The genus was called Bolitiphila, meaning mushroom lover, in the past. The name was changed in 1924 to Arachnocampa, meaning spider-grub, for the way the larvae hang silk threads to trap prey. The genus Arachnocampa belongs in the family Keroplatidae.
Arachnocampa luminosa is found in New Zealand, in both the North and South islands. Its Māori name is titiwai, meaning “projected over water”. The Waitomo Caves in the North Island near Pirongia is one well-known habitat, the caves having become a popular tourist attraction. It was first known to science in 1871 when collected from a gold mine in the Thames region. At first it was thought to be related to the European glowworm beetle, but in 1886 a Christchurch teacher showed it was a larva of a gnat, not a beetle. The species was called Bolitiphila luminosa in 1891, before being renamed Arachnocampa in 1924. A species of harvestman preys on the luminosa eggs, larvae and pupae, and even the adult flies. A fungus also affects A. luminosa; it gradually kills the larva. Fungus spores are spread by air movement, but since the larvae live out of the wind the spread of spores is limited. Arachnocampa luminosa is found only in New Zealand.
Arachnocampa Sp.Mount Buffalo. A colony of Arachnocampa has been found in an alpine cave on Mount Buffalo in Victoria. Early research suggests it is a new species, but related to the tasmaniensis and the New Zealand luminosa. Its presence suggests rainforest may have extended up the mountain in the past. The Victorian Government presently has it listed (called the Mount Buffalo Glow-Worm) as a threatened species.
As mosquito-borne viral diseases like West Nile fever, dengue fever, and chikungunya fever spread rapidly around the globe, scientists at Virginia Tech are working to understand the mosquito’s immune system and how the viral pathogens that cause these diseases are able to overcome it to be transmitted to human and animal hosts.
In nearly every part of the world, humans and animals experience high levels of morbidity and mortality after being bitten by mosquitoes infected with viruses. More than 100 different viruses transmitted by blood feeding arthropods like mosquitoes have been associated with human or animal disease.
Two especially prolific vectors are the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), which is easy to spot because of its striped patterning. Although native to Africa and Asia, these insects can spread through the western world by hitching rides in used tires, which trap water to create a perfect breeding site.
Virginia Tech researchers recently identified a novel anti-viral pathway in the immune system of culicine mosquitoes, the insect family to which both vectors belong. Kevin Myles and Zach Adelman, both associate professors of entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, publish their findings this month in PLoS Pathogens.
“We have previously shown that an antiviral response directed by small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) is present in culicine mosquito vectors. However, we show here that another class of virus-derived small RNAS, exhibiting many similarities with ping-pong-dependent piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) is also produced in the soma of culicine mosquitoes,” they explain. Myles, Adelman and co-workers made use of a technique called next generation sequencing to aid in their discovery.
The newly discovered antiviral pathway appears to act redundantly to the previously described siRNA pathway, indicating a robust immune system, said Myles. Thus, understanding how viruses get around the mosquito’s dual antiviral responses poses an increasingly interesting challenge to scientists.
“In the case of mosquito-borne pathogens, our health depends as much on the mosquito’s immune response as it does on our own immune response, yet surprisingly little is known about the immune system of the mosquito,” Myles said.
How does an insect keep its bearings while migrating for thousands of miles? “If you go out in a field, lie on your back and look up at the sky, that’s pretty much what an insect sees,” says Michael Dickinson, a biology professor at University of Washington.
Tiny animals like monarch butterflies and locusts maintain a constant heading while migrating across entire continents, while bees and ants always find their way hundreds of metres back to the nest without a problem.
Realising that insect must have some type of internal compass, Dickinson and Peter Weir, a doctoral student at the California Institute of Technology, decided to test how insects orient themselves by tethering fruit flies to metal pins, and suspending them in a magnetic field.
This allows the flies to move and rotate naturally while being held in place. The fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) were taken to an arena atop a building that’s taller than visual landmarks like treetops. Digital cameras tracked the insect’s flight headings.
During the hour before and the hour after sunset, the headings of these flies — relative to the position of the arena — were recorded for 12 minutes. The entire arena was rotated 90 degrees every three minutes, to see what the flies did.
Under natural light, some of the flies compensated for the rotations and maintained a consistent heading. But when the arena was covered with a circular polarising filter — which eliminates the natural light patterns of the Sun — the flies did not shift their heading significantly in response to arena rotations.
This indicates that the fruit fly has the ability to coordinate its compound eye and brain functions for navigation by using the using light polarisation patterns of natural sunlight. Other insects with similar eyes and similar flight patterns likely have the same capability.
Next up, the team wants to determine why the flies select a particular heading. “A lot of our research is focusing on how the fruit fly brain is multitasking in space and time to achieve remarkable effects,” Dickinson said. Fruit flies have just 300,000 neurons in their brain, while the average adult human has 100,000,000,000.
Pitcher Plant Mosquito (Wyeomyia smithii) is a multivoltine mosquito thatcompletes its entire life cycle in the immediate vicinity of its carnivorous host plant (Sarracenia purpurea) . The females deposit their eggs directly on the water within the plant or just above the waterline in older leaves. The larvae live in the liquid of the plant and feed on the carcasses of insects and spiders being digested by the plant enzymes.
Researchers import Hawaiian wasp to help mango farmers embattled by fruit flies
A wasp from Hawaii is the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology’s (Icipe) latest weapon in its battle to overcome Kenya’s fruit fly problem, according to the Business Daily newspaper in Nairobi.
In conjunction with other containing methods, the introduction of a Hawaiian wasp that was originally native to Asia and feeds on the fruit fly’s eggs and larvae should bring a 90 per cent reduction in numbers, according to Dr Sunday Ekesi, who leads Icipe’s fruit fly programme and claimed the pest was the biggest threat to mango production in Africa.
He said the fruit fly arrived in Kenya from Sri Lanka in 2003 and the infestation has kept Kenya locked out of potentially lucrative export markets such as Europe, Japan, the Middle East, South Africa and the US.
Icipe describes itself as an organisation engaged in “tropical insect science for development”, receiving funding for its work from a consortium of donors including UN organisations and government aid agencies.