What's really going on inside an insect-munching venus flytrap

  • Venus flytraps rarely catch flies, despite their name. Instead, they mostly catch spiders, ants, and other critters that can’t fly.
  • The trap itself is made of modified leaves containing three trigger hairs. When a spider walks by and brushes against these hairs, it sends off an electrical signal.
  • That signal sets off a countdown. If the prey escapes in under 30 seconds, nothing else happens. But if it brushes against another hair, the trap slams shut and the Venus flytrap will begin to digest the insect.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: When it comes to deadly predators, plants generally don’t come to mind. After all, they’re typically at the bottom of the food chain. But the Carolinas are home to one vicious vegetable: The Venus flytrap.

Using its famous trap, it can catch prey faster than you can blink. But what happens next…inside a Venus flytrap?

Funny thing about Venus flytraps: They don’t usually trap flies. In fact, winged insects only make up 5% of their diet.

Sorenson: We really ought to be calling it the Carolina spider trap. Because it’s only found in a little piece of the Carolinas, and it mostly eats spiders and ants.

Narrator: But regardless of the species, that bug is going to have a bad day. It all starts when the victim wanders into the trap, possibly lured by the bright-red hue or fragrant scent. Or maybe they’re just unlucky.

Sorenson: We think the spiders mostly just blunder.

Narrator: That trap itself looks like an open mouth. It’s made of two pads attached to a hinge.

Sorenson: On each one of those pads there are usually three little trigger hairs in a triangle. And those trigger hairs are very, very sensitive to being disturbed.

Narrator: The first time the spider knocks into a hair, it sets off an electrical signal, sort of like the electrical currents in your brain. That signal starts the countdown.

If the bug escapes within 20 to 30 seconds, nothing else happens. That way, the plant doesn’t waste energy. But if the bug brushes against another hair… SNAP! In just 100 milliseconds — about four times faster than you can blink — the trap slams shut.

Sorenson: The trap rapidly goes from convex to concave on each side, and the long little spikes on the rims of the pads interlock to form kind of a cage.

Narrator: Now, the spider isn’t happy with this turn of events. So, it tries to escape, which is exactly what the plant wants.

The more the spider struggles, the more it knocks into the trigger hairs, the tighter the trap closes. And after an hour or two, the trap locks completely. Cells on the edges of the pads secrete moisture, which glues the edges together to form an airtight seal. Suddenly, that trap isn’t a mouth anymore.

It’s a stomach. Digestive juices flood into the closed compartment, dissolving the spider’s soft organs. And the trap’s lining sucks up that nutrient-rich slushy.

After about a week, all that’s left is an empty husk — the spider’s exoskeleton. Next, the trap opens and the husk tumbles out. The trap’s now ready for its next meal.

But bugs aren’t the only food the trap captures. Just like leaves on other plants, the trap’s surface contains a green pigment that lets it convert the sun’s energy to sugar through a process called photosynthesis. So then, why bother with the bugs?

Well, Venus flytraps live in acidic, waterlogged soil that doesn’t have many nutrients. So instead of slurping up nitrogen and phosphorus through its roots, it needs to borrow some from the bugs. That explains why it shares its home with other hungry carnivorous plants like pitcher plants and sundews.

Which means one thing: North Carolina is not a fun place to be a bug.

Source: Read Full Article


Terrifying new wasp turns spiders into zombies

A terrifying new species of parasitic wasp that transforms its victims into suicidal zombies has been found in the Amazon.

The nightmare bug turns spiders into helpless drones who abandon their own colonies to do the wasp’s bidding — before its larvae eats them alive.

The gruesome discovery — made in Ecuador — was uncovered by scientists from the University of British Columbia in Canada.

They say the wasp’s behavior is a particularly “hardcore” form of hijacking, which is when one animal manipulates another.

After leaving their homes, the spiders are made to spin a special cocoon for the wasp larvae which will then hatch and eat the spider. The findings were published in Ecological Entomology.

“Wasps manipulating the behavior of spiders has been observed before, but not at a level as complex as this,” said Philippe Fernandez-Fournier of the UBC’s department of zoology.

“Not only is this wasp targeting a social species of spider but it’s making it leave its colony, which it rarely does.”

The parasitic wasp targets a spider called anelosimus eximius known for living in large colonies and cooperating with others to capture prey and raise their young.

Researchers noticed some of the spiders were infected with a parasitic larva and were seen wandering away from their colonies to spin enclosed webs.

“It was very odd because they don’t normally do that, so I started taking notes,” said Fernandez-Fournier.

It was then the stunned scientists noticed the larvae belonged to an unknown species of Zatypota wasp.

“These wasps are very elegant looking and graceful,” said Samantha Straus, co-author of the study and a PhD student in OBC’s department of zoology.

“But then they do the most brutal thing.”

