Researchers Help Henhouses By Fighting Pests With Pests

Researchers from UC Riverside have found that when it comes to parasites found on chickens, two wrongs just may make a right.

According to the researchers, another parasite and the mites’ natural enemy, the chicken body louse —a.k.a. lice — can be used as a green means of ridding hens and their eggs of mites.

Mite infestations in chicken coops can affect hen populations by reducing egg production rates by five percent or more.

The study shows that lice introduced to hens infected with mites not only destroy the mites, but then die within a few days of removing the hens from their coop, leaving a clean — mite and lice free — coop for the next group of hens.

This double-parasite approach to ridding chickens and their eggs of harmful pests presents an alternative to the current approach of using harsh pesticides to attack mites.

Like the mites themselves, such harsh pesticides can be harmful to humans working in the coops.

As egg production reaches its height for the upcoming Easter holiday, perhaps this new approach to pest control will allow for both happier hens and a greener celebration.


Technology Offers Steady Hand for Spinal Surgeons

Doctors at UC Irvine’s Medical Center have successfully performed the first robot-aided spinal surgery on the West Coast.

The robotic device, named SpineAssist, can be programmed to guide the surgeon’s hands during surgery.

One study showed that in cases of spinal implants, the device may increase accuracy by up to 98.3 percent.

Using CT scans of the patient’s spine, surgeons can pre-program SpineAssist to help place screws in the patient’s spine with unprecedented accuracy.

The device’s precision means less post-surgery complications such as screws sitting too close to nerves or the spinal canal.

The researchers foresee SpineAssist becoming a helpful hand in all sorts of spine problems, from scoliosis in children to spinal fusion surgeries for the elderly.

Plants Shy to Show Magnetism

Plants may produce tiny magnetic fields, especially when their flowers bloom, according to researchers from UC Berkeley who have been attempting to monitor “titan arum,” the largest flower in the world.

Using magnetometers — sensitive magnetic field detectors which can measure magnetic fields nearly a billion times lower than that of Earth’s surface — the Berkeley scientists hope to eventually record biomagnetism in plants.

While studies of animals have shown them to produce small magnetic fields due to heart and brain activity, plants have proven to be much more mysterious and uncooperative.

Interferences from external magnetic fields such as Berkeley’s BART trains or passing lab visitors have been proven problematic. The scientists cannot record subtle magnetic activity in plants while these other actors are present.

In order to capture any kind of magnetic field coming from plants, researchers hope to figure out how to completely segregate plants from outside producers of magnetic fields. They also intend to increase the sensitivity of their measuring instruments by 10 to 100 fold.