Archive for the ‘Weird’ Category

The Six-Legged Meat of the Future

Insects are nutritious and easy to raise without harming the environment. They also have a nice nutty taste


 John S. Dykes

At the London restaurant Archipelago, diners can order the $11 Baby Bee Brulee: a creamy custard topped with a crunchy little bee. In New York, the Mexican restaurant Toloache offers $11 chapulines tacos: two tacos stuffed with Oaxacan-style dried grasshoppers.

Could beetles, dragonfly larvae and water bug caviar be the meat of the future? As the global population booms and demand strains the world’s supply of meat, there’s a growing need for alternate animal proteins. Insects are high in protein, B vitamins and minerals like iron and zinc, and they’re low in fat. Insects are easier to raise than livestock, and they produce less waste. Insects are abundant. Of all the known animal species, 80% walk on six legs; over 1,000 edible species have been identified. And the taste? It’s often described as “nutty.”

Worms, crickets, dung beetles — to most people they’re just creepy crawlers. To Brooklyn painter and art professor Marc Dennis, they’re yummy ingredients for his Bug Dinners.

The vast majority of the developing world already eats insects. In Laos and Thailand, weaver-ant pupae are a highly prized and nutritious delicacy. They are prepared with shallots, lettuce, chilies, lime and spices and served with sticky rice. Further back in history, the ancient Romans considered beetle larvae to be gourmet fare, and the Old Testament mentions eating crickets and grasshoppers. In the 20th century, the Japanese emperor Hirohito’s favorite meal was a mixture of cooked rice, canned wasps (including larvae, pupae and adults), soy sauce and sugar.

Recipe: Crispy Crickets

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Strip the antennae, limbs and wings (if any) from 20 to 30 clean, frozen adult crickets, or 40 to 60 cricket nymphs. Spread the stripped crickets on a lightly oiled baking sheet and place in oven. Bake until crickets are crisp, around 20 minutes. Yield: one cup.

Sprinkle these on salads or put them through a coffee grinder to turn them into bug “flour.” You could even combine the crickets with Chex Mix for a protein-rich snack.

From “The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook” by David George Gordon (Ten Speed Press)

More Recipes: Superworm Tempura

And: Where to Find Creepy Crawly Cuisine


Will Westerners ever take to insects as food? It’s possible. We are entomologists at Wageningen University, and we started promoting insects as food in the Netherlands in the 1990s. Many people laughed—and cringed—at first, but interest gradually became more serious. In 2006 we created a “Wageningen—City of Insects” science festival to promote the idea of eating bugs; it attracted more than 20,000 visitors.

Over the past two years, three Dutch insect-raising companies, which normally produce feed for animals in zoos, have set up special production lines to raise locusts and mealworms for human consumption. Now those insects are sold, freeze-dried, in two dozen retail food outlets that cater to restaurants. A few restaurants in the Netherlands have already placed insects on the menu, with locusts and mealworms (beetle larvae) usually among the dishes.

Insects have a reputation for being dirty and carrying diseases—yet less than 0.5% of all known insect species are harmful to people, farm animals or crop plants. When raised under hygienic conditions—eating bugs straight out of the backyard generally isn’t recommended—many insects are perfectly safe to eat.

Mitchell Fienberg

Meanwhile, our food needs are on the rise. The human population is expected to grow from six billion in 2000 to nine billion in 2050. Meat production is expected to double in the same period, as demand grows from rising wealth. Pastures and fodder already use up 70% of all agricultural land, so increasing livestock production would require expanding agricultural acreage at the expense of rain forests and other natural lands. Officials at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization recently predicted that beef could become an extreme luxury item by 2050, like caviar, due to rising production costs.

Raising insects for food would avoid many of the problems associated with livestock. For instance, swine and humans are similar enough that they can share many diseases. Such co-infection can yield new disease strains that are lethal to humans, as happened during a swine fever outbreak in the Netherlands in the late 1990s. Because insects are so different from us, such risks are accordingly lower.

Insects are also cold-blooded, so they don’t need as much feed as animals like pigs and cows, which consume more energy to maintain their body temperatures. Ten pounds of feed yields one pound of beef, three pounds of pork, five pounds of chicken and up to six pounds of insect meat.

