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About BugsInTheNews…

erry Cates, BugsInTheNews editor.

Jerry Cates, BugsInTheNews editor.

We’re here for you… BugsInTheNews, a project sponsored by EntomoBiotics Inc. Forensics in conjunction with the Megatherium Society, is on the Internet for one simple reason, to serve you as a trustworthy source of carefully researched, unbiased, and pertinent information regarding human safety in the fields of zoology, entomology, arachnology, and herpetology, along with links to scientific papers that help readers conduct further research.

Our present focus, begun earlier but given special emphasis in 2010 and continuing on today, is on bed bugs, triatomine bugs, and other organisms that cause skin lesions in humans. This work parallels a multitude of other past pursuits.

In 2010 and 2011, for example, we delved more deeply into herpetology and arachnology. We became proficient at identifying snakes and spiders to genus and species, while developing improved methods for eliminating them from places where they are not wanted.

In 2012 we resumed earlier studies in nematology and, for entomopathogenic nematodes, their symbiotic bacteria. We also launched a limited mentoring project designed to help high-school students interested in the biological and botanical sciences.

In 2013 — spurred on by the outstanding research conducted by amateur arachnologist Robert Smith — we delved deeper into the biology of burrowing wolf spiders in Central Texas, and will soon publish an article on an as-yet unidentified species of burrowing wolf spider Mr. Smith is studying in Kempner, Texas.

After expanding our work in nematology for the past several years, we continue our research on the use of entomopathogenic nematodes for controlling native and Formosan subterranean termites. That latter species (Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki, 1909) has now established a fierce grip on much of Central Texas, and poses an unusually serious threat to the homes it infests. In the papers being readied for publication we will describe how a novel termite interceptor, the TermiteBiotics TIAI, has proven successful in enabling entomopathogenic nematodes to control termite colonies of native and Formosan termites in the soil — before they infest the homes nearby — even during the hottest periods of the year.

Our work with bed bugs, triatomid bugs, and dermestid beetles in Central Texas continues, occupying much of our time in 2013, then becoming our central focus in 2014. Papers on each of these families of insects, famous for striking fear in the hearts of a growing number of Texans, were published that year and have been expanded in 2014. Because the several species of triatomine bugs — members of the Triatominae subfamily (Hemiptera: Reduviidae) of true bugs — found in Texas, unlike the bedbug and its 73 closely related cousins (Hemiptera: Cimicidae), are often endemic occupants of the Texas landscape, their control is directly amenable to the application of habitat modification techniques around the dwellings they infest.

The hastisetae of larval lifeforms of dermestid beetles often produce skin lesions — in susceptible individuals — that mimic those produced by bed bugs. Treatments for bed bugs that do not eradicate dermestid beetles sometimes result in recurring call-backs that fail to produce relief. For this reason, we’ve conducted microscopic studies of larval members of the dermestidae as a means of understanding how hastisetae exposure affects susceptible individuals. Our papers on these insects take pains to address the peculiar habitat modifications most appropriate to their effective control.

Having now collected large numbers of specimens of bed bugs from dwellings scattered all over central Texas, we’re now analyzing their discrete morphological characters, in great detail, as a means of identifying them to genus and species. Texans travel the globe; the bed bugs they encounter in their travels and bring home with them likely include several of the known 74 species found worldwide. How many? To answer that question we’ve invested thousands of dollars in new microscopes and related equipment. We hope to publish a paper on our findings in 2015.

In 2014 our focus has expanded, not only to include more detailed analyses of dermestid beetles, but pestiferous rat and bird mites as well. Some 20-40% of the calls we receive for bed bug infestations turn out, on inspection, to involve another organism altogether. Sometimes bed bugs are present, but often no bed bugs are observed while one or more other organisms capable of producing skin lesions are present. These include dermestid beetles (Coleoptera: Dermestidae), and rodent and bird mites (Mesostigmata: Macronyssidae). Although the dermatological signs and symptoms are similar for all of these organisms, the treatment regimes appropriate to each is markedly different. We are conducting on-going research to find and apply the best means and approaches to deal with these vexing affronts to human comfort, using the least toxic methods and materials available.

As the foregoing illustrates, we strive to shed light on things that affect your peace of mind. With your help, we’ll continue to obtain and pass on answers to your questions on these subjects into the future.

