Irk or Inspire? Bugs That Brought Advances in Science and Technology

Portsmouth, New Hampshire is no stranger to the frustratingly wide array of bugs that keep exterminators busy most of the year. Flying, crawling and stinging pests are often an unwelcome aspect of our lives, both in and outside the home. But the truth is, these many-legged creatures have offered the world much more than a cringe-worthy moment or two. Pests help shape and improve our lives in ways we never could’ve guessed – both in Portsmouth and beyond.

Wasps Cure Cancer

There’s a wasp that goes by the name Polybia paulista, and until recently, it was the bane of Brazil. They’re aggressive, their sting is pretty painful and they have a penchant for swarming. All this adds up to a relatively dangerous situation. That is, unless you have cancer.

Recent research by scientists has revealed that the venom in this wasp’s sting has the uncanny ability to kill cancer cells in mice, without harming healthy cells. This is how it works: Their venom has a toxin called MP1 that puts a hole in fat molecules sitting on the surface of cancer cells. Healthy molecules that are critical to cell function escape through that hole, effectively killing the cell and leaving the good stuff behind. This hole is opening up a whole new world of cancer treatment – with what will hopefully be little, if any, side effects.

Butterflies on Display

How many times have you stopped to admire the dazzling colors on a butterfly’s wings, or become transfixed with the rippling beauty of a peacock’s tail? You aren’t alone; it’s something that has occupied the minds of biologists for some time. How do the colors look so vibrant? What about their pigment makes the colors so effervescent? Turns out, it has nothing to do with that.

Some bird feathers and butterfly wings actually have a complicated crystalline prism that work in much the same way as a rainbow. Light hits it and splits into an array of colors, resulting in a immaculate display to the human eye.

A wireless technology company named Qualcomm replicated this effect a few years ago, creating displays that work in much the same way. Now, when you’re outside on a sunny day with your tablet or cell phone, the screen won’t get bleached out when hit with ambient light. Instead, the screen now becomes more vibrant, without draining your battery. Next stop, television screens.

Dragonflies in Outer Space

Just a short distance from Portsmouth is Yale University, where one scientist has taken a deep dive into the study of dragonflies. His day job? Astronomer. His hobby? Photography. Specifically, photographing dragonflies that seem to defy physics. He believes they’ve mastered flight, able to quickly change direction and even fly upside down. But that’s not what really caught his attention. It’s their eyes.

These tiny dots are made up of thousands of segments, each directed at a different angle. It creates an almost complete circular view of their surroundings. This astronomer wanted to do the same thing with a telescope, creating a 10-telephoto lens that can find low-light galaxies like never before. He named is the Dragonfly Telephoto Array.

Moths Look to the Light

Speaking of eyes, there’s another winged beauty that looks at the world in a way we never could. You know how the phrases, “See the light” or “Follow the light” are always used in reference to opening yours eyes to new ideas or being enraptured by a way of being? Well, that’s what some scientists believe happens to moths that are drawn to the light; they’re just dazzled. And part of that is because their eyes happen to be one of the least reflective things on planet Earth.

In 2011, Japanese scientists were very interested in this unique inability to reflect incoming light. So they created a film to put on solar panels and increased their efficiency by 6 percent. This may not sound like a lot, but as a moth can attest, a little goes a long way.

The Flea’s Knees

These nasty little jumping bugs are a serious burden on families and pest control, alike. You can see them leaping around your pet like little kids on a trampoline, except they can jump 100 times their body size. Discover Magazine says that’s the human equivalent of 600 feet. Naturally this piqued curiosity, so scientists looked a lot closer to see exactly how fleas do it.

Turns out, fleas have a resilin in their joints, which is a protein that gives the host an ability to spring up by absorbing force and pressure that’s stored until the pressure is released. How does this matter to the real world? One day it could replace standard rubber, including the rubber used in running shoes, heart valves and more. Talk about a big leap.

From Inspired to Irked

There are hundreds of stories in which bugs have influenced great innovation, discovery or new way of living in our world – and odds are, there will be many more moments like these to come. But even though bugs can inspire us to do amazing things, they can also inspire fear and frustration. In Portsmouth, we have more than our fair share of those experiences, and when that times comes, it’s time to call exterminators at Modern Pest Services. Our bug-reducing inspiration has allowed us to create an effective treatment for ridding your home or business of pests all year round. Make an appointment now!