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Beetle abundance attributed to forest fires – The Sudbury Star

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White-spotted sawyers can bite, but won’t if you don’t bug them

A white-spotted sawyer beetle, also known locally as a pine beetle.

Postmedia file photo

Beetle-mania seems to be gripping Sudbury lately as numerous black bugs with hard wings and long antennae make their presence known — and occasionally felt.

These insects — casually referred to as pine or longhorned beetles, but properly known as white-spotted sawyers — are capable of delivering a nip, although it’s not really their nature to go looking for a fight, according to a forest entomologist.

“It’s not that they are aggressive and attacking people,” says Taylor Scarr, research director of integrated pest management with the Great Lakes Forestry Centre in Sault Ste. Marie. 

“If you are a beetle on the side of a tree and a bird comes along to pick you off, the natural defence is to try to hold on with your feet and those strong mandibles,” he says. “So if you pick one up like a bird tries to pick them up, they grab your skin because that’s what they’re on, and to them they are on the trunk of a tree.”

Scarr says the beetles, distinguished by a white spot at the back of their necks, are native to Ontario and appear every year, but may be more conspicuous in Sudbury right now because of events that occurred a couple of years ago.

“Adults lay their eggs under the bark of recently dead or dying trees, and the grubs tunnel in there and come out two years afterwards,” he said. “So what we’re seeing now in the Sudbury area, I think, is all the beetles that have come out of trees that were killed in the Temagami and Parry Sound fires two years ago.”


A white-spotted sawyer beetle travels along the edge of a garage on St. Raphael Street in Sudbury.

Jim Moodie/Sudbury Star

He says beetles can travel a couple hundred kilometres to find a new food source, and those that emerged from the burnt-over areas would be quite plentiful, as the fires created a lot of good beetle habitat.

Sudburians might also be more aware of the beetles this year simply because “people are at home more” due to COVID-19, he suggests. “So they are seeing more.”

The adult beetles are about three-quarters of an inch long, sometimes as long as an inch, with antennae that can be three times as long as their bodies.

At this time of year the adults would be mating and dining on the bark of twigs in preparation for egg-laying.

“Before they lay their eggs, they do what is called maturation feeding, so they feed on the twigs of conifer trees,” says Scarr. “They need to feed on live twigs to mature the eggs.”

The bugs are awkward flyers, he notes, as they have two sets of wings. “They have hard wings that cover the abdomen and underneath that are the membraneous wings they actually fly with, so for that beetle to fly they have to lift the hard wings,” he says. “They’re cumbersome and it takes a lot of energy to fly, but they can certainly do it.”

Females have a more mottled appearance than the males, but “both have a single white spot at the base of the hard wings on the back, behind the head.”

People will sometimes confuse a female sawyer with an invasive Asian beetle, says Scarr, as both have long antennae and speckled backs, but the invader is “a bigger, more robust insect, with white markings that are much sharper.”

In China, the Asian beetle is sometimes called a “starry sky beetle,” he says, for its constellation of white spots.

Scarr says the intruder can hitchhike on wooden pallets and has been documented twice in Ontario — in the Toronto/Vaughn area in 2003, and a decade later in the Toronto/Mississauga area — but in both cases the Canadian Food Inspection Agency launched an aggressive eradication program and just last week announced that this strategy has proven successful.

Ontarians are still urged to keep an eye out for the foreign critters, however, as they can wreak much more havoc on local tree species.

“It’s a very serious pest because it likes hardwoods, and unlike the white-spotted sawyer beetle, it can attack and kill healthy trees,” says Scarr. “It has a real preference for maples, so if it were to get out and spread, it would devastate not only the hardwood industry but the maple syrup industry.”

Examples of the invasive beetle have been found recently in South Carolina, and it’s taken root in a few other U.S. states, as well as Europe, he notes.

Our homegrown sawyer beetle, meanwhile, is feared in Europe and Asia, as it carries a parasitic worm that can cause a wilt disease in their trees.


Tyler Cobb, curator of invertebrate zoology at the Royal Alberta Museum, holds a white-spotted sawyer beetle.

Larry Wong/Postmedia file photo

Here in Ontario, however, the sawyer doesn’t pose a big problem, although crews working in wildfire zones are not too keen on them. “They can drop down your shirt or coveralls while fighting a forest fire and be quite a nuisance,” notes Scarr.

In rare cases, they can also create an unpleasant shock for a homeowner who utilized air-dried lumber to frame their building.

“If the wood isn’t kiln-treated, sometimes the grubs will survive,” says Scarr. “I’ve had five or six reports where, three to four years after someone built their home, they had the beetles come out through the drywall.”

They can also be a problem at times for lumber companies if they infest trees intended for sawmills.

For the most part, though, the beetles are simply going about their business in the bush, contributing to regeneration by hastening the decomposition process.

