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Beagles noses are being used for more than bed bugs.

By | Caninine's | No Comments

There seem to be no bounds in what you can train a dog to do. Unknown to many beagles are being used by authorities at airports to sniff out food. Here’s the article:

“New York City does not lack for exotic and specialty food shops, but perhaps the most diverse display of ever-changing imported produce can be found in what is called the grinding room in the customs area of John F. Kennedy International Airport’s Terminal 4, the major gateway for international arrivals.

On Thursday afternoon, there was a cornucopia of hard-to-identify foodstuffs on a large metal table in the inspection area. There was sugar cane, dusty yams, dragon fruit and a panoply of herbs. There were strange tubers and a variety of homemade sausages and rodent meat. There was a load of red prickly fruit, small citrus fruits and of course plenty of mangoes.

“Everyone thinks their country has the best mangoes,” said Meghan Caffery, a United States Customs and Border Protection officer. Officer Caffery gets a daily tour of illicit goods from her partner: a 6-year-old female beagle named Izzy, an agricultural products sniffer dog who is something of a four-legged first line of defense to guard against contraband items entering the country that may be a threat to agriculture and public health.

Since it is difficult to know immediately what agricultural products carry viruses, pests and diseases that may be harmful, Izzy is trained to whiff a wide variety of food. Two-legged inspectors then decide what may pass through and what must be confiscated.

But as Izzy scoots off to whiff baggage arriving on a flight from Paris, why not let Izzy show us the drill first-hand? This is how Officer Caffery makes her rounds, being pulled by Izzy’s leash from bag to bag. Every few minutes, Izzy sits pointedly on the floor and looks up expectantly at Officer Caffery. And now she was doing just that, at the feet of a woman who was a passenger on the Paris flight.

“I only have an apple,” the woman said, digging in her handbag and pulling out the fruit she received as an in-flight snack in business class.

Officer Caffery reaches into a pouch full of pepperoni treats on her waist and slipped one to Izzy as a reward, and then marked the woman’s declaration card to notify officers to search all her bags. The woman was led off to a special inspection area and her male travel companion waved his arms angrily.

Off to the side, James Armstrong, a Customs supervisor in the agricultural canine unit, smiled.

“The public knows about drugs, and now post-9/11 about bombs,” he said. “But when it comes to food, they all say, ‘It’s just an apple.’ Yes but it’s coming in from another country.”

Kennedy is the busiest airport in the United States for international flights, and about 400,000 passengers a month use Terminal 4. About 2,000 bags pass through every hour and what Izzy can nose out during a quick ramble through the baggage area, would take human inspectors hours to find by opening and searching bags, said Mr. Armstrong, who rattles off a litany of import trends.

Passengers go to elaborate lengths to conceal the goods, Mr. Armstrong said, including dousing items with perfume, or packing it with car deodorizers. People have been known to wrap sausages around their legs or torsos.

Inspectors said that nothing surprised them anymore. They have seized dried deer penises from China, lemon trees, roots and all, from Italy, goat heads from Haiti, and skinned pig heads for soup, from China.

Izzy’s size and demeanor make her ideal for working in crowded areas – as well as her acute sense of smell, which is honed by constant training. At one point on Thursday, Izzy sniffed the lingering odor in a woman’s purse of a sandwich the woman said she had eaten hours before.

Seized items are brought to the steel table in the grinding room, which has a large opening in the middle leading down to a grinder that pulverizes and heats confiscated goods. Contraband meat is incinerated. Samples are analyzed under microscopes at a nearby counter and sometimes sent to a lab for analysis.

A flight from Moscow had arrived, and Izzy detected apples in the bag of a Russian woman who had arrived with her family for a vacation. Oleg Gelfand, a Customs agricultural specialist who speaks Russian, opened their bags and pulled out plastic bags of herbs. Medicinal herbs, the family said. Then he pulled out cans in bubble wrap. The salmon caviar was O.K., he said, but the potted beef was seized.