Insects produce less waste, too. The proportion of livestock that is not edible after processing is 30% for pork, 35% for chicken, 45% for beef and 65% for lamb. By contrast, only 20% of a cricket is inedible.

Raising insects requires relatively little water, especially as compared to the production of conventional meat (it takes more than 10 gallons of water, for instance, to produce about two pounds of beef). Insects also produce far less ammonia and other greenhouse gases per pound of body weight. Livestock is responsible for at least 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Raising insects is more humane as well. Housing cattle, swine or chicken in high densities causes stress to the animals, but insects like mealworms and locusts naturally like to live in dense quarters. The insects can be crowded into vertical stacked trays or cages. Nor do bug farms have to be restricted to rural areas; they could sprout up anywhere, from a suburban strip mall to an apartment building. Enterprising gourmets could even keep a few trays of mealworms in the garage to ensure a fresh supply.

The first insect fare is likely to be incorporated subtly into dishes, as a replacement for meat in meatballs and sauces. It also can be mixed into prepared foods to boost their nutritional value—like putting mealworm paste into a quiche. And dry-roasted insects can be used as a replacement for nuts in baked goods like cookies and breads.

Mitchell Fienberg

We continue to make progress in the Netherlands, where the ministry of agriculture is funding a new $1.3 million research program to develop ways to raise edible insects on food waste, such as brewers’ grain (a byproduct of beer brewing), soyhulls (the skin of the soybean) and apple pomace (the pulpy remains after the juice has been pressed out). Other research is focusing on how protein could be extracted from insects and used in processed foods.

Though it is true that intentionally eating insects is common only in developing countries, everyone already eats some amount of insects. The average person consumes about a pound of insects per year, mostly mixed into other foods. In the U.S., most processed foods contain small amounts of insects, within limits set by the Food and Drug Administration. For chocolate, the FDA limit is 60 insect fragments per 100 grams. Peanut butter can have up to 30 insect parts per 100 grams, and fruit juice can have five fruit-fly eggs and one or two larvae per 250 milliliters (just over a cup). We also use many insect products to dye our foods, such as the red dye cochineal in imitation crab sticks, Campari and candies. So we’re already some of the way there in making six-legged creatures a regular part of our diet.

Not long ago, foods like kiwis and sushi weren’t widely known or available. It is quite likely that in 2020 we will look back in surprise at the era when our menus didn’t include locusts, beetle larvae, dragonfly larvae, crickets and other insect delights.

—Mr. Dicke and Mr. Van Huis are professors of entomology at Wageningen University in the Netherlands


Curiousity Almost Killed The Cat

We received a telephone call from a woman who claimed that she had a cat in the attic. “Did you say a rat?” I asked. “A cat!” she said..I still had to clarify..”A bat?”..”No, a cat and I think I heard it meowing” she said.

Well this was first for us, so we rushed straight to women’s house. If there really was a cat, he was in big trouble but I have to admit, I expected a raccoon.

We arrived, grabbed the ladder and flashlight and Brandon was in the attic in seconds. he was very cautious in case there was a raccoon in the attic. With moments I heard him say…”It’s a cat, dad!”

I warned my son to be very careful of his approach of the cat but he said the cat was very weak and wobbly on its feet. I climbed the ladder and stuck my fat head into the attic to see the cat “zip’ by me…..not too wobbly I thought.

It was a sight to see, my son chasing the cat all around the very low and very hot attic. Brandon disappeared behind some A/C ducts at the far end of the attic and I heard him say “Gotcha!”

I asked Brandon if the cat was vicious and he replied that the cat was now barely alive. Brandon cradled the cat all the way from the far end of the low attic, gently climbing over A/C ducts and coughing on “raised” dust and insulation.

At my first look at the cat, I thought, “This thing is dead”. It just hung there, lifelessly.

Brandon crawled out of the attic, down the ladder and out the front door with this poor exhausted, hungry and very dehydrated feline.

The cat laid in my son’s lap with very little movement. The cat could not even lift its head. After a few minutes, we gave the cat some water, being sure not to give it too much too fast. At first it did not want the water but then gradually started to drink. We offered it some sardines in a can (our raccoon bait) and the cat ate slowly but then increased as he ate.

Brandon had to actually put water on his finger and rub it on the cats mouth to get the poor animal to drink

After some more water and a little more food, the cat could finally make a meow sound, it was very weak and dry sounding but it was a meow.