A female wasp first lays an egg on a spider’s abdomen which then hatches and starts feeding off the spider’s blood-like hemolymph while getting bigger and slowly taking over its host’s body.

Then the spider deserts its colony to create a cocoon for the larva — before waiting to be fully devoured by the wasp’s young that then enters the protective cocoon and emerges fully grown 10 days later.

“This behavior modification is so hardcore,” Straus said.

Source: Read Full Article


Insects invading Virginia and Pennsylvania could be 'most destructive species in 150 years'

Spotted lanternfly can harm trees and crops such as grapes and hops.

An invasive insect species native to China, India and Vietnam is posing a problem in at least two states.

The spotted lanternfly is harming crops in Winchester, Virginia, WDVM reported. The Pennsylvania-based Churchville Nature Center said the creatures were also spotted for the first time on its property Thursday.


"We are sad to report that we have had our first sighting of the spotted lanternfly on our property today," the center announced on Facebook. "If it is new to you, this invasive plant hopper is threatening the forests of the northeast as well as the lumber and agricultural industries. Please keep an eye out for the insect."

The species poses a threat to agriculture and “has the ability to greatly impact the grape, hops and logging industries,” the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture warned.

“The insect causes damage to plants because of its method of feeding, the rapid buildup of large populations and the production of honeydew, a by-product of their feeding activity that serves as a medium for fungal growth. [Spotted lanternfly] can also be a nuisance pest to homeowners when found in large numbers,” the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said in a statement when the species was first detected in the state in February.

In February, Penn State confirmed it was teaming up with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to "tackle what could be the most destructive species in 150 years," the spotted lanternfly.

While these insects aren't known to harm humans, the pests raise concerns ahead of the holiday season. Spotted lanternflies may lay their eggs on Christmas trees which could then hatch inside homes, the Philly Voice reported.


Freshly laid eggs “have a grey mud-like covering which can take on a dry cracked appearance over time,” the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture said, encouraging anyone who sees the masses to scrape it off.

Any sightings of spotted lanternfly eggs, which can be killed with alcohol or hand sanitizer, should be reported to state wildlife officials.

Source: Read Full Article

World News

Massive Asian hornets ‘the size of MICE’ are spreading across the UK

Massive hornets the size of mice have been spotted flying around Kent for the first time.

These honeybee-killing insects were spotted foraging on ivy in Dungeness, marking the eighteenth UK sighting to be confirmed by experts this year and the first in the coastal county.

The last confirmed case was reported in Guildford following eight cases in September.

Asian hornets, native to China, feed on bees and wasps and can be about the same size as baby mice.

They can grow to around an inch long and the latest sightings in Kent have sparked fears because only a couple of hornets could kill an entire hive of bees.

The sighting on Monday in Kent has prompted a government warning for people to be vigilant.

Chief plant health officer Nicola Spence, from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), urged people to report any potential cases of Asian hornets.

She said: “By ensuring we are alerted to possible sightings as early as possible, we can take swift and effective action to stamp out the threat posed by Asian hornets.

“While the Asian hornet poses no greater risk to human health than a bee, we recognise the damage they can cause to honey bee colonies and other beneficial insects.

“Please continue to look out for any Asian hornets and if you think you’ve spotted one report your sighting through the Asian hornet app or online.”

The National Bee Unit is investigating the case in Kent and will be providing updates.

A spokesperson said: “The hornets have been seen foraging on Ivy.

“Please keep up your vigilance by continuing to monitor for any hornet activity, especially on flowering forage.

"Further information will become available as and when the situation develops."

Two Asian hornets were identified on the nature reserve on Monday and caught by the Dungeness Bird Observation.

The bee-hunting insects arrived in France in 2014 where they spread rapidly and have destroyed entire insect colonies including the European honey bee.

Experts fear if Asian hornet queens survive the winter, they will emerge to create new colonies and work has already begun to track down and destroy their nests.

The worker hornets measure about 20 mm in length and have distinctive yellow legs, a dark velvety body and a yellow or orange band on the fourth abdomen section.

Defra is urging returning holidaymakers to check their luggage before entering the UK to help minimise the risk to bees.

A spokesperson said: “There have been cases where Asian hornets have been found in bags or camping equipment of travellers returning from those countries, particularly in spring and late autumn.

“Before returning to the UK you should check your luggage, especially if it’s been kept outside during your trip.

“If you do spot an Asian hornet on your return to the UK you should report it with the dates and places you went on holiday, and ideally a photo of the insect."

Suspected sightings can be reported using the Asian Hornet Watch app.

Thankfully, the world’s largest species of hornet, the Asian Giant Hornet, has not yet been spotted in the UK.

They have a three-inch wingspan and are about the same size as a thumb.

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World News

Food with rat hair and maggots – what Brexit trade deal with Trump could be like

Noddles infested with rat hair, insects in chocolates and orange juice complete with maggots – these are just some of the fears of what a post- Brexit trade deal with the US could bring.

