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Caterpillars Repel Spiders With Nicotine Breath

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sm_closish-up-13-14848-large4Nature comes up with the best solutions to life’s little problems, doesn’t it? And this story is further proof of that. Caterpillars are rightfully scared of spiders, but they have a much better way of dealing with it than I do. I’ve been known to throw heavy objects across the room when I spy an eight-legged intruder, or to try and douse it with toxic chemicals. More often than not, I just leave the spider clearing to someone much braver than I. The tobacco hornworm caterpillar, however, has a better strategy. They like to munch on tobacco plants, and it turns out that they have a gene that enables them to slide that nicotine in their bellies up to their breath. You know, the way garlic and Indian food do. Just as those smells might repel someone of the opposite sex, they also repel wolf spiders, that prey on tobacco hornworm caterpillars.

The genius of this system can’t be overstated. Nicotine breath is nasty. I learned this by having a mother who smokes. My brother and I used to hide her cigarettes and incur her wrath, but we did it out of love. And because she smelled terrible when she smoked—hands, hair, breath, everything. Now I have to wonder whether she was trying to keep the spiders away, or even whether she was trying to get some time to herself. Either way, this is the first time I’ve found myself having something in common with a spider.

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Mystery Solved: Weird Amazonian Web Towers Built By Spiders

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Back in September, GFR reported on some mysterious structures found in the remote Peruvian rainforest. A graduate student staying at the Tambopata Research Center found the structures and posted them on Reddit, where scientists and laypeople alike offered various theories about what made them. When no one could come up with any definitive answers, entomologists headed down to solve the mystery once and for all. And the good ol’ reporters at Wired followed them. It took some doing, but we finally have an answer: spiders. Yay?

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Scientists Have No Idea What Made These Weird Weblike Structures In The Rainforest

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mystery structureI just spent an hour surfing the “what’s this bug” sub-Reddit. Great Maker, there are tons of crazy and terrifying bugs out there, and far more spiders than I care to count. And far too many people using the adjective “gorgeous” to describe them. But the scads of human databases that frequent the sub-Reddit are stumped, along with every scientist and entomologist asked to weigh in on a discovery made by a Georgia Tech graduate student.

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Robot Spider Is The Worst Idea Ever

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T8 robot spiderI’ll just say it upfront: I’m arachnophobic. Once, I stopped my car in the middle of the street and ran to the nearest house to ask some guy for help removing a spider from my rearview mirror. I nearly had a heart attack in Honduras when I came face to face with a huge jumping water spider (spiders should neither live on water nor be able to jump). My arachnophobia goes back to childhood, when…well, let’s not get into that.

Suffice it to say that the T8 Octopod Robot (they’re smart not to put the word “spider” in its name) is the first robot I’ve not wanted to own. Just looking at it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I guess that’s a compliment to its creators, Robugtix.

The arachnoid robot is 3D printed in high resolution and uses 26 servo motors powered by Robugtix’s Bigfoot Inverse Kinematics Engine, which performs all calculations and controls its movements. All a user has to do is send a simple directional command and the engine takes care of the rest. T8 owners can either pre-program sequences or, worse, control the robot remotely with the Robugtix Controller. That means one could walk the T8 into someone’s purse or put it in someone’s bed and make it move. Sorry — I can only imagine the myriad nefarious ways one could use this robot. I’d even prefer a remote-controlled cockroach.