Now we were faced with the next ordeal…what to do with this cat? I was afraid to take it anywhere that may put it to sleep due to its extreme weakness, it looked very pitiful with its bones protruding from it’s skin.

Brandon is actually holding the cat up, if he released of the cat, it would immediately collapse.

The homeowner stated that the only time the cat could have entered the attic was FIVE weeks ago when the A/C people were working in the attic. Apparently they removed the gable air vent for some reason and the cat must have wandered in. The A/C workers movements may have startled the cat and it must have hidden, that’s what a cat would normally do in this type of situation. unfortunately, the A/C workers sealed the attic back and went home, leaving the cat in the attic.

The woman was totally freaked out about the cat, she also said that there was a “missing cat” poster on the telephone pole in front of her house. I ran out to the telephone pole and the poster was ripped up with only a few remaining pieces of paper left hanging. I talked to several neighbors and they knew nothing about the missing cat.

 We refused to give up, this cat survived the hot Florida attic with no food or water for five weeks….it did not give up and neither were we!

Brandon sat on the front porch sidewalk, cradling the cat in his lap. He gave it little sips of water and food and then let it rest.

I drove all over the neighborhood looking for more posters of missing cats. finally I located a poster that was less damaged than the rest. The poster was still torn but had a better picture of the cat…but no phone number.

The picture looked exactly like the half dead cat in Brandon’s lap, things were looking up for us and the cat. I started knocking on doors and asking about the “missing cat” poster but no one knew anything. I saw a few kids on bicycles down the road and remembered an old saying from a when I was a private investigator, “If you want to know anything about a neighborhood, ask a kid…they see everything.”   I drove over to the kids, asked about a lost cat and they immediately pointed to a house farther down the block.

I went up to the house, knocked on the door and a women answered. I inquired about her lost cat and she bent down and picked up a cat and said that it had been found days ago. Directly in front of me was the perfect copy of the cat that was fighting for his life in Brandon’s lap….not  good news at all.

By the time I returned to Brandon, the cat was doing much better, it was holding its own head up and its eyes looked much clearer.

We knew things were not looking good for the cat but we refused to quit. I called several friends and finally hit pay dirt. We were directed to a woman who loved cats and was willing to nurse the little guy back to health.

Within thirty minutes, we were at a McDonalds parking lot and meeting the cats new owner. The woman almost cried when she saw the cat. It’s funny because to us, the cat looked damn good (compared to the non responsive attic cat we intially observed) ! It was purring and meowing so much better. It was still a little wobbly on its feet but all in all, it was going wonderful!

Break time for Brandon and the cat. Brandon ate french fries while the cat enjoyed more sardines.

She took the cat and the last we heard it was  recovering and doing very well. A happy ending all around!

Update: It’s been well over a week and the cat is GREAT!

Tale of the Headless Dragonfly: Ancient Struggle, Preserved in Amber

In a short, violent battle that could have happened somewhere this afternoon, the lizard made a fast lunge at the dragonfly, bit its head off and turned to run away. Lunch was served.

Headless dragonfly. This ancient species of dragonfly is seen largely intact in amber, missing only a few feet and its head – presumable in the mouth of the lizard seen fleeing at the left. (Credit: Photo by George Poinar)

But the battle didn’t happen today, it happened about 100 million years ago, probably with dinosaurs strolling nearby. And the lizard didn’t get away, it was trapped in the same oozing, sticky tree sap that also entombed the now-headless dragonfly for perpetuity.

This ancient struggle, preserved in the miracle of amber, was just described by researchers from Oregon State University in Paleodiversity, a professional journal. It announced the discovery of a new sub-family of dragonflies in the oldest specimen of this insect ever found in amber.

More importantly, the study and others like it continue to reveal the similarities of behaviors and ecosystems separated by many millions of years, said George Poinar, a professor emeritus at Oregon State University. Poinar is one of the world’s leading experts on life forms found preserved in this semi-precious stone that acts as a natural embalming agent.

“Dragonflies are still eaten by small lizards every day, it’s a routine predator/prey interaction,” Poinar said. “This shows once again how behaviors of various life forms are retained over vast amounts of time, and continues to give us insights into the ecology of ancient ecosystems.”

