for very little reward, and I always run the risk of being met with screams when I let them see me. Also, it only works outside (students hate finding a rat in the dorm rooms,  found that one out the hard way).

Calliope, however, loves getting humans to give up food, and as I am her best friend, she drags me out with her occasionally, and since today was the first time in months it had been warm enough for students to actually go outside, we left the relative comfort of the dorm room to make the journey to the campus Starbucks.

Calliope bounded up to the patio to beg for scraps, immediately getting a reaction from the humans. I decided to hang back, since Calliope was way better at this sort of thing.

“Awww, what a cute little mouse!”

“Ew! Rebecca, it probably has rabies!”

“Oh, don’t be mean, Kaitlyn. I’ll bet she’s just hungry.” The human was already pulling at whatever food item she had on the table. “Are you hungry, cutie?”

“Yes! Very! Give me your food, human!”

“Just listen to those happy squeaks!” The human cooed again and then tossed down some kind of bread. “There you go! Enjoy!”

Calliope grabbed the bread and returned to the bush I was hiding under. “Check it out, Thalia! It’s got something really yummy smelling on it!”

The bread did smell good, but it was still only bread. “Great work, Calliope!”

“Are you gonna try and get something, Tals?”

“I’m not sure they’d give me anything,” I said.

“So steal it.”

Calliope squeaked and practically jumped ten inches into the air at the unexpected voice, but I’d seen our new companion approaching from around the side of the building.

“Hey Polyhymnia,” I said, giving the raccoon my best smile.

“Polly! You scared me!” Calliope said, recovering from her fright. “And what do you mean steal?”

Polyhymnia grinned, letting her mischievous nature shine through. “Watch and learn, Cali.”

Polyhymnia crept towards the patio, keeping out of sight whenever she could.  She was only a few feet away from the humans Calliope had begged from when she pounced, hissing and baring her teeth.

The humans screamed, dropped their food and drinks, and then ran away. “This is why you don’t feed wild animals, Rebecca!”

Polyhymnia dragged her bounty off the patio, and Calliope and I rushed to help her.

“Woah! You got so much food!” Calliope said, investigating a sweet smelling bread.

“Not just food!” Polyhymnia said, nosing at the cups. “This human drink is amazing! And these ones are cold, so no burns!”

“What is it though?” I sniffed at the white drink; it smelled sweet.

“I dunno. But you should try it!” Polyhymnia said, trying to pry the lid off of the cup she’d grabbed. The liquid in her cup was brown. I slipped my head into the opening at the top of my cup, and gave the mysterious drink a taste.


“Ian! Check out that crazy rat!” Kyle pointed towards the edge of the patio, where a rat was going nuts after having gotten into someone’s coffee.

“Dude! We gotta get that on film; we can put it on Tik Tok!” Kyle said, already pulling out his phone. “You go, coffee rat!”


What you have to know about the Zika virus

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a notice to take special precautions when making a trip to various warm areas where a mosquito-borne virus, called Zika virus, is spreading rapidly.

Aedes aegypti mosquitos, one of two species of mosquito known to carry the Zika virus. Photograph from Nelson Almeida/AFP/Getty Images.
Aedes aegypti mosquitos, one of two species of mosquito known to carry the Zika virus. Photograph from Nelson Almeida/AFP/Getty Images.

The CDC has been encouraging all visitors to areas of Latin America and the Caribbean to take additional precautions against mosquito bites to abstain from contracting the virus. Authorities increased the warning to a Level 2 travel notice and are currently prompting pregnant women and women attempting to become pregnant to consider staying away from the affected regions out of concern that Zika might bring about a catastrophic birth defect called microcephaly, a birth defect that results in a smaller-than-ordinary head and brain, as well as other formative issues.