Producers in the States stick to a ‘Defects Levels Handbook’ which sets out the maximum number of ‘foreign bodies’ that can be in food products on the market, according to reports.

This reportedly outlines that a 25-gram jar of paprika can have 11 rodent hairs in it.

Up to 30 insect fragments are ‘acceptable’ in a 100g jar of peanut butter.

And for each pound of ginger, 3mg of mammalian excreta (rat or mouse droppings) would reportedly pass the test.

US producers are also allowed one maggot per 250mm of orange juice, Business Insider reports.

You could also find two maggots 100g of tomato juice or tomato pizza paste.

The US law also reportedly allows 60 insect fragments per 100g of chocolate and up to 100 for 10g of nutmeg.

Three percent of canned peaches and 5 percent of currants can be infested or eaten into by worms in the US, the report states.

The US Food Defeat Handbook says mould is an acceptable feature of a wide variety of food – including certain percentages of olives and cranberry sauce, Business Insider adds.

This is in contrast with EU regulations, which give no allowable limits of ‘foreign bodies’ in food products.

"Clearly, The Tories have some very unpleasant surprises for UK dinner tables if they have their way with a fast-track trade deal with the United States," Bill Esterson, Labour MP and Shadow Trade Minister, told Business Insider.

Caroline Lucas, ex-leader of the Green party and supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, added: "No-one voted for a Brexit that waters down the safety and hygiene of our food — but that’s what the government is pursuing."

But Liam Fox, UK Trade Secretary, has denied Britain will compromise its food standards post Brexit.

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Why flight attendants spray inside plane cabins moments before take-off

When Brits fly back from certain holiday destinations, flight attendants walk up and down the plane’s aisles and spray a liquid over passengers’ heads.

It happens moments before take-off once holidaymakers are buckled into their seats and ready for the hours-long journey home.

But many are left wondering what it is that they’re spraying into the air within the confined space and whether it’s dangerous to inhale.

It can be a confusing experience if you don’t know what’s going on, but this explainer from the Manchester Evening News will fill you in.

Roy Fitzgerald, 64, from Salford, was onboard a Jet2 flight from Funchal in Madeira last month when the crew announced that the cabin was going to be sprayed with insecticide.

The passengers were told to close their eyes as the flight attendant marched up and down spritzing the air at random interludes.

He said: "When we were ready to depart, they just announced over the tannoy that they were going to spray insecticide. I have been on loads of flights and it’s never happened before.

"This flight attendant came round with a spray in each hand. He sprayed it into the air.

"It didn’t bother me, I just wondered what it was. We thought it was weird."

Why do they spray the inside of the aircraft?

The process is known as disinsection and is required on flights to and from certain destinations to prevent infectious and contagious diseases, a Civil Aviation Authority spokesman said.

It’s mainly sprayed in countries where diseases such as malaria and yellow fever are spread by insects, including mosquitoes.

The World Health Organisation has a set of guidelines outlining when and where it is necessary.

Which countries are affected?

There are a range of countries, such as Cuba, Jamaica, India, Australia and New Zealand, where the aircraft is routinely disinsected before take off.

The World Health Organisation website says: "There have been a number of cases of malaria affecting individuals who live or work in the vicinity of airports in countries where malaria is not present, thought to be due to the escape of malaria-carrying mosquitoes transported on aircraft.

"Some countries, e.g. Australia and New Zealand, routinely carry out disinsection to prevent the inadvertent introduction of species that may harm their agriculture."

In 2012, there was a Dengue outbreak in Madeira – the first outbreak of such disease since the 1920s

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What is the procedure used to disinsect the aircraft?

There are three procedures that are used to disinsect the aircraft listed on the World Health Organisation website.

They include

1. Treatment of the interior of the cabin using an insecticide spray just before take-off.

2. A spray of the interior of the aircraft before passengers get on board using a residual-insecticide aerosol, as well as inflight treatment with a spray before landing.

3. Regular application of a residual insecticide to all internal surfaces of the aircraft, except food preparation areas.

Is it dangerous?

The website says that the spray poses no risk to health, despite passengers sometimes complaining of feeling ill after it’s sprayed.

It states: "Passengers are sometimes concerned about their exposure to insecticide sprays during air travel, and some have reported feeling unwell after spraying of aircraft for disinsection.

"However, WHO has found no evidence that the specified insecticide sprays are harmful to human health when used as recommended."

Referring to the trip made by Roy in September, a Jet2 spokeswoman said: "The aircraft was sprayed in accordance with WHO guidelines."

Source: Read Full Article

World News

Plague of ‘monster’ mosquitoes surrounds family trapped inside car

A plague of mosquitoes has been terrorising families in the US leaving terrified people trapped in cars and houses.

