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Firefly Park Is Illuminated By 10,000 Lightning Bugs

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For plenty of people, a park populated by thousands of flying insects sounds more like a nightmare than a fun day out. But the concept becomes more appealing when it’s revealed that those bugs are all fireflies, whose bioluminescent properties make for a stunning visual display. The city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei province boasts such a firefly-themed park. At East Lake Peony Garden, visitors are invited to get up close and personal with thousands of the light-up creatures.

To make the existence of such a park possible, organizers imported 10,000 fireflies from neighboring Jiangxi province. Once the esteemed guests arrived, they were distributed among five distinct areas: a “zero-distance contact zone,” an observation zone, a flying zone, a larval breeding zone, and a “science popularization” area. The park also hosts specialized activities like dinosaur exhibits, camping festivals, family-friendly walks, and wilderness training programs for children—all amid the nighttime glow of the fireflies (or lightning bugs, if you prefer).

Due to fireflies’ need to hibernate in their larval stage during the winter months, their presence has to be a seasonal one. Wuhan’s firefly park opened for the first time this past May, with a crowd of approximately 5000 eager visitors hoping for a light show.

Chinese residents in particular might be drawn to the firefly park to see a natural experience that has grown increasingly rare over the years, as air pollution and environmental changes have caused the insect population to diminish. This appreciation, however, might have dire consequences for the fireflies themselves. Conservationists claim that any firefly attractions that rely on insects caught in the wild and transported to a habitat other than their own may lead to species endangerment. The harsh artificial lights and loud noises of human civilization can upset the firefly population, not to mention the potential harm done by visitors attempting to surreptitiously catch themselves a souvenir. As with so much of nature’s beauty, fireflies might be another thing best observed in the wild.

[h/t My Modern Met]

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The Very Disgusting Reason You Should Always Wash New Clothes Before Wearing Them
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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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These Fake Flowers Could Help Scientists Study At-Risk Bees
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If you haven't heard, the world's bees are having a crisis. According to one recent study, bee populations in some areas have plummeted by 75 percent in a quarter of a century. Some countries have introduced legislation banning certain pesticides in response to the news, but solving the complicated problem will likely require much more research. In order to gather better data on bee behavior, one new media artist has developed a machine that can give scientists a bug's-eye view.

As Co.Design reports, Michael Candy's Synthetic Pollenizer is designed to blend into a bee's natural environment. Yellow circles bolted around the opening of the device imitate the petals on a flower. Tubes pump real nectar and pollen into the center of the fake flower, so when bees land on it to feed, they're collecting real reproductive materials they can spread to the next plant they visit.

Candy, who's based in Brisbane, Australia, originally conceived the apparatus as a way for scientists to track the pollinating behaviors of bees. The synthetic flower is outfitted with cameras and dyes, and with enough of them distributed in the wild, researchers could see which bees travel to certain places and how long they stay.

After his concept reached the final round of the Bio Art and Design awards in the Netherlands, Candy decided to create his own prototype with help from an urban beekeeper in Melbourne, Australia. The invention worked: Bees mistook it for real flora and carried pollen from it to their next destination. But to use it for tracking and studying bees on a larger scale, Candy would need to build a lot more of them. The pollinators would also need to be scattered throughout the bees' natural habitats, and since they would each come equipped with a camera, privacy (for nearby residents, not the bees) could become a concern.

Even if the concept never gets the funding it needs to expand, Candy says it could still be used in smaller applications. Fake flowers designed to look like real orchids, for example, could encourage the pollination of endangered orchid species. But for people studying dwindling bee populations, orchids are low on the list of concerns: 30 percent of all the world's crops are pollinated by bees [PDF].

[h/t Co.Design]

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