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New species of spider wasp may use chemical signals from dead ants to protect nest

A new species of spider wasp, the ‘Bone-house Wasp,’ may use chemical cues from dead ants as a nest protection strategy, according to a recent study published July 2, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Michael Staab from University of Freiburg, Germany, and his colleagues from China and Germany.

Wasps use a wide variety of nest protection strategies, including digging holes or occupying pre-existing cavities such as in wood. Previous studies showed that the nests of cavity-nesting wasps contain several brood cells separated by thin walls of plant debris, resin, or soil. Once the females have finished constructing the nest, laying eggs, and providing food, they construct an outermost vestibular cell to close the nest. After construction, female wasps abandon the brood and do not care for their offspring anymore. Nest protection strategies play a central role in brood survival, and in this study, scientists interested in better understanding these strategies collected ~800 nests of cavity-nesting wasps with ~1900 brood cells belonging to 18 species in South-East China.

The scientists found a nesting behavior previously unknown in the entire animal kingdom: in over 70 nests they found an outer vestibular cell filled with dead ants. The species constructing these ant-filled vestibular cell was so far unknown to science and was described in the same study as the ‘Bone-house Wasp’ (Deuteragenia ossarium), after graveyard bone-houses or ossuaries. The scientists also found lower parasitism rates in “Bone-house” nests than in nests of similar cavity-nesting wasps. The authors suggest that D. ossarium nests are less vulnerable to natural enemies, potentially supporting the outer cell’s role in defense, which most likely involves chemical cues emanating from the dead ants used as nest-building material.

Dr. Staab added, “Our discovery demonstrates in an impressive way, what fascinating strategies of offspring-protection have evolved in the animal kingdom.”

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The above story is based on materials provided by PLOS. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Hy-Vee scores high, Roundy’s dead last in new Greenpeace seafood rankings

Hy-Vee ranked fifth in its first appearance in Greenpeace’s Carting Away the Oceans: 2014 Rankings of Seafood Sustainability in U.S. Supermarkets.

“We were surprised at how well Hy-Vee preformed, by essentially rocketing to fifth place, which is a particularly impressive showing for a new entrant to the evaluations,” said James Mitchell, Greenpeace senior seafood campaigner.

Roundy’s, another newcomer, scored the lowest of the 26 retailers on the list, mainly because it lacks a formal seafood sustainability program.

The top four retailers this year were Whole Foods, Safeway, Wegmans and Trader Joe’s.


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Although Kroger has recently touted its efforts on seafood sustainability, Greenpeace ranked the retailer 20th overall. For the third year in a row, Kroger sold the most products on the Red List, a set of 22 species that Greenpeace says shouldn’t be sold for environmental reasons.

“There’s certainly some retailers that performed worse than Kroger in the rankings — and we’re not trying to let those off the hook by any means — but it’s just the sheer scale of Kroger. It’s such a large retailer that any change it makes is far more significant than the ones that come behind it in the rankings,” said Mitchell.

One trend noted in the report is that several retailers are introducing more sustainable private label canned tuna, some for the first time. Hy-Vee, Safeway, Trader Joe’s, Walmart and Whole Foods all offer such products or plan to do so this summer.

These private label items are price competitive, so consumers don’t have to choose between low-cost and sustainable when shopping for seafood, Mitchell said.

“Americans consume more canned tuna than any other nation on Earth, so that’s a huge win area,” said Mitchell.

Greenpeace voiced concern that recent mergers and acquisitions in the retail sector could have a negative impact on seafood sustainability, given that Harris Teeter’s policies rank much higher than Kroger’s, and Safeway greatly outperforms Albertsons.

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Cheese Sickens 8 in MD and CA with Listeria; One Dead

At least eight people have been sickened with Listeria monocytogenes infections after eating cheese produced by Roos Foods under a number of brand names, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Seven patients were hospitalized in Maryland, while one person in California has died. Five of the illnesses involved a pregnancy: two sickened mother-newborn pairs and an additional sickened newborn.

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene put out a warning on Wednesday advises people not to eat cheese products made by Roos Foods of Kenton, DE.