The swarms of ‘monster’ insects have been described as like something from ‘a bad science fiction movie’.

A terrifying video was shot by mum-of-two Cassie Vadovsky, after she returned home from picking her four-year-old daughter up from school in North Carolina, US.

"This is what we are having to deal with, I hope not everyone is having to deal with this, it’s so bad," she says.

The mum then warns her little one not to open the door, so she can prepare to make a swift run for the front door.

Another resident in North Carolina reported being swamped as he stepped out of his home to water his plants.

Robert Phillips said he was almost immediately swarmed by aggressive mosquitoes.

Phillips said, one type of mosquito was among the biggest he’s ever seen — at least 3/8 of an inch long.

“A bad science fiction movie,” he said. “They were inundating me, and one landed on me.

"It was like a small blackbird. I told my wife, ‘Gosh, look at the size of this thing.’ I told her that I guess I’m going to have to use a shotgun on these things if they get any bigger.”

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According to the Fayettevil Observer, Mr Phillips is among many residents reporting a mosquito outbreak unlike any they have ever experienced since the remnants of Hurricane Florence moved through the area.

The storm’s rainwater − nearly 20 inches in some areas − has created breeding grounds for large and aggressive mosquitoes.

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Woman says fire ant stings nearly killed her

A North Carolina woman never thought completing a simple task such as yard work would result in a near-death experience.

Donna Kearns, of Archdale, was cutting through tall grass with a weed eater Saturday when she accidentally hit a mound of fire ants. The ants then “exploded” all over her, delivering sharp stings that “felt like pins going through you,” she told FOX 8.

Panicked, Kearns told the news station she attempted to wash the ants off with water but began to feel ill before collapsing in her yard.

Moments later, Kearns, who was experiencing allergic reactions from the stings, was saved by a couple who drove by her home and saw her sprawled in the yard. Emergency officials were called and Kearns was rushed to the hospital soon after.

Fire ants are known to sting, especially when their nest is disturbed and the creatures feel threatened. In fact, according to Healthline, the ants attack in “swarms,” quickly climbing their way up legs and other “vertical surfaces.”

“Fire ants are notorious for their painful stings. A floating fire ant colony is 10s to 100s of thousands of stinging ants out in the open. Unlike honeybees, an individual fire ant is able to deliver multiple stings,” Adrian Allen Smith, research biologist and head of the Evolutionary Biology & Behavior Lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, previously told Fox News.

Fire ant stings can be deadly. Anyone can develop an allergic reaction to the stings, though those who are stung for the first time have a higher chance of developing a more serious reaction.

After spending two days recovering in the hospital, Kearns says she’s on the mend.

“It was meant to be, I guess it wasn’t my time to go. She was in the right place at the right time, and thank God she stopped and I love her to death,” she told FOX 8.

Source: Read Full Article

World News

Mum’s fury as baby daughter stung ‘all over’ as landlords fail to sort out wasps

A furious mum says her living room has become an "insect graveyard" and her 13-month-old daughter has been stung all over because her council landlord hasn’t dealt with a wasp infestation.

Starrain Johnson claims she and her children have been forced to stay out of the lounge because it has become overrun with wasps.

The problem at her Huddersfield home started around two months ago, the Huddersfield Daily Examiner reports.

On Tuesday morning Ms Johnson, who shares the flat with her 13-year-month old daughter Ryiesha and son Rajay, 12, discovered hundreds of wasps crawling and flying around her living room.

She believes a wasps’ nest may have been dislodged before it fell and split open.

Ms Johnson, 39, said: "I heard a rumble like something had fallen over and the wasps were coming out of everywhere."

And she continued: "I’ve been reporting the problem since July and nothing has been done. They only came and looked last week and said they couldn’t do anything.

"It’s rubbish. I have a young child and there’s an infestation and they haven’t even made an attempt to get rid of the wasps or give me somewhere to live temporarily."

In the meantime, Ms Johnson has been trying in vain to slow the stream of insects by taping up gaps and spraying the wasps with insecticide.

While the living room door is kept shut the insects have managed to get into other rooms, Ms Johnson said.

She says she and her son have been stung while baby Ryiesha has been stung all over.

Ms Johnson said: "It’s irritating but I’m worried for my daughter."

She added: "I woke up and found them in my bedroom stuck to the window.

"All I can hear is buzzing and I can feel the wasps touching me."

Ms Johnson said she reported the infestation to Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing in July.

But the organisation, which manages Kirklees Council’s social housing stock, failed to fix the problem, Ms Johnson said.

When the Examiner visited on Wednesday the living room floor and window ledge were covered in hundreds of wasps.

Ms Johnson, a support worker, said she had also contacted Kirklees Council pest control and other council services. But so far, she says, nothing has been done.

The Examiner has contacted Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing and is awaiting a response.