In case you’re setting out for Spring Break in South America, Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, or Puerto Rico, this is what you have to know before taking off:

  1. Zika is a virus spread by one particular kind of mosquito via bite. Not all mosquitoes in affected areas spread Zika — however the ones that do bite aggressively during the day.
  1. Since the Zika virus only stays in the bloodstream for a couple days to a week, according to Cynthia Moore, M.D., director of the CDC’s division of birth defects and developmental disabilities, it won’t infect the infant you later in your life, when the virus will be completely out of your system. 
  2. In the event that you contract the virus, you might develop an itch. Around 1 in 5 infected individuals will become sick with mild symptoms ranging from red eyes (most common), rash, and fever — to vomiting and aches in the head, muscles, joints, head, and behind the eyes within seven days. The symptoms can last up to a week. No deaths have been reported so far. 
  3. To prevent infection in affected regions, you’ll need to cover exposed skin; use an insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, IR3535; double check that your hotel room is screened in or air-conditioned. You can even wear clothing that contains permethrin, a synthetic insecticide. These products have been tested by the EPA and determined to be effective at repelling bugs, and are safe for children and women who are pregnant or nursing. 
  4. Pay attention to travel alerts and stay away from areas where there are outbreaks. If there is no alert, still take these precautions. If you contract Zika, the only thing you can do is treat the symptoms with rest, extra fluids, and medicine that contains acetaminophen, like Tylenol. Then keep warding off mosquitoes with repellent, long sleeves and pants. 
  5. You are more likely to encounter Culex mosquitoes, which can carry West Nile virus, outdoors and at night. Be that as it may, you are at higher risk of bites from the Aedes mosquitoes, which can spread dengue, chikungunya and Zika, inside. That is because Aedes are more active and feed during the day.

The uplifting news is, while it’s not proven completely, researchers believe once an individual has been infected with the virus, they are immune and won’t be able to become infected again, as indicated by Higgs.

Return of the cicada broods

This springtime you might want to think about doubling up on the bug spray if you’re going to be spending a lot of time outdoors. Every 17 years, adult, three-inch cicadas come up from the earth and swarm all the way from Connecticut to Virginia. They’re well known for their mass numbers and the mating calls they make. Continue reading Return of the cicada broods

Florida’s monster pests

If sunshine, orange groves and giant mosquitoes are your cup of tea, a trip to Florida might be in order.

That’s right, giant mosquitoes. Known as “gallinippers,” these fearsome beasties can grow up to 20 times the size of a normal mosquito. Deby Cassill, a biologist at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, described the gallinippers as “pterodactyls in the mosquito world.”

If the intimidating size wasn’t enough, these babies come with attitude. The so-called pterodactyls are known to go after humans, animals and even fish. Moral of the story? To a gallinipper, you look the same as a fish fillet. Continue reading Florida’s monster pests

Carnivorous robots

In recent years there has been a race to determine how to create sustainable robots for long missions. This race has created robots that break down grass and twigs to power them on their tasks.

Recently this sustainable race has turned toward a slightly darker track. There are now robots that can break down bugs and create a power source out of them. That is the hope that two research centers have for the future of robots. These two centers are located in Seoul, South Korea, and Orono, Maine. Each research facility has recently devised a way for robots to capture bugs. While the methods are similar, they use different base components.

A robot that catches flies and spiders. Photo from Creative Commons.

The one bug-trapping robot made in Seoul was produced by Seoul University and uses a memory shape metal spring. Both bots discussed in this article are modeled after Venus Flytraps. The miniature robot is nothing more than a battery and circuit board and whatever materials make up the the leaves of the Venus Flytrap bot. In this case, it’s a carbon fiber polymer. The spring is triggered like any common mouse trap, and when weight is applied to the bottom leaf, the trap swings shut trapping whatever the bot may have in its grasp. It’s a little more complicated than it sounds, but whenever the weight presses down against the bottom leaf it activates an electrical current, which triggers the electric sensitive spring to shut.

The bot, made by engineer Mohsen Shahinpoor at the University of Maine, uses a slightly more complicated method of bug capture. The leaves of this Venus bot are covered in a polymer membrane coated in gold electrodes. When a bug or anything hits the membrane, it compacts the gold electrodes against a conductive surface beneath, allowing for the trap to quickly shut on its victim. The reason it does this is the polymer membrane is designed to curl when introduced to an electrical current.

While these flytraps may be the start of a terrible robot apocalypse, it will be years before people will need to worry about the Man Hunter 2000 robot that captures and devours humans alive. Once the robot traps, the flies are stuck holding onto them with no means to transfer them to a chemical digestive system to break down the flies into a fuel source. So, everyone can breath easy for now, but there is no telling when the robot uprising may begin and whether or not we will be on their meal plan.