How we began…

The original Bugs In The News website was created in the 1990’s, as BugsInTheNews.com, to serve as a repository of information on bugs and animals found in Texas, and the products and methods used to control and mitigate them. Our focus has always been on designing, developing, and using non-toxic, least-toxic, low-impact, and reduced-impact products and methods for pest management projects. Out of that focus came what we initially called IRIM-P.A.™: Integrated Reduced-Impact Methods to achieve Pest Avoidance. Today we call the advanced version of that methodology IRIM-PAHM™: Integrated Reduced-Impact Methods to achieve Pest Avoidance thru Habitat Modification. Our emphasis on mechanical and natural habitat modifications has enabled us to significantly reduce, and in many cases eliminate, the need for pesticides altogether.

Over the years, the purview of our flagship website has broadened to include more and more organisms, including botanicals. Today it includes all living things in the animal kingdom. Its geography — originally limited to Texas — has expanded  to all of North America, though much of that work has applications worldwide. Eventually, with help from professional and amateur biologists, entomologists, arachnologists, herpetologists, and botanists from all over the planet, we hope to include Central and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Botany, one of the oldest of sciences, has lagged behind the animal sciences in many ways, and that is of great concern to us. Plants are as important as animals — most pharmaceuticals are, or were originally, derived from botanical sources — but because they seem less “threatening” we don’t pay them the attention they deserve. Much needs to be learned about our botanicals, so — to spur that learning onward — our sister website, Buds In The News.info was created. Though still in its infancy, it has enormous potential.

Both of these websites now use a new theme and format. Navigation is simplified by providing, on the left-hand side of each page, a listing of the taxonomical categories of the organisms described in the posted articles.  Placing your cursor over a category pops up a descriptive balloon. Clicking on a category automatically takes you to a listing of the posts under that category; clicking on a title will take you to that posting.

The information provided here is regularly updated. It is intended to cover each topic in considerable background detail, not just a surface skim, yet devoid of the rampant speculation too often found in journalistic science today. Some of these topics affect your life in serious, earth-shattering ways. We strive to provide truthful details, as free of sensationalism and bias as possible, in a form that enables you to become better educated and better prepared. Authors of specific articles are encouraged to add personal insights, to round out the topical information and keep things grounded in the real world, so long as those insights are helpful and germane to the thrust of the report.

By ensuring that the background details in our articles are bolstered with contemporary accounts, supplied by viewers and contributors, the reader benefits by reading about the ways these topics impact them and their world. Whenever possible, despite a limited budget, we conduct field trips and interview laypeople and authorities alike, to document and verify the information our viewers send in. And, through it all, you — the ultimate beneficiary — receive free and unlimited access to all the information we provide.

We cannot do this work without your help. The most important contributions come from those who send us photographs and textual descriptions of the organisms they encounter in their everyday lives. We study those inputs, expand our knowledge, and post what we learn.

And, yes… we’ve learned a lot, thanks to you. But we have so much more to learn and do.

Bugsinthenews began with nothing but a dream, and with your help we’ve managed to scratch the surface on a lot of important subjects. During 2010 alone over 3,000 reports and inquiries came in from viewers with urgent questions concerning spiders, snakes, stinging caterpillars, and other organisms. In 2011 that number increased by more than 50%. A similar increase was expected in 2012, 2013, and 2014, and — as of the beginning of May 2014 — that expectation has been met, if not exceeded.

We’ve tried posting ads for others, but have been disappointed by the results. Today we consistently refuse to advertise for others on any of our websites. We do not accept government grants and subsidies.

We do advertise the services provided by our sponsor, EntomoBiotics Inc., and the habitat modifiers and other products our sponsor develops and markets to home and business owners. Our services and products are designed to help establish and maintain pesticide free environments that do not attract or nurture harmful or annoying pests, and we regard that work as our most important contribution to the health and well-being of our viewers. 

We rely on you, our public, whose questions we answer–or at least try to answer — to judge us, and help us, as we seek to do a better job every day. Where you see lack, imagine how we can improve, then candidly inform us of your opinions and recommendations.

Thanks for everything! We couldn’t have done anything in the past without you. Inasmuch as the past is prologue, let’s make this the best year ever.

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E-mail jerry.cates@bugsinthenews.info. Or register, log in, and post a comment in the space provided below each posting.