Source: Read Full Article


How to get rid of mosquito bites – tricks which will make them disappear quicker

The summer is just perfect for sitting in the garden late into the evening with a few cheeky drinks.

But there’s one big down side to spending your time outside in the warmer months – creepy crawlies.

And the worst of them all is the mosquito.

Those sneaky creatures are incredibly good at biting and stealing our blood without us even knowing, as they produce an anaesthetic when they bite.

While some people can escape without attack, others are targeted by every mosquito within a 1000 mile radius while wearing 100 per cent Deet.

They’re incredibly annoying and can be itchy for days.

They also don’t look very nice, and many find themselves avoiding skirts, shorts or dresses until they’ve gone away.

So we’ve pulled together some tips and tricks to get rid of those annoying little bites as quickly as possible.

How long do mosquito bites last?

Everyone reacts differently to mosquito bites, and it takes different lengths of time for them to disappear.

But normally the bite will last about three days.

However, this can increase drastically if a blister forms and bursts, as it will have to scab over to heal properly.

What do mosquito bites look like?

The bite normally causes a small red lumps on the skin.

Some people may also develop fluid-filled blisters, which may burst and then scab over.

How do you get rid of mosquito bites and are there any natural remedies?

  • Take antihistamines – there are lots of tablets and medicines you can take to help relieve the annoying symptoms
  • Apply ice – the extreme cold reduces the amount of blood flowing to the bite area, which can reduce the swelling and itching
  • Soak a tea bag in cold water and place it on the bite – this sounds a bit off, but it can really help calm the itching
  • Combine baking soda and water and apply it to the bite a few times a day. This should help the swelling and the itching
  • Take an oatmeal bath
  • Apply a cold, wet cloth to the bite area for a few minutes to relieve the swelling
  • Push down on the bite with your fingernail for 10 seconds to temporarily calm the itching
  • Taking painkillers can also help the itching
  • Putting a bandage over the bite can prevent you from scratching it, which will hopefully means it doesn’t open and scab over.

Are mosquito bites dangerous?

In the UK, mosquitoes don’t cause major harm but if you’re travelling to other parts of the world it’s a very different story.

In some countries they carry illnesses such as malaria, which can be fatal.

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According to the NHS website, you should visit your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms after being bitten abroad:

  • fever
  • chills
  • headaches
  • vomitting.

Why do some people get more mosquito bites?

Some people don’t have to worry about bites at all, and many get bitten once or twice if there are lots of mosquitoes around.

But other people will be covered in bites as soon as they step outside.

There are lots of things which make some people more appealing to mosquitoes than others.

These include:

  • People with type O blood
  • As are people who drink more beer
  • Pregnant women are more attractive to mosquitoes – especially those carrying malaria.
  • Having more bacteria on your skin can be a factor too.

Source: Read Full Article


Signs you’ve got bed bugs – and how to get rid of them

Ugh, the slow-dawning and horrifying realisation that you have bed bugs.

The tiny bloodsucking creatures love to live in the crevices between bed frames and mattresses.

Bedbugs feed exclusively on blood, crawling out from their hiding places at night to bite you. They aren’t thought to transmit diseases, though.

Bedbugs tend to prefer fabric or wood over plastic and metal, and often hide near to where you sleep – for example, under the mattress or along the headboard.

They can surprise you though – by hanging out away from the bed in other furniture, along the edges of carpets and even behind mirrors – or inside smoke alarms.

Although difficult to get rid of, it’s not impossible. Here’s a guide to working out if you’ve got bed bugs, and how to treat the problem as soon as possible.

How can I tell if I have bed bugs?

The quicker you can act to treat the problem, the easier it will be, so look out for these seven signs:

What do bed bugs look like?

Bed bugs are nocturnal, but they prefer to feed on a deeply sleeping host, which for human beings is in the few hours before sunrise.

These appear as itchy, red welts that can be flat on the skin or raised.

The majority of bites will appear on the chest or back, neck, hands, feet or face. However, bed bugs can bite any area of exposed skin.

The bites tend to appear in clusters as they crawl around testing areas multiple times to find the best source of blood. So the bites can show up in groups, rows or zig-zag lines.

The bites may cause a rash or fluid-filled blisters. In more severe cases, they can become infected with bacteria if scratched – signs of infection include pain, increasing redness and swelling

How do I treat bed bug bites?

A mild steroid cream or antihistamine can help relieve itchy bites.

You might need antibiotics for worse reactions – see your GP if you experience pain, redness, swelling or other signs of infection.

Signs and symptoms of bed bugs

1. Blood stains on bedding

You’re not going to like this, but you do need to know about it: when you move in your sleep and squash a blood-filled bed bug that’s just fed, it’ll leave little blood smears on your sheets, duvet covers an pilowcases.


