Obama Goes on the Offensive Against Flies
One of the highlights of the White House’s “2014: A Year in Photos” collection, released in December, was a May 2014 photo of President Barack Obama swatting a pesky fly that had invaded the Oval Office.
To launch the strike, Obama rolled up a magazine, squatted and whacked the bug, which had landed on the carpet.
Also captured in the photo are amused Obama aides senior counselor John Podesta, chief of staff Denis McDonough and Josh Earnest, now press secretary.
“Aides laugh as President Obama swats a fly that was invading his space in the Oval Office,” the White House said in the photo caption.
It wasn’t the first time the president “took down” a fly. In 2009, the president evoked memories of Mr. Miyagi, the beloved teacher/trainer in the “Karate Kid” movies, by swatting a pesky house fly that was buzzing him in mid-interview during a taping with CNBC. That incident led PETA (the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) to issue a statement asking the commander-in-chief to show a little more compassion to even “the least sympathetic animals.” — Brad Harbison
USDA-ARS Using Poison-frog Compounds to Control Fire Ants
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists and their collaborators have found that naturally occurring compounds — alkaloids — that are found on the skin of certain poison frogs can incapacitate and kill fire ants.
The red imported fire ant damages electrical equipment and utility housings, devastates small animal populations and inflicts painful stings on humans as well as livestock. To determine whether poison-frog alkaloids would kill fire ants, scientists at the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology (CMAVE) in Gainesville, Fla., partnered with researchers at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute at the National Zoological Park in Front Royal, Va., and the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. ARS is USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency.
Poison frogs, natives of Central and South America, do not make alkaloids, but instead sequester them by eating ants, mites, millipedes and other arthropods that produce these compounds, according to Robert Vander Meer, research leader for CMAVE’s Imported Fire Ant and Household Insects Unit. He and his colleagues developed a bioassay to measure the toxicity of 20 poison-frog alkaloids—some of which were very effective in controlling fire ants, while others were not.
Alkaloids derived from mites and found on the skin of Central America’s poison frog, Oophaga pumilio, were more effective at incapacitating fire ants than the fire ants’ own alkaloids. Scientists published these findings, which broaden the use of poison-frog alkaloids to include protection against predator ants such as fire ants, in Naturwissenschaften in 2013.
Scientists are considering expanding their research to include mosquitoes. Earlier work published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrated that a poison-frog alkaloid called pumiliotoxin 251D was effective against the yellow fever mosquito. Insects that landed on surfaces treated with the compound could no longer fly and died.
Mosquitoes cause problems worldwide, transmitting pathogens that can lead to serious diseases. In the future, poison-frog alkaloids or derivatives may prove useful in helping to control mosquitoes, according to Vander Meer.
Rentokil’s ‘Pestaurant’ Recognized with CorpComms Awards
Pestaurant, Rentokil Initial’s pop-up restaurant that challenged passers-by in 11 countries to try an array of pest-related food, was crowned the Grand Prix winner in this year’s CorpComms Awards.
The ongoing initiative, which also picked up the trophy for the Best Live Event — External and received a Highly Commended citation for Best International Campaign, was viewed by the judges as truly innovative and creative.
Pestaurant has increased brand awareness for Rentokil Initial, which worked with agency Brands-2Life on the campaign, in each of the countries that participated this year, and has had a demonstrable impact on sales for the pest control company.