Nothing keeps the mosquitoes away quite as well as DEET, but it's not the most innocuous of substances – besides stinking, it also melts plastic and synthetic fabrics, plus it's even been linked to problems in users' central nervous systems. It can also be prohibitively expensive for use in developing nations. Thanks to research being conducted at the University of California, Riverside, however, a new generation of non-toxic but highly-effective repellants may be on its way. Read More
Not having air conditioning in my house, here's something I didn't know: the inner surfaces of air conditioner ventilation pipes are often covered in cockroaches. Nice. In order to keep the roaches out of those pipes – along with keeping other insects out of other places – scientists from Germany's University of Freiburg have developed new bio-inspired surface coatings that even sticky-footed bugs can't cling to. Read More
Among the mechanical components not found in nature is the spur gear. That is, until now. Zoologists of the University of Cambridge have discovered that the juvenile form of the leaf-hopper Issus coleoptratus has a set of gear-like linkages between the two jumping legs to synchronize the legs during a jump. Read More
Flies are usually considered unwelcome guests in the kitchen, but one industrial designer is aiming to turn them into a renewable food source. Katharina Unger's Farm 432 concept is a fly-breeding device for home use that continually collects fly larva as a protein source for less squeamish diners. As unappetizing as it may sound, the designer hopes that convincing the Western world to add insects to its diet could help increase the planet's overall food supply. Read More
Depending on what part of the world you live in, mosquitoes can range from being an annoyance, to acting as carriers of life-threatening diseases such as malaria and West Nile virus. Sprays containing deet do a fairly decent job of keeping the mozzies at bay, but they’re also highly toxic. Less-nasty sprays, bracelets and other devices are also available, although (as I can attest to from personal experience) they tend not to be very effective. Now, however, a group of California-based entrepreneurs are developing what could be the ultimate deterrent – the Kite Mosquito Patch. Read More
It's summertime in the Northern Hemisphere, and that means the bugs are out – specifically, ticks. In light of the ensuing infestation, otherwise known as the annual repopulation, three professors at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) have crossed the business of pest control with the world of robotics by last month testing their robotic "tick rover" to determine its efficiency at removing the blood suckers from the yard. Read More
It has long been believed that detecting carbon dioxide was one of the ways that mosquitoes target their human prey. But the fact that mosquitoes tend to favor certain people over others indicates that some other odor also plays a part in the attraction. Researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) have genetically engineered mosquitoes to alter their sense of smell, which could provide the understanding required to block the pesky pests' attraction to humans. Read More
Robots are getting down to the size of insects, so it seems only natural that they should be getting insect eyes. A consortium of European researchers has developed the artificial Curved Artificial Compound Eye (CurvACE) which reproduces the architecture of the eyes of insects and other arthropods. The aim isn't just to provide machines with an unnerving bug-eyed stare, but to create a new class of sensors that exploit the wide field of vision and motion detecting properties of the compound eye. Read More
Almost since the beginning of their existence, robots have taken inspiration from one of nature's wonders: insects. Technological limitations typically prevent these robots from matching the small size of their many-legged muses, resulting in gargantuan examples like Festo's BionicOpter dragonfly. In stark contrast is Harvard's RoboBee, which is the first in the world to demonstrate controlled flight by an insect-sized robot. Read More
Contrary to what certain cartoons may have us believe, insects’ compound eyes don’t produce a grid of tiny identical images. Instead, each of their many optical facets supply one unique section of a single composite image – sort of like the individual pixels that make up one digital image. Now, a team of scientists has replicated that eye structure, to create an ultra-wide-angle camera. Read More