Still, at least you’re getting closer to the truth…

2. Bed bug poo stains


These look like black felt tip marks on fabric. Usually found on the edges of mattresses, or on bedsheets.

These stains are digested blood – the bed bugs’ fecal matter.

Again, sorry. Rest assured, it sounds grim, but it isn’t dangerous.

Wipe the stains with a wet rag – if they smear, you’ve got a positive sighting for bed bug faeces.

3. Bed bug eggs and egg shells

Female bed bugs can deposit one to five eggs a day, and may lay 200 to 500 eggs in a bed bug’s lifetime.

Under normal room temperatures and with an adequate food supply, they can live for more than 300 days.

This is why taking quick action to treat the problem is best.

Bed bug eggs are translucent to pearly white in color and when first laid, are coated in a shiny film to help them stick to surfaces.

Bed bug eggs are shaped like a grain of rice and very, very tiny – around 1mm. Still visible to the naked eye, but a magnifying glass helps.

Empty shells will be less shiny and look flattened.

They’re more likely to be find where the bed bugs are hiding, especially on rough wood or fabric surfaces.

4. Bed bugs’ shed skin (or shells)

Don’t let this spoil the classic cinema snack for you, but bed bug shells look like tiny, translucent popcorn kernels.

After hatching, the bed bug starts life as a nymph. They look like adult bed bugs, except they’re smaller and lighter in colour.

As they mature, they’ll shed their skin 5 times, once at each new stage of development.

Look for the evidence in the usual bed bug hangout joints – box springs, mattresses, wooden furniture and framing, and so on.

5. What do bed bugs look like?

Spotting an adult bed bug going about its business in your home is one of the last ways you’ll become aware of an infestation, but it’s worth knowing what to look out for.

They’re brown, oval and flat, ranging in size from 4.5mm to as long as 7 or 8 mm when fed – approximately the size of an apple seed. They turn a reddish color after feeding – because they’re then swollen with blood.

6. The musty smell

You’ll know it if you ever sniff it – and your instincts will tell you it’s not good.

Bed bugs have glands that release pheromones when they’re disturbed, to warn the rest of the group.

The odour is musty and repellent.

Bad news: if you can smell them, you’ve got a severe infestation on your hands.

Slightly better news: if only a trained bed bug sniffing dog can find it, might be catching the problem early. Hopefully.

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How to treat or kill bed bugs?

So… looks like you’ve got bed bugs.

That quite literally sucks.

At least you’re sure now, though – now you can take action.

There are three steps to freeing yourself from the bed bug onslaught:

1. Strip your bed

Apart from possibly leading to unpleasant skin reactions, the bed bug bites are also keeping the pests alive, as they feed on your blood.

If they can’t feed, they can’t breed, keeping the infestation alive.

Strip your bed of all sheets, pillowcases, and other bedding, and seal them in plastic garbage bags to keep bed bugs from escaping and infesting other parts of your home.

Take the bags straight to the washing machine, and wash them using the hot water setting.

Then, dry the bedding on high heat if their tags allow it. This heat treatment will kill any bed bugs or eggs hiding in your bedding.

Use a vacuum cleaner to remove any bed bugs, shells, fecal droppings, or eggs that might be along the seams of your mattress, pillows, box spring, and along the cracks and crevices in the bed frame, headboard, and footboard.

Follow up the vacuuming with a high-pressure steamer to kill bed bugs and eggs hidden deep within furniture.

While the mattress and box spring are left to dry, spray down the joints of the bed frame, headboard, and footboard with a contact spray and residual spray.

Once the mattress and box spring are dry, encase them in sealed bed bug encasements.

2. Prevention

Move your bed away from any other points of contact, like walls, nightstands, and other furniture.

Tuck in or remove any hanging skirts or sheets, and remove any storage under the bed that is touching any part of the frame.

The only thing your bed should be touching is the floor via its legs. Place bed bug interceptors under each leg – they look like cups that the bed bugs fall into when trying to climb up the legs of the bed.

The cups will help you monitor how quickly the bed bug population in your home is dwindling as they lose access to feeding on your blood.

If your bed has a solid base rather than legs, you’re best off throwing it out.

3. Hunt and destroy all bed bugs in your home

Clothes, books, and other personal belongings shouldn’t be left on the floor, as they make treatment more difficult and add hiding places for bed bugs.

Seal them in garbage bags and store them in another room.

Any clothing that was picked up from the floor or removed from dresser drawers should be dried on high heat for at least 45 minutes.

Once treated, clothing that you don’t normally wear should be stored inside garbage bags outside of the infested room.

Then, vacuum and steam along baseboards, window sills, and the edge of the carpet.

Make sure you clean the vacuum and steam cleaners afterwards.

A portable bed bug heater can be used to clean items that can’t be washed or vacuumed, such as books, shoes or luggage.

You can also use bed bug sprays and powders to kill the pests in hard-to-reach areas.