Roos Foods include the following brands:

  • Santa Rosa de Lima
  • Amigo
  • Mexicana
  • Suyapa
  • La Chapina
  • La Purisima Crema Nica
Dates of illness diagnosis range from August 1, 2013 to November 27, 2013.
These are presumably pasteurized cheese products, not products made using raw milk.
Persons infected with the outbreak-associated strain of Listeria monocytogenes, by state as of February 21, 2014
Below are some of the labels associated with recalled cheeses:

Food Safety News

Wyoming Lawmaker Sue Wallis, Raw Milk and Horse Slaughter Advocate, Found Dead at Age 56

Wyoming State Rep. Sue Wallis (R-Recluse) was found dead early Tuesday at a Gillette hotel. She was 56. An autopsy is planned, according to Campbell County Coroner Tom Eekhoff.

Governor Matt Mead ordered state flags at the Wyoming Capitol Building in Cheyenne and in Campbell County lowered to half-staff from now until sunset of the internment for Wallis, who has represented the county in the Wyoming Legislature since 2007.

“Wyoming lost a great voice today. Representative Wallis was a poet and her eloquence was on display whether she was writing or debating on the floor of the House or in my office. The strength of her convictions was clear, as was her commitment to the West and our way of life. I will miss her,” Mead said.

Wallis practiced politics her own way, blending her uniquely western style of Libertarianism into a GOP caucus that was often left scratching its collected head. She was a fierce believer in individual rights and in helping Wyoming’s farm and ranch community.

Married for 18 years to cowboy poet and author Rod McQueary, who died in late 2012, Wallis was also one of the West’s larger-than-life personalities. With McQueary, she co-wrote “The Cowboy Cattle-log” and published “Surviving the Good Life,” a memoir of Wallis’ grandmother.

Like other Wyoming ranchers during the recent drought, she became concerned about starving horses being abandoned, and she worked to bring back horse slaughter. Animal rights activists began calling her “Slaughterhouse Sue.” She did not seem to care, pointing out that horsemeat was on the menu not all that long ago at the Harvard Faculty Club.

Wallis and McQueary were friends with two old cowboys who apparently could have made their own version of the movie “Brokeback Mountain.” Wallis, citing that friendship,  emerged as a leader in Cheyenne for equal rights for same-sex couples.

Likewise, Wallis stood up for the right of Wyoming women to abortion services. In doing so, she could be blunt, telling her fellow lawmakers that as a young, single mother of three, she made a difficult decision to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Her opposition helped defeat a bill that would have required doctors to show women ultrasound images and require 24 hours notice before an abortion.

The daughter of former Wyoming legislator Dick Wallis, she was staying overnight at the Tower West Lodge in Gillette because an annual legislative breakfast was being held there Tuesday morning. But, shortly before 7 a.m., Gillette police dispatched an EMS unit to Wallis’ room and Campbell County Sheriff Bill Pownall confirmed her death.

Up until she died, Wallis showed no signs of slowing down. She had just returned from the Western Stock Show in Denver.

And she’d promised to sponsor a bill in the Wyoming Legislature, which begins Feb. 10, to legalize medical marijuana. She says McQueary, known for his appearances at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, NV, benefited from medical marijuana obtained in Colorado before he died.

Wallis also tried to legalize raw milk sales in Wyoming, and, when that did not work, she worked on regulators to allow cow-share programs. She was more successful with opening home kitchens to making cottage foods.

“She was a bulldog you know, she really was an incredible force on it, and was phenomenally respected, particularly on her ag issues on a nationwide basis,” said state Sen. Ogden Driskill (R-Devil’s Tower).

Food Safety News

Three dead in Indiana supermarket shooting

A man armed with a .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun shot and killed an employee and a customer at a Martin’s Super Market in Elkhart, Ind., Wednesday night.

Police killed the shooter, identified as 22-year-old Shawn Walter Bair of Elkhart.

“The entire Martin’s family is saddened by this tragedy,” said Rob Bartels, Martin’s president and CEO, in a statement. “We will be offering counseling services to employees today and for as long as necessary. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families involved and the entire community. Additionally, we would like to thank everyone in the community for all your thoughts and prayers.”


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Reports say Bair entered the store around 9:30 p.m., roaming the aisles for 30 minutes. Around 10:05, he shot Krystle Dikes, a 20-year-old employee who was stocking shelves. In another aisle, Bair shot at a employee who was able to escape. He then killed a 44-year-old female shopper.

