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Pests


— Health and Wellbeing

High-tech comb uses plasma to kill lice

As some parents will already know, head lice infestations can be very difficult to treat. Typically a toxic shampoo or lotion has to first be applied to the sufferer's scalp, after which the lice are removed by pulling a specialized comb through their hair. Louse eggs aren't harmed by such shampoos, however, so the treatment needs to be repeated once they've hatched. This means more nasty chemicals, and more discomfort for the child (or adult). That's why researchers at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Surface Engineering and Thin Films have developed an alternative, in the form of a comb that zaps the pests with cold plasma.

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— Environment

Dose of household vinegar found to kill off reef-eating starfish

The crown-of-thorns starfish poses a major threat to the wellbeing of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Wild, uncontrollable outbreaks over the past few decades have seen the pests multiply to devour vast amounts of coral, and as it stands there's little that can be done. One method conservationists have used to some effect is injecting them with ox bile, but researchers have now discovered that a simple dose of vinegar can do much the same job, promising to significantly cut the cost of an expensive battle to rid a World Heritage Site of this damaging pest.

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— Environment

Nanotech could rid cattle of ticks, with less collateral damage

If you've ever used tick medicine on your dog, then you're probably aware of how toxic the stuff is. Well, it's used on cows too, and it can end up in their meat, milk, or the surrounding environment. Fortunately, however, scientists at the National University of Mexico have developed a new type of tick treatment for cattle that is reportedly much less toxic than what's currently used.

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— Science

Scientists design a better bedbug trap

Having any amount of bedbugs in your home is not a good thing. The sooner that you know they're there, however, the easier it will be to exterminate all of them. With that in mind, scientists from Canada's Simon Fraser University have developed a method of luring the li'l bloodsuckers into traps, and then keeping them there so that their presence can be duly noted and addressed. Read More
— Science

Genetically-modified fruit flies could control wild populations by producing only sons

Mediterranean fruit flies are responsible for extensive damage to fruit and vegetable crops, not only in the Mediterranean region but also in Australia, North and South America. While existing methods of controlling them include the use of insecticides and sterilization, the University of East Anglia and biotech company Oxitec are pioneering what they claim is a greener and less expensive approach – they're genetically modifying male fruit flies to produce only male viable offspring. Read More
— Science

Effective, safe, and pleasant-smelling mosquito control could be on the way

Methods for controlling mosquitoes usually take two tacks: luring the mosquitoes into a trap away from humans, or discouraging them from biting at the source. Both methods can be expensive, unhealthy, cumbersome, or disgusting (the smell of rancid butter, anyone?) and generally aren’t scalable for the countries that suffer the most from mosquito-borne disease. New research explores how a mosquito’s neurons actually detect humans, and presents a promising class of chemicals, screened for safety, cost, and an appealing scent, some of which attract mosquitoes and others of which mask the smell of tasty human skin. Read More
— Science

Scientists find key to more effective DEET alternatives

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
— Science

New surface coatings give insects the slip

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
— Robotics

Tick-terminator proves a drag for bloodsucking pests

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
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