Powders can be left undisturbed to do their work, but sprays will need to be reapplied every two weeks for a few months.

How do you get bed bugs?

Bed bugs can be transported easily in luggage, clothing and furniture.

Once in your home, they can quickly spread from room to room. They don’t jump or fly, but can crawl long distances.

Top tips to prevent bed bug infestations:

  • inspect your mattress and bed regularly for signs of an infestation, and get professional advice if you think you have bedbugs

  • avoid buying second-hand mattresses and carefully inspect second-hand furniture before bringing it into your home

  • keep your bedroom tidy and remove clutter

Bedbugs aren’t attracted to dirt, so they’re not a sign of an unclean home, but clearing up any clutter will reduce the number of places they can hide.

Once treated, they should be dead within a few weeks, depending on the severity of the infestation.

Have you ever successfully got rid of bed bugs?


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Butterfly lovers join David Attenborough in campaign to keep tabs on UK species

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Everything you need to know about insect stings and bites

The number of horseflies has rocketed in recent weeks as many pests and insects thrive in the heat.

Scarily, visitors to France are being urged to protect themselves against a growing spread of mosquitoes carrying Zika and dengue fever.

Here in Blighty, mosquitoes don’t carry tropical illnesses (yet!), but the number of calls to the NHS 111 helpline about insect bites has doubled in comparison to the same time last year, due to the hot weather.

And as with all bites and stings, they can trigger pain, itchiness and a risk of infection.

So why are some people more prone to attack? Can you reduce the risk? And is it possible to stop a nip turning nasty?

Here is everything you need to know…

Bites and stings are different things!

“A sting comes from the rear end of the insect and involves the injection of venom (a toxin), while a bite, where the insect injects saliva into the skin, comes from the front,” explains Dr James Logan, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“They also feel different. A sting often creates an immediate burning sensation and you’re usually aware of the insect nearby. Biting insects are often smaller (except horseflies) so are harder to spot.

“The injection of saliva can act both as an anticoagulant to stop your blood from clotting and an anaesthetic, so you don’t feel the bite immediately.”

Why do bugs bite and sting?

To survive! “There are two main categories – those that bite to reproduce, such as mosquitoes and ticks, and those that sting as a self-defence mechanism, like bees and wasps,” says bite expert Howard Carter. Interestingly, it’s only females that bite and sting.

Why do some people get bitten more than others?

“It’s all to do with genes and the way you smell,” says Dr Logan. “Some people produce natural repellents in their body odour which make them less attractive.”

Those who produce natural ‘attractors’, such as higher levels of chemicals like lactic acid, can attract mosquitoes from a distance of up to 115 feet, says herbalist and adviser to Puressentiel oils, Dr Chris Etheridge.

Studies also show that mosquitoes are attracted to people with blood group O, a higher metabolism and a higher carbon dioxide production rate.

“Mosquitoes are also attracted to bacteria on your skin, which may explain why they are drawn to ankles and feet, where bacteria can settle,” he adds. They like sweat and alcohol, too.

Why do some people react more than others?

“When you are bitten or stung, the body’s immune system is fired into action – producing a chemical called histamine to help protect the cells from infection,” explains Dr Logan. The histamine causes inflammation and swelling of the skin as the blood vessels expand, which can lead to itchiness. But how we react is unique and down to our own personal allergic response, explains Natalie Fisher, specialist dermatology nurse.

“The more histamine you release in response to the venom or saliva, the greater the reaction at the site of the bite or sting. If you suffer with hayfever, eczema or other allergies, then you are more likely to react to insect bites and stings than someone who doesn’t,” she says.

Some people may also have a mild allergic reaction to the actual saliva or venom which can lead to the area becoming swollen, red and painful, adds Superdrug expert Kathryn Granleese. These symptoms usually resolve within a week.

Those with sensitive skin, auto-immune conditions, such as Lupus, or a history of allergic reactions may also respond more severely. Extreme allergic reactions, known as anaphylaxis, can be potentially life-threatening.

Symptoms include weakness (caused by a drop in blood pressure), difficulty breathing, dizziness and swelling of the face or neck. If any of these occur, call 999 immediately.

Why do some bites or stings turn nasty?

“The skin’s main role is to act as a barrier,” explains Natalie. “Once the skin is broken from a bite or sting, bacteria can get in and cause complications, such as cellulitis.”

Bacteria can come from our own skin, from under fingernails (if we scratch) or even from the insect as it stings or bites, say experts.

And the danger shouldn’t be underestimated. “There are cases of people having to have limbs amputated because of infected bites,” warns Dr Logan.

Preventing stings…

“Wasps, bees and other insects only ever sting in desperation,” says Dave Goulson, Professor of Biology at the University of Sussex. “They usually land on humans in search of water or to investigate a smell.”

