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Bugs in the News 2000

This information area contains abstracts of selected news articles that appeared in the year 2000.


February 20, 2000
Sun Journal (Maryland)
Michael Stroh
Subject: German museum initiative for selling scientific names of organisms

Scientific names for organisms are discussed, especially modern ideas on application of names. Approximately 10,000 new species are named by researchers annually, most of those being insects. Recently, a group of German taxonomists has contacted colleges, hospitals and other institutions to announce a money making plan. The idea is simple - donate a certain amount to the German organization, called Biopat, and then select an organism of your choice. On a special website, shoppers can browse a catalog of unnamed species ranging from orchids to sea slugs. The price for establishment of a scientific name is $2,500. The donor would select the specific scientific name of their choice; the example presented is a forest toad that Lara Lai chose for her husband Stan. The toad will be named Bufo stanlaii. Fifty percent of the donation goes to the institution studying the specimen, and the other half to protect biodiversity in the organism's home country. A controversy has immediately emerged regarding such commercialism in taxonomy. Many scientists are concerned that the system could lead to widespread fraud by a few "taxonomic cowboys" who would resell species that have previously been named to make a quick buck. The other concern is the possible proliferation of frivolous names. The example used is a new toad that might be called Bufo budweiseri. A governing board known as The International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature ensures that every animal has a unique scientific name. The Board recently sent a letter to the journal Science denouncing Biopat as a "striking departure from scientific tradition" that would "irreversibly obscure science and hinder conservation efforts."

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August 28, 2000
The Washington Post
DeNeen L. Brown
Subject: Canadian chickens used for detecting West Nile virus

West Nile virus is a serious health hazard that is of major concern for U.S. medical workers, but also workers in Canada. Mosquitoes carrying the virus were found in New York in 1999. On the Canadian border, chickens have been strategically placed at secret places. Their importance is similar to canaries that miners use for detection of deadly gases. The chickens are there to monitor mosquitoes with the disease that might enter Canada. Harvey Artsob, chief of zoonotic diseases at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Manitoba, has Aput chickens in areas where they get exposed to mosquitoes.@ The Canadians have placed 360 birds at 36 sites along the border, 10 birds to a coop. Some have been sited along migratory bird routes, while others were placed in mosquito-infested areas. If mosquitoes bite the chickens and transmit the West Nile virus, the chickens will develop an antibody. The chickens are being tested weekly to see if they have developed antibodies. Thus far everything has been negative.  Officials have asked people who find dead birds to take them to the nearest health department for testing.

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June 9, 2000
The Washington Post
Editors of Consumer Reports
Subject: Repelling the bugs of Summer

Thirteen insect repellents that claim to be effective against mosquitoes were recently tested to ascertain their effectiveness. The majority of repellents rely on some percentage of N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, a chemical developed more than 50 years ago by the U.S. Army and the Department of Agriculture. This chemical currently is known as Adeet.@ Deet doesn=t kill insects, but its vapors discourage them from landing or climbing on you. Products were tested that had concentrations from 7 percent to 100 percent deet. Tested also were some products that use plant oils or non-deet chemicals. The chemicals were tested against three species of mosquitoes. Deer ticks were used in testing products that make claims about ticks. The two most effective repellents found were Amway HourGuard12, a cream that is 33 percent deet, and Off! Deep Woods for Sportsmen, a pump spray that is 100 percent deet. With the use of these two repellents, mosquitoes were kept from biting for at least 11 or 12 hours. A non-deet product that proved effective is Repel Permanone, a spray with 0.5 percent permethrin, a synthetic version of an insecticide derived from chrysanthemums. Only one product that relies on plant oils for repelling insects offered any mosquito protection, that being Bite Blocker with soybean oil. Avon=s Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard, with 0.1 percent citronella, offered no protection.

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June 26, 2000
The Washington Post
Cheryl Lyn Dybas
Subject: Helping the Honeybee survive

Thousands of beekeepers have recognized the amazing decline of honeybee populations in the United States, and are quite concerned over the problem. In some parts of the U.S., nearly 90 percent of the bees are estimated to have disappeared. The main problem is the Varroa mite, which arrived in the United States in 1987 and has infected bee colonies in more than 30 states. The problem is being alleviated somewhat by the import of queen bees from Russia, where a tolerance for the mites has developed among bee populations. U. S. beekeepers can now purchase Russian honeybees through commercial sales. At the Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, researched have been developing a mite-resistant strain of the honeybee by accelerating natural selection processes.


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Prepared by the Department of Systematic Biology, Entomology Section,
National Museum of Natural History, in cooperation with Public Inquiry Services,
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