Dragonflies are one of the world’s more colorful, interesting and successful insects, Poinar said, having managed to survive for a very long time. This is the oldest fossil ever found in amber, but other stone fossil specimens of dragonflies date back as much as 300 million years, including some that were huge, with wingspans up to three feet.

Amber is a semi-precious stone that originates as the sap from certain trees. Later fossilized through millions of years of pressure, it’s unique for the ability to capture and preserve in near-lifelike form small plant, animal or insect specimens that provide data on ancient ecosystems.

“Dragonflies are now, and probably were then, very quick, evasive, and greedy predators,” Poinar said. “They feed on other larvae and insects, mosquitoes, gnats, lots of things. Some are quite beautiful, very popular with insect collectors. And some modern populations like to migrate regionally, going south to mate.”

But as the new amber specimen shows, dragonflies are now and for a long time have also been prey, particularly of small lizards. Young and hatchling dinosaurs also probably dined on them, Poinar said.

The quick and merciless battle preserved in this stone took place in the Early Cretaceous somewhere between 97 million to 110 million years ago in the jungles of the Hukawng Valley of Burma, now known as Myanmar. The dragonfly — with one notably missing part — is preserved almost perfectly. Only the foot and tail of a small lizard remains in the stone, presumably as the animal was trying to flee.

“It’s unfortunate we don’t have the entire specimen of the lizard, because it probably had the dragonfly’s head in its mouth,” Poinar said. “Both died when they were trapped in the tree sap in the middle of this duel.”

Like a never-ending feud, these battles are still going on today. Scientists have documented in some sites near waterfalls in Costa Rica that there are many dragonflies of a certain species. But if lizards are present, there are no dragonflies — it appears they all get eaten.

Sometimes things change. Sometimes they don’t.


Desperate Female Spiders Fight by Different Rules

 If you thought women’s pro wrestling was a cutthroat business, jumping spiders may have them beat. In most animals the bigger, better fighter usually wins. But a new study of the jumping spider Phidippus clarus suggests that size and skill aren’t everything — what matters for Phidippus females is how badly they want to win.

Found in fields throughout North America, nickel-sized Phidippus clarus is a feisty spider prone to picking fights. In battles between males, the bigger, heavier spider usually wins. Males perform an elaborate dance before doing battle to size up the competition. “They push each other back and forth like sumo wrestlers,” said lead author Damian Elias of the University of California at Berkeley.

Jumping spider females fight by different rules than males. For females size and skill aren’t everything — what matters is how badly they want to win. (Credit: Photo by Damian Elias)

This fancy footwork allows males to gauge how closely matched they are before escalating into a full-blown fight. “Males rarely get to the point where they solve things by fighting,” said co-author Carlos Botero of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, NC. “Before the actual fight there’s a lot of displaying. This allows them to resolve things without injuring themselves.”

But when the researchers watched female fights, they found that females fight by different rules. They skip the preliminaries and go straight for the kill. “Males have a more gentlemanly form of combat, whereas in females it’s an all-out fight,” said Elias. “At the drop of a hat they start bashing and biting each other.”

And unlike male combat, female feuds were often fatal. “They don’t give up, even when their opponent is beating them to a pulp,” said Botero. “They keep going until one of them is dead, or severely injured.”

The researchers were unable to predict which female would win based on size or strength. “Nothing we could measure predicted which one would come out on top. That was really unexpected,” said Elias.

At first, the researchers wondered if victory went not to the bigger fighter, but to the owner of the battlefield. “In a lot of animals one of the things that determines whether they win a fight is whether they’re on their own territory,” Elias said.

Phidippus clarus spiders live in nests they build from silk and rolled up leaves. While males are nomads, wandering from nest to nest in search of mates, females generally stick to one nest and guard it against intruders.

To test the idea that in turf wars the rightful owner typically wins, the researchers set up a series of fights between resident and intruder females. But when they put pairs of females in an arena — one with a nest, and one that was homeless — the head of the household wasn’t always the winner. Instead, the female most likely to win was the one closer to reproductive age.

“The ones that were closer to maturation fought harder,” said Botero. “They were more motivated and valued the nest more strongly.”

Why might that be?