If you stay still and calm, they will lose interest and fly away, advise experts. If you flap your arms and scream, they may think they are under attack and sting in self-defence.

… and bites

Cover skin with long sleeves and trousers, especially between dawn and dusk when bugs are more active. Avoid florals, blacks, blues and greens and opt for light-coloured clothing, advises Howard.

Wear shoes (to avoid accidentally standing on bugs) and avoid strongly perfumed products.

Use air-conditioning or a fan – even outdoors. “Mosquitoes have a problem flying in even a slight breeze,” says Howard. Avoid sitting near ponds and paddling pools, which attract bugs.

Certain body odours also draw insects, so wash thoroughly and regularly.

Wear insect repellent. “The most effective repellents contain DEET, which is why it’s the most common active
ingredient in repellents,” explains Kate. “It needs to contain 20-50% and should provide protection for up to 12 hours.”

However, some people dislike its strong smell and toxicity – and studies also suggest that mosquitoes are becoming more tolerant of it.

An alternative option is Icaridin, or picaridin, a synthetic compound thought to equal repellents with 20% DEET. Try Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent (£8.99, ), which claims to be virtually odourless and evaporates quickly after applying.

Don’t forget to apply repellent to the ears, wrists and ankles where skin is thinner – leaving blood vessels closer to the surface, says Howard.

Prefer natural products? Try lemon eucalyptus (or PMD) repellents. Products include Incognito spray or roll-on (£8.49, ) or Avon’s So Soft Original Dry Oil spray (£2.50, ). Although it’s primarily a
moisturiser, customers (including the Royal Marines) swear by its insect-repelling powers.

Treating stings and bites

If the sting has been left behind (it will look like a small splinter), removing it quickly can interrupt the flow of venom. Flick it upwards with one scrape of a fingernail or credit card, advises The Anaphylaxis Campaign charity ( ). Avoid tweezers or squeezing as this will inject more venom.

Wash the site with soap and water to reduce the risk of bacterial infection. No water? Carry a travel bottle of Natrasan First Aid antiseptic spray (£7, ) for emergencies.

Apply a cold compress or ice pack for 10 minutes to reduce swelling and ease itching – and elevate limb if necessary.

Do not scratch! Not only will you spread the injected venom or trigger the production of even more histamine – meaning even more itchiness – but you also risk opening the sting or bite into a wound, increasing the risk of secondary infection, says Dr Logan.

There are remedies to reduce itching, swelling and pain. Anthisan Bite and Sting Cream (20g, £3.65 from pharmacies and supermarkets) contains a topical antihistamine to reduce pain, swelling and irritation.

For extreme itching, try crotamiton cream (for example, Eurax 30g, £3.50 ), which numbs skin receptors, or hydrocortisone cream (for example, Superdrug Hydrocortisone Bite & Sting Relief Cream 10g, £3.49), which reduces inflammation.

When to worry

Look for increased swelling, redness or pain around the site, or the appearance of pus – all signs of infection.

You might also develop a fever and feel unwell, in which case, seek medical help straightaway, advises Superdrug’s Kathryn Glaneese.

And finally…

“Watch out for tick bites,” urges Kate Taylor. “While they aren’t painful, they can sometimes carry a potentially serious infection called Lyme disease.”

Wear long trousers and repellent, choose footpaths over grass, check skin closely and look out for a ‘bull’s-eye’ rash.

Remove ticks using fine-tipped tweezers or a specialist tool, and contact your GP if you develop any further symptoms such as a fever.

For more information, go to .

I was terrified that gangrene would set in

I’d never had any problem with insect bites until 2010 when I was bitten on my upper arm while gardening. Despite trying all the usual creams and ointments, it worsened by the day. The wound oozed green gunk while the skin around it became hot and red.

People recoiled at the sight. My doctor prescribed antibiotics, but it took weeks to heal and left a nasty scar.

The following summer, I had an identical reaction to another bite on my lower arm.

Then, in 2014, again while gardening, I was bitten on my right thigh. Six weeks worth of antibiotics didn’t touch it. My thigh became swollen and purple, and I became seriously worried about gangrene. I felt hot, feverish and lethargic and dragged my leg when I walked.

The day before a dream trip to Glastonbury for my 40th birthday, my GP was so concerned she referred me to hospital. The consultant wanted to admit me for intravenous antibiotic treatment. Eventually, he discharged me with ultra-strong antibiotics and strict instructions to return immediately if I deteriorated.

While at Glastonbury, my thigh throbbed through my jeans. But, thankfully, within 24 hours, there was a marked improvement. Altogether, it took 10 weeks to heal.

I’m baffled as to why my body reacts. Nowadays, I’m hyper-vigilant about using repellent and covering up while gardening. If I am bitten, I’ll visit my GP immediately for extra-strong antibiotics before infection has a chance to set in.

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