Bair held his gun to the head of the store manager whom he ordered to kneel on the floor. The manager was able to escape when the gunman was distracted by the arrival of the police. Continuing to walk through the store, Bair encountered the officers, who opened fire, killing Bair.

It is unknown if this was a random shooting or if Bair knew either of the victims. He was also armed with a large hunting knife.

The name of the second victim has not been released. 

The shootings come two months after an employee of a Kroger in Louisville, Ky., was shot and killed in the store parking lot in what police called a targeted killing. A coworker was arrested in connection with the crime.

In August 2012, an employee of a Pathmark store in Old Bridge, N.J. shot two of his co-workers and then killed himself.

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One Dead, 15 Sick as Kentucky Salmonella Outbreak Spreads to Three Counties

The deadly Salmonella outbreak in western Kentucky has grown to 15 cases in three counties. The outbreak is already blamed for one death and for sending five people to area hospitals.

Hopkins, Webster, and Muhlenberg counties have reported illnesses, according to Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services. A genetic “fingerprint” associated with the outbreak has been linked to at least eight of the region’s Salmonella cases.

The state said that the Hopkins County Health Department is conducting the investigation to determine the source of the Salmonella. The department is collecting patient and food samples, but has not said how long it might take before the source will be found.

The three adjacent counties are located south and west of Louisville. Salmonella is a foodborne illness known for causing diarrhea, fever and vomiting.

Food Safety News

One Dead, 11 Sick in Hopkins County Salmonella Outbreak

The number of Salmonella cases in Hopkins County, Kentucky, has risen to 11, with only one death, confirms the county health department.

Health officials are investigating the outbreak and the source is still unknown. Investigators are interviewing victims to see where or what they might have eaten in the days leading up to their illnesses.

The department’s environmental supervisor, Barry Franklin, told WKMS that it’s the worst salmonella outbreak he’s seen in 19 years on the job.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramping. They generally develop 12 to 72 hours after exposure, and last between four and seven days.

Food Safety News

Gort’s Gouda Raw Cheese Outbreak Sickens 21 with E. Coli, One Dead

At least 21 people have now fallen ill with E. coli O157:H7 after eating raw cheese products made by Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm in Salmon Arm, B.C.

One elderly victim died in August, while others developed symptoms between late July and September.

The number ill by province is as follows:

Alberta (9 illnesses), British Columbia (9), Manitoba (1), Quebec (1), Saskatchewan (1).

Symptoms of E. coli infection include diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps lasting five to ten days. Severe infections can result in the patient developing hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening kidney disease.

On Sept. 17, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency initiated a recall of 15 products sold online, at Gort’s farm, and in retail stores around B.C. and Alberta between May 27 and Sept. 14.

Food Safety News

One Dead, 7 Sick from Salmonella Outbreak in KY

A Salmonella outbreak in Hopkins County, Kentucky, has killed one person and caused another seven confirmed illnesses.

The cause of the outbreak is still unknown, according to county health officials. Investigators have begun interviewing victims to see where or what they might have eaten in the days leading up to their illnesses.

Officials from the health department tell TristateHomepage.com they hope to determine the cause in the coming weeks. Often in cases like this, investigators don’t have enough information to definitively identify an outbreak source.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramping. They generally develop 12 to 72 hours after exposure, and last between four and seven days.

Food Safety News

One Dead, 16 Sickened in B.C. E. coli Outbreak Linked to Raw Cheese

The outbreak of E. coli linked to Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm in Canada has resulted in one death, as well as 10 confirmed and six suspected illnesses, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The victim who died was from British Columbia. Three more B.C. residents fell ill, while the other seven cases are in Alberta. The agency is investigating another six illnesses that appear to be connected.

Health officials have linked the outbreak to unpasteurized cheese products sold by B.C.-based Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm. The Public Health Agency has recalled 14 of the farm’s cheese items, which were sold at the farm in Salmon Arm, B.C., in retail stores in B.C. and Alberta, and over the Internet between May 27 and Sept. 14.

The farm agreed to stop selling its cheese.

Victims fell ill between late July and early September. The deceased victim passed away in August.

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