Another Russian passenger’s bag was opened and an inspector pulled out a pair of white figure skates. Inside were thick horse-meat sausages. Those were also seized.”

For the link, click here: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/18/cute-but-tough-with-a-nose-for-the-food-in-your-bags/

 

Bed bugs are thriving despite inbreeding!!!

By | Caninine's, General Bed Bugs | No Comments

Check out this article just released by FOX news:

“Bedbugs aren’t just sleeping with you. They’re sleeping with each other.

Researchers now say that the creepy bugs have a special genetic gift: withstanding incest.

It turns out that unlike most creatures, bedbugs are able to inbreed with close relatives and still produce generally healthy offspring. That means that if just a few bedbugs survive in a building after treatment, they repopulate quickly.

Coby Schal and Ed Vargo are entomologists at North Carolina State University, and they presented preliminary research on genetic diversity in bedbug populations on Tuesday in Philadelphia, at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

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“We kept discovering the same thing. Within a given apartment, or even a given building, there was extremely low genetic diversity,” said Schal. “In most cases there’s just a single female that founded the population.”

Schal said that was a surprise, since an animal or insect population with limited diversity will usually build up and then crash, because genetic defects tend to magnify with inbreeding.

“But somehow bedbugs are able to withstand the effects of inbreeding, and do quite well,” he said.

Bedbugs are wingless, reddish-brown insects that bite people and animals to draw blood for their meals. Though their bites can cause itching and welts, they are not known to spread disease.

The new research is important, said Zachary Adelman, an entomologist at Virginia Tech University who wasn’t part of the North Carolina State team.

“No one had looked at these things,” he said of the genetic makeup of bedbugs. “It’s pretty exciting.”

The researchers also found that while the community within a building tends to be similar, there are many different strains of bedbugs throughout the East Coast, suggesting that new colonies also get introduced through foreign travel or commerce.

“That means they’re coming into the country from lots of different places,” which means that the bedbug problem isn’t going to stop anytime soon, said Adelman.

The findings may also help explain another part of the bedbug boom.

Bedbugs — and other insects — develop resistance to insecticides. Schal said that if a treatment kills anything less than 100 percent of the bugs, the survivors will not only repopulate, but pass on the resistance they’ve developed to future generations.

“The insecticides really need to be robust” to do the job, Schal said.

Another researcher notes that you have to discover a problem before you can treat it.

Rajeev Vaidyanathan of SRI International, a nonprofit research firm with headquarters in Silicon Valley, said he’s working on a quick, easy test so people can discover bedbugs before they get bitten.

Vaidyanathan said current technology comes down to spotting live or dead bedbugs, or using dogs to sniff them out.

“Both are often ineffective and tedious,” he said.

So Vaidyanathan is trying to developing a biochemical test to identify bedbug-specific proteins that they leave behind, even when only a few bugs are present. Homeowners would swab a section of their home, and dip it in a special compound.

“A home pregnancy kit type of read-out. If there’s a color change, you have a bug,” he said, but it’s too early to say when or if the idea will make it to market.

Vaidyanathan also pointed out some other forces behind the spread of bedbugs.

“The problems we are seeing with bedbugs in North America did not happen overnight,” said Vaidyanathan. “We have the highest concentration in the history of our species of humans living in cities. Bedbugs do not have wings; they are nest parasites, so our own population density has helped them to thrive.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/12/07/research-bedbugs-can-thrive-despite-inbreeding/#ixzz1fsQfHt1G

The fact that they produce healthy offspring despite inbreeding is truly amazing, and another testament to the resilience of bed bugs. Bed Bugs are extremely hard to kill, and this is another reason why they are so hard to get rid of. Even if you kill 99% of a huge population, they can come back again! I did not understand the whole thing about swabbing your house to find out if you have bed bugs. What if you don’t happen to swab an area that has traces of bed bug activity?

You would have to swab a huge amount of your house before you would get any results! Of course the guy who said dogs are ineffective way to detect bed bugs happens to be the same guy coming up with the latest worthless detection method.