“If a forest fire kills the trees, they can’t stand up forever and occupy the site,” says Scarr. “So the beetles come in and start to chew on the trees; fungi and other insects invade them; and eventually they rot and fall down and get replaced by something else.”

They also provide food to birds and other critters. Pileated woodpeckers, especially, seem to have a good nose — or more to the point, ear — for the grubs.

“They can hear them when they are inside a tree, just like we can, making a chewing noise,” the forest pest expert says.

The species in fact got its name for the grinding racket its teeth can make, like that of a saw passing through wood. (Sawyer, by the way, is pronounced like Tom Sawyer, the famous Mark Twain character.)

While many find the wood borers unappealing, Scarr encourages residents to try to “ignore them,” or at least tolerate them, as it won’t be long before they are done their mating and egg laying, at which point the adults begin to die off.

“You usually seem them around this time, in June and early July, but later in the summer you might just see the odd one,” he says.

In the meantime, “they don’t harm anything,” he says. “They’re just a natural part of the ecosystem.”

Anyone who has experienced the sensation of mandibles on skin may, of course, protest that “harm” is indeed something that can be inflicted by a sawyer beetle.

But even this isn’t apt to happen too often, Scarr maintains.

“I’ve handled lots and I have never been bitten,” he says. “You just have to grab them behind the head.”

jmoodie@postmedia.com

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NASA telescope uncovers the cause of Betelgeuse's mysterious dimming – CNET

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Betelgeuse will go supernova and explode… eventually.


ESO

In the Before Times, when the coronavirus was only just beginning its grim march across the globe, our troubles were much farther away. About 640 light-years farther away, in fact. Astronomers observing Betelgeuse, a red supergiant star, had been puzzled by its mysterious dimming. Some believed the event, which lasted from Nov. 2019 to Feb. 2020, was a portent of doom signalling the star’s upcoming explosion. But then the dimming abruptly stopped.

Thanks to observations by NASA’s Hubble telescope, we might know why.

A new study, published in The Astrophysical Journal on Thursday (and accessible at arXiv), examined ultraviolet light emitted by Betelgeuse during the “Great Dimming” event using the Hubble Space Telescope. Fortunately, the dimming event occurred just as Hubble scientists were looking to observe Betelgeuse with the telescope, providing a chance to understand why the star had begun to go dark.

Betelgeuse is a massive star, about 700 times bigger than our sun. If you dropped it into our solar system, it would swallow Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, the asteroid belt’s various worlds whole and Jupiter would end up as a snack, too. And it’s coming to the end of its life cycle, sometime in the next 100,000 years. When the supergiant started to dim last year, there were some believers who thought the process of exploding may have begun. 

A NASA graphic showing how a dust cloud might obscure the view of Betelgeuse.


NASA/ESA/E. Wheatley (STScI)

The Hubble observations suggest differently. By looking at Betelgeuse at UV wavelengths, researchers were able to get a better look at the star’s surface and atmosphere. They discovered a mass of bright, hot material moving outward from the southern hemisphere of the star at around 200,000 miles per hour and eventually being ejected into space.

“This material was two to four times more luminous than the star’s normal brightness,” said Andrea Dupree, associate director at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and lead author on the study, in a NASA release. About a month after the outburst, the south part of Betelgeuse dimmed conspicuously, she said.

Dupree and her team believe this material may have begun to cool down as it moved through space, forming a dense dust cloud that partially obscured Betelgeuse. It just so happens that Earth was in the perfect position to “see” the dust cloud front on, as if Betelgeuse shot the dust cloud directly at us. If it happened on the opposite side of Betelgeuse, we’d likely never even know.

Explosive outbursts are expected from star’s at the end of their life and when they die or “go supernova,” they release a shockwave that spews elements into space. The activity is critical to fill space with heavy elements like carbon, which then can become new stars elsewhere in the universe, so these stars are critical to the cosmic Circle of Life. 

Betelgeuse is still acting a little weird, however. Observations by NASA’s Stereo spacecraft observed the supergiant between late June and early August and noticed Betelgeuse was unexpectedly dimming again. NASA notes further observations will be undertaken in late August, when the star returns to the night sky and can be seen by telescopes again. 

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5 enjoyment matters about the Perseid meteor shower – CA News Ottawa

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If you want to get your meteor on, this week is the fantastic time as our world passes by way of the remnants of a comet, generating the annual fireworks exhibit in the evening sky

Just the info

“Perseids have normally been identified for placing on a good demonstrate,” said Parshati Patel, a Western College astrophysicist and place educator with the school’s Institute for Earth and Room Exploration. The phenomenon’s title comes from the Perseus constellation, from which it seems to materialize in the night time sky. In fact, the Earth is passing by means of the cluster of particles still left guiding by the comet Swift-Tuttle, as it does each yr at this time.

