Posts tagged with "Colorado State University"

Creepy crawlies: If you live here, prepare to see thousands of tarantulas

August 6, 2021

Catching an unexpected glimpse of a daddy longlegs spider in your home can make even folks who’d barely call themselves arachnophobes jump. A wolf spider sighting outdoors can frighten even the most intrepid explorers. And encountering a hairy tarantula can cause virtually anyone to freeze up.

Unfortunately for folks of one particular area of the United States, there’s about to be an influx of not just a few or a few hundred, but thousands of tarantulas in the very near future, Best Life reports.

Starting in August, Colorado—particularly the southeastern part of the state—will see a sudden uptick in its tarantula population.

The sudden influx of thousands of tarantulas, which typically begins between late August and September, according to the Colorado State University College of Agricultural Sciences (via The Gazette), is part of the arachnids’ annual migration.

For the Aphonopelma vogelae tarantula, more frequently found in the southwestern portions of the state, migration peaks in October.

But take heart: While seeing thousands of tarantulas descend on your area may be disconcerting, their presence is typically short-lived.

According to the Colorado State University College of Agricultural Sciences, following their migration, the tarantulas are active for a short period of time, but “all normally perish within a couple of months.”

And you won’t be the only one watching where you walk and sit. The Colorado-based tarantula migration isn’t the only major shift in habitats these furry arachnids may be making this year, however.

According to Christopher Vitek, PhD, an associate professor of biology at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley during their mating season between March and October, tarantulas frequently emerge from their usual habitats in states including Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah.

While tarantulas are unlikely to do harm to most humans, it’s wise to give them a wide berth if you encounter one in the wild.

“Their venom is of no medical significance, and contrary to popular belief, nobody has ever died from such a bite; most people compare the bite to that of a bee sting and experience no lasting ill-effects other than mild to moderate pain and slight swelling at the site of the bite,” Brent Hendrixson, PhD, chair of biology at Millsaps College, recently told Best Life.

Hendrixson says that if you do find a tarantula somewhere it shouldn’t be—inside your home, for example—and don’t feel comfortable picking it up, gently coax it into a jar with a soft-ended object like a paintbrush and remove it from the premises.

Research contact: @bestlife

Latest buzz: Mosquitoes don’t carry coronavirus

May 29, 2020

Mosquito season is upon us and—considering that these bloodsuckers are known to transmit diseases—people are concerned: Even with the lockdowns lifting, is it safe to go outside? Do mosquitoes carry the novel coronavirus? And if so, can they transmit it to humans and infect a person with COVID-19?

The short answer, according to a report by Health: It’s unlikely. Official guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that there is no information or evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus could be transmitted through mosquito bites. 

For starters, the coronavirus is a respiratory virus, and the main mode of transmission is by viral droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. For a mosquito to become infected with a virus, it must be present in the blood the mosquito feeds on.

“SARS-CoV2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is a respiratory virus that is almost exclusively contained within the lungs and respiratory tract of infected people, and rarely gets into the blood,” Emily Gallichotte, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Microbiology,Iimmunology, and Pathology at Colorado State University, told Health during a recent interview.

Plus, for a virus to pass to a person through a mosquito or other kind of insect bite—such as a tick bite—the virus must be able to replicate inside the mosquito or tick. Neither the new coronavirus nor any other type of coronavirus has been shown to do that.

“It’s quite a complex process,” former US Navy entomologist Joseph M. Conlon, who has extensive worldwide experience in mosquito control and is technical advisor to the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA), said during an interview with the news outlet“First of all, the mosquito would have to pick up the requisite amount of virus during its bite. The virus must then not only survive the digestive process, but replicate within the mosquito and pass through the gut wall to the coelom (main body cavity) of the mosquito. From there it must make its way to the salivary glands and be expressed by the mosquito as part of its salivary secretions.”

Furthermore, mosquitoes are very genetically different from humans. “This makes it challenging for viruses to have the ability to infect both of us,” says Gallichotte. “We have different receptors on the surface of cells and different replication machinery inside our cells.”

Relatively few human viruses have the ability to infect both humans and mosquitoes. “The vast majority of human viruses (such as influenza, HIV, and herpes) have been infecting humans for a very very long time, and even though many of these end up in our blood, they are still unable to infect mosquitoes,” says Gallichotte. “Conversely, there are many mosquito viruses that are unable to infect humans, or any mammals. There are no known coronaviruses that can infect mosquitoes.”

Viruses that can be spread to humans by mosquitoes include West Nile virus, the virus that causes dengue fever, and chikungunya virus, all of which circulate in the blood of infected people. “West Nile virus is able to infect a mosquito to the point where the virus load is abundant in the salivary glands,” Melissa Doyle, scientific program manager at the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District (SGVMVCD), tells Health. “When the mosquito bites a person, the virus is able to travel from the salivary glands into the human body.”

So it’s pretty clear that COVID-19 is the last thing you should be worrying about if a mosquito has been feasting on your leg. Keep swatting them away, though. “Due to the heavy focus on COVID-19, many people may forget that disease threats may already be buzzing right outside their window.” SGVMVCD Public Information Officer Levy Sun told Health.

Conlon points out that mosquitoes can factor into the severity of COVID-19, meaning it’s crucial to maintain robust measures to reduce their numbers. “Studies have shown that factors contributing to potentially serious or fatal outcomes attendant to COVID-19 infection involve underlying medical issues, such as neurologic conditions that weaken the ability to cough or an already stressed immune system due to concurrent infection by mosquito-borne viruses,” he says.

Mosquitoes or no mosquitoes, it’s still crucial to keep following healthy coronavirus protocol to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Clean your hands frequently, practice social distancing, stay home if you’re sick, and avoid close contact with anyone who is coughing and sneezing.

Research contact: @health