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Bugs in the News 2001

This information area contains abstracts of selected news articles that appeared in the year 2001.


January 22, 2001
The Washington Post
Stephen Cole
Subject: Termites as food for early human ancestors

Two scientific researchers, Lucinda R. Backwell of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and Francesco d’Errico of National Center for Science Research in Talence, France, have investigated bone tools that date back one million to two million years. The bones were found at digs in Swartkrans, Sterkfontien and Drimolen in South Africa. The bones had previously been examined, with conclusions that they were used by a pre-human species known as Australophithecus robustus to dig up tubers. The research team analyzed tiny scratches on the instruments and observed that the location and shape of striations on the bones match those on bone tools created for experiments to open up termite mounds. In an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers reported that "Our results suggest that early hominids used a bone technology as a part of their dietary adaptations, and they maintained a bone tool termite foraging cultural tradition in southern Africa for nearly a million years."

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February 6, 2001
The Montgomery (Maryland) Journal
David Dishneau
Subject: Gypsy Moths are expected in large numbers this year

The gypsy moth population in Maryland this year is expected to be the largest in at least six years, and forest managers are working to combat this large infestation. Efforts are being planned for spraying pesticides through 50,000 acres, mainly in western Maryland. In 2000, gypsy moth larvae defoliated more than 23,000 acres of oak trees and other hardwoods in Maryland. That was nearly a 20-fold increase from 1999. Gypsy moths entered the United States from Europe around 1870, and have spread widely across the United States. They now range west to Michigan and as far south as North Carolina. Citizens may help by looking on the undersides of tree branches, beneath flaps of bark, and under the eaves of their houses for the small, brownish-gray patches of egg masses. The masses should be scraped off and buried or submerged in soapy water.

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March 4, 2001
The Washington Post
Raymond McCaffrey
Subject: Rare tiger beetles on a Maryland beach are given respect

Two species of tiger beetles, known commonly as the puritan and the northeastern beach tiger beetles, are to be found in very few places in the world. The puritan tiger beetle, especially, exists mostly only on a narrow two-to-three-mile stretch of shoreline along the Chesapeake Bay in Calvert County, Maryland. Barry Knisley, a professor of biology at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, has studied the tiger beetles on the beach for several years and has become familiar with the ecology of the area. The two species of tiger beetles are found in limited numbers on certain shorelines in New England. In earlier times, the shoreline from Virginia into New England was probably undisturbed, with tiger beetles existing along the entire area. Knisley explains that the high sandy cliffs on the Chesapeake Bay are ideal for the biology of the tiger beetle species, and if humans controlled the erosion, the biology would be negatively affected..

Various conservationists and local administrators of several governments have recognized he problem of possible habitat destruction, and have worked with Knisley to preserve the habitat of the two tiger beetles. The land immediately adjacent to the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal waters are protected in Maryland. Additionally, most of the property next to the beetles’ home in Calvert County is publicly owned. The article contains black and white photos of the two beetles, plus information on their identifications, ranges, and life cycles.

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Prepared by the Department of Systematic Biology, Entomology Section,
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