Before a spider is ready to reproduce, she must first shed her hard outer skin and grow to adult size through a process known as molting. “They’re very vulnerable to predators at that time,” said Elias. “If they’re really close to molting and they don’t have a nest at that moment, they’re unlikely to survive.”

Females need the safety of their nests to molt, mate, and rear their young. “Finding a good nest becomes more critical the closer they are to maturing,” said Elias.

“In female fights it’s not how big or heavy they are, but how badly they want it,” he added. “That trumps size and weight and whether it’s her territory. They fight until they have nothing left.”

The team’s findings were published online in the June 4 issue of Behavioral Ecology.

Other authors on this study include Maydianne Andrade of the University of Toronto, Andrew Mason of the University of Toronto, and Michael Kasumovic of the University of New South Wales.

Man uses a blowtorch to kill spider, burns down house

Posted by Chris Spags

black widow spider 214x214 Man uses a blowtorch to kill spider, burns down houseI don’t know much about pest control, but perhaps we can all learn from one Fresno man who attempted to use a blowtorch to deal with his spider problem, with predictable results.

The Fresno fire department went on a call Friday for a somewhat-normal fire in a home’s garage. But the reason for the fire was most uncommon.

A Fresno Fire Department spokeswoman says that the fire began when one of the people in the whom saw several black widows in the home. In order to get rid of the spiders, he took a homemade open-flame blowtorch to ignore a fire.

The fire ignited on a combustible material, causing a fire that severely damaged the garage and resulted in the home’s five inhabitants being displaced.

No one was injured by the fire.

Well no one except, I would presume, the spiders. Because if they survived that one, I can’t imagine they’ll be very pleased. This is precisely how low-budget horror movies titled Spider Attack 3D begin.

Put down that blow torch and call Beucher & Son to get rid of those horrible spiders!   

Call Now – 727-388-6759

Mouse found baked into loaf of bread

Article form the

Photo: SWNS
The loaf of Hovis bread with the mouse

The loaf of Hovis bread with the mouse     Photo: SWNS

Stephen Forse, 41, spotted the rodent squashed into the crusts of the Hovis Best of Both loaf.

The animal was missing its tail, raising fears it might already have been eaten.

Premier Foods, which makes the bread, was fined £16,821.14 after the firm admitted it had failed to ensure all stages of food production were protected against contamination.

Oxford Crown Court heard how Mr Forse, from Kidlington, Oxon., bought the £1 loaf from his local Tesco store in January last year.

He took the loaf home and was making cheese sandwiches for his six-year-old twins Matthew and Jonathan and daughter Hannah, eight, when he noticed the 4cm long animal squashed into the corner of the crusts.

Mr Forse, a police driving instructor, said: ”I noticed a dark coloured object imbedded in the corner of three or four slices.

”Initially I thought it was where the dough had not mixed properly prior to baking.

”As I looked closer I saw that the object had fur on it.

”I continued to prepare some sandwiches for the children from another loaf of bread that was in the fridge, checking carefully each slice in turn as I still felt quite shaken.

”As I was feeling ill I couldn’t face eating anything myself. I sat with the children as they ate theirs.

”My eight-year-old daughter actually commented at one point ‘why aren’t you eating anything daddy?’ to which I just replied that I wasn’t hungry.”

Mr Forse gave the loaf to environmental health officers who took it away for forensic analysis.

At a hearing on Friday Premier Foods pleaded guilty to failing to ensure all stages of food production were protected against contamination.

They also admitted failing to maintain a robust pest management system at its British Bakeries site in Mitcham, London.

Council technical officer Aileen Smith said: ”Mice harbour disease, particularly salmonella which can result in severe diarrhoea, vomiting, fever and can be fatal to children, the elderly or those with a compromised immune system.”

Council vice chairman George Reynolds added: ”We just cannot tolerate sloppy standards when people’s health is concerned.

”I cannot imagine what this must have been like for Mr Forse and his family but I am thankful, at least, that their health appears not to have been affected.”

Tesco yesterday declined to comment.

Premier Foods is Britain’s largest food producer, with an estimated 99 per cent of UK households buying their products and 47.2million people consuming their food.

A spokesman said: ”We apologise profusely for the distress caused as a result of this isolated incident.”

He said production was stopped when the firm was told of the find and there had been a ‘thorough investigation’.

He added: ”There was no evidence of mice within the bakery and no history of any similar issues.”