Wasp Venom Can Save Lives. But the Supply Chain Is Shaky.
Venom is crucial to make medicines for those with severe allergic reactions to wasp, hornet, and yellow jacket stings.
One morning in the fall of 2019, Zach Techner stepped into a heavily woven white beekeeper’s suit, pulled on rubber boots and thick orange gloves, and wrapped duct tape around his cuffs and along the zipper. He slid safety glasses over his eyes and a netted hood over his head and zipped it shut. He was preparing to collect one of the most dangerous wild creatures in the United States: yellow jackets.
Techner carried a portable vacuum he had MacGyvered into a wasp-sucking machine to a low thicket of blackberry brambles. A dozen of the flying insects made large descending loops towards their nest in the ground. Over the next 45 minutes, he siphoned the yellow jackets — uninjured but surely a little upset — into a plastic juice jug. He stored the trapped insects beneath a layer of dry ice in a cooler to kill them quickly — and avoid damaging the proteins in their venom.
Wasp collecting isn’t always so uneventful, Techner warned. Yellow jackets can attack — especially in the fall when colonies swell and food is scarce — with sharp stings or by contracting their abdomens to spray their venom in their assailant’s eyes. “When you’re in the middle of a nest and there are thousands of them attacking you, hitting the veil, the venom can still get into your eyes,” he said. “It hurts really bad. It can be blinding.”
Europe’s triumphs and troubles are written in Swiss ice
Pollen frozen in ice in the Alps traces Europe’s calamities, since the time Macbeth ruled Scotland
NEW YORK TIMES
As plague swept through Europe in the mid-1300s, wiping out more than a third of the region’s population, a glacier in the Alps was recording the upheaval of medieval society.
While tens of millions of people were dying, pollen from the plants, trees and crops growing in Western Europe were being swept up by the winds and carried toward the Alps.
They became trapped in snowflakes and fell onto the region’s highest mountain, the Monte Rosa massif. Over time, the snow flattened into ever-growing layers of ice, storing a blow-by-blow record of regional environmental change.
THE GLOBE AND MAIL — Dr. Louis Fortier wasn’t one to let an opportunity slip through his fingers — especially not at the eleventh hour… Dr. Fortier died on Oct. 4, 2020, from complications related to leukemia. He was 66.
LIVING BIRD MAGAZINE, Winter 2020 — In early February of 2019, WhatsApp birding groups in southern Ontario were firing off finch alerts. More than a dozen Pine Grosbeaks spotted in Durham, northwest of Toronto. Evening Grosbeaks at Long Point, on the northern shore of Lake Erie. A flock of redpolls around Point Pelee on Lake…
ARCTIC TODAY — For more than 10,000 years, dogs have been an integral part of Arctic culture. They have guided sleds across frozen seas, barked warnings of polar bears and sniffed out seal breathing holes.
A difference of half a degree Celsius would make a huge difference in the future of the Arctic. A carbon sequestration project in Iceland offers hope of keeping warming under control.
Researchers in two separate studies documented dramatic changes beginning in the 1990s after decades of stability.
Warming temperatures and shrinking sea ice threaten a way of life.
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