How to get a fantastic search

First, Patel states, get out of town and away from urban gentle pollution. Choose about 30 to 40 minutes to enable your eyes adjust to the night time sky — never even glance at your cellular phone, Patel advises. “Face the Massive Dipper and appear towards the east,” she stated. “You really don’t want to know the correct location,” but it can help if you glance closer to the horizon. Perseids is identified for getting a substantial variety of strikes towards the atmosphere for each hour.

Lights in the sky

Some of the fragments that make up the shower can be as tiny as a grain of sand, however they make for a breathtaking light clearly show as they burn off up close to Earth. “Basically they’re bumping off the atmosphere,” Patel explained. This offers the visual appeal of what is commonly called a shooting star. “These are just little, tiny objects,” she additional. “Those would in fact melt away up in the ambiance because of the friction.” Even bigger pieces of the debris at times look like inexperienced fireballs from the floor.

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READ  Coronavirus update: B.C. modelling indicates what’s to occur, and that youthful individuals are ever more impacted

Definitions galore

It may possibly feel academic to the ordinary particular person, but there are discrepancies involving asteroids (massive, rocky objects observed concerning Mars and Jupiter), meteoroids (small objects floating close to the photo voltaic technique nearer to the Earth), meteors (the burning streaks of light-weight you see in the sky) and meteorites (what’s remaining on the floor soon after a meteor hits). “I possess a meteorite,” Patel suggests proudly, and Western University has its have selection of objects that arrived from outer area.

2020 is great for a thing

Why are stargazers enthusiastic right now? Patel states this summer months has been a banner one particular for folks who like to seem to the stars. “We move by it each August,” Patel said of the Perseid meteor shower, which is at peak viewing now. In July, persons got a glimpse of the newly found out Neowise comet (Patel received photos of it), named immediately after the orbiting telescope that detected it. And later this summer months will be a excellent time to perspective the Milky Way galaxy from Earth, Patel suggests

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Calgary researchers zero in on gut bacteria as potent cancer fighter – The Province

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FILE – Dr. Kathy McCoy, director of the Western Canadian Microbiome Centre, explains the purpose of the facility on a tour prior to it opening in Calgary in this 2017 file photo.

Jeff McIntosh / CP

Employing intestinal bacteria could boost the effectiveness of some cancer treatment four-fold, say researchers at the University of Calgary.

Employing intestinal bacteria could boost the effectiveness of some cancer treatment four-fold, say researchers at the University of Calgary.

A lead scientist in an ongoing study said Thursday her team has made huge strides in understanding how such microbiomes supercharge the potency of immunotherapy in targeting cancer cells.

“We think the impact is huge,” said Dr. Kathy McCoy of the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases at the U of C’s Cumming School of Medicine.

“With cancers (normally) susceptible to immunotherapy 20 per cent of the time, and it responds at 80 per cent, that’s a major increase in efficacy.”

A series of published studies on the approach dating back to 2015 hinted strongly at the potential of combining some forms of gut bacteria with immunotherapy in treating diseases like melanoma and colorectal cancer.

But scientists weren’t able to pinpoint how it worked, said McCoy, who set about using germ-free mice as research subjects.

“We’d have to identify a mechanism…we identified three bacteria that were in an animal model of colorectal cancer and we wondered if we could tease apart the differences in the microbiomes,” she said.

Her team noted immunotherapy by itself was conspicuously ineffective.

But the bacteria that worked, she said, activated a T-cell which ultimately takes on cancerous tumours, shrinking them significantly.

“The three specific bacteria by themselves turn on a first switch on the T-cells within the intestine,” said McCoy.

That bacteria generates a tiny molecule called inosine that interacts with the T-cells to boost the immunotherapy that in turn eradicates cancer cells.

Another bacteria, akkermansia, has also been found to be an effective tumour fighter, said the scientist, and like the other three bacteria, is one present in humans who have been the subject of some study.

“We actually found there was an increase in bacterium in the patients responding, but the studies were too small,” said McCoy.

The U of C studies using humans remain preliminary for now with researchers seeking grants to further and broaden that work, to focus on lung cancer and melanoma over several years, she said.

“We’re going to see if we can find this metabolite in the serum, or blood, and in feces and see if they’re working with the same mechanism,” said McCoy.

And there’s a strong likelihood that approach could be applied to a much wider variety of cancers, she added.

That latest work is set to be published in the magazine Science, which has highlighted earlier discoveries using gut bacteria to enhance the immune system.

Efforts that have pushed the envelope on the treatment, said McCoy, are “a purely Calgary” achievement and one that should help undermine public skepticism over the effectiveness of cancer research funding that’s often led to conspiracy theories.

“I don’t know what people expect – research has made amazing strides in developing cancer therapies,” she said.

BKaufmann@postmedia.com

On Twitter:

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