Elsa Youngsteadt via North Carolina State University
Elsa Youngsteadt via North Carolina State University

NYC Insects Eat a Lot of Food Waste

Elsa Youngsteadt via North Carolina State University
Elsa Youngsteadt via North Carolina State University

According to new research by scientists at NC State University, insects and other arthropods play a major role in getting rid of New York City's trash: Assuming that bugs take a break in the winter, scientists calculated that the critters on the medians along 150 blocks in the Broadway/West Street corridor can consume more than 2100 pounds of discarded junk food every year. That's the equivalent of 60,000 hot dogs!

To figure out how much city arthropods ate, the researchers placed two measured piles of food—one in a cage, where only arthropods could get at it, and another out in the open—at certain sites on street medians and in parks, then returned after 24 hours to collect what food, if any, was left over.

On the first day of the study, the researchers left the piles in Highbridge Park in the city's Washington Heights neighborhood; they returned the next next day to find the cage—which had contained a piece of a Nilla Wafer, a Ruffles Original potato chip, and a slice of Oscar Meyer turkey hotdog—empty. "I thought there was a problem," Elsa Youngsteadt, NC State research associate lead author on the study, which was published in Global Change Biology, wrote in a blog post. "This was a cage cobbled together out of a fry basket from a restaurant supply store plus a square of hardware cloth, and it was firmly tacked to the ground with landscape staples. With its snug, quarter-inch mesh, it should let most insects move freely, while keeping vertebrates out."

Could mice or rats have somehow gotten into the cage? The researchers moved the cage, fortified it further, and returned the next day to find it swarming with ants—pavement ants (Tetramorium species), to be precise. "At sites where we found pavement ants, more got eaten," Youngsteadt wrote. "They love nesting near pavement, so they’re more common in medians than in parks. (But Highbridge Park had them, explaining its big, median-like appetite.)"

The researchers found that arthropods on medians ate two to three times more junk food than arthropods in parks. And by cleaning up after us, bugs are serving another purpose, too: They're helping to limit populations of animals like rats and pigeons, which also eat our food waste. "Both groups of animals (bugs and vertebrates) want the stuff we drop," Youngsteadt wrote. "In other words, they compete for it; what one group gets, the other group doesn’t. I would love to know how much of that uncaged food went to ants and how much to rats—and whether that depended on the kind of food, the size of the food, the time of day, the habitat. But those are goodies for another study someday."

This Buzzed-About Modular Hive System Lets You Keep Your Bees Indoors

Have you ever considered beekeeping as a hobby? Would you enjoy the ticking time-bomb sensation that comes with keeping hundreds of bees under glass inside your home, as opposed to in the backyard or at some other safe distance from your living room? If you answered yes to both of these questions, the BEEcosystem might be for you.

Described as an observational honeybee hive, these 21-inch by 18-inch hexagonal displays are intended to be wall-mounted and feature a clear glass front that lets users stare into the bee abyss, as Business Insider reports.

When mounted indoors, the units come with a clear transfer tube that runs outdoors via a window sash so bees can forage for pollen. (If the tube gets dislodged, an auto-closing mechanism ensures that bees don’t invade your home.) The company strongly recommends that the units be mounted on wall studs to accommodate the weight of the bees and their honey.

A dog observes a BEEcosystem panel

The BEEcosystem also has a sliding feed panel so that you can nourish your new colony with water and table sugar, as well as a light-filtering cover so the bees aren’t disturbed by artificial light sources in the evening. The units can also be chain-linked to accommodate growing populations

You might be wondering if—angry bees in your kitchen aside—this is actually a good idea. When the BEEcosystem was beginning to get press during its developmental stages in 2015, some beekeepers voiced concerns about whether the consistently warm temperatures of indoor living might influence a bee’s life cycle, or if they might be more prone to disease. Since there's not yet a surplus of people with bee displays mounted on their dining room walls, no one's quite sure yet, but you can see how the system works in the video below.

You can preorder the hives, which are expected to ship later this year, for $599 each.

[h/t Business Insider]

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The Very Disgusting Reason You Should Always Wash New Clothes Before Wearing Them

It’s sometimes assumed that clothing with a price tag still dangling from the sleeve can skip an initial wash. Someone else may have tried it on, sure, but they didn’t run a marathon in it. Why not just throw it in the closet as soon as you get home?

One big reason: lice. As The Independent reports, Donald Belsito, a professor of dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center, told NBC's Today show recently that clothing fresh off store racks can harbor infestations of lice, scabies, or fungus.

You might be familiar with head lice as the dreaded insects that occupy the scalp and give school health monitors cause for concern. Head lice can be transmitted via clothing and other fabrics, and anyone who tried on a shirt or dress before you did can be a carrier. While they only live for one or two days without a blood meal, that’s still enough time to cause problems if something is being tried on frequently.

Scabies is far more insidious. The mites are too small to see, but the allergic reaction they cause by burrowing into your skin to lay eggs will be obvious.

Both scabies and lice can be treated with topical solutions, but it’s better to kill them by washing new clothes in hot water. A good soak can also get rid of formaldehyde, a common chemical used in fabrics to help ward off mold in case stock gets wet in transit. Formaldehyde can cause allergic skin reactions. For all of these reasons, it’s best to hit the washing machine before those new pants ever hit your hanger.

[h/t Independent]


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