Published: Monday 31 January 2005

green pesticide: A fungus has been found to be the perfect weapon against troublesome ants and termites. Though lethal to the pests, it does not harm other insects, animals or people, according to Paul Stamets, who has founded a company called Mycopesticide in Washington to commercialise the biopesticide. Stamets discovered that foraging ants and termites found the smell of the fungus at the "pre-sporulitic" stage (just before it forms spores) of its life cycle irresistible. Once carried inside the colony of ants or termites, the fungus infects them and kills them within days. The ants found the fungus repellent at other stages of its life cycle.

sex ratio: Egg incubation temperature has been found to affect the sex ratio of Australian brush turkeys (Alectura lathami). Ann Goth of Maquarie University, Sydney, found more male chicks hatched at 31C while more female chicks were born at 36C. At 34C equal numbers of males and females hatched. These birds cover their eggs with a mound of organic matter that releases heat as it decomposes.

don't be shy: Shy children appear to have a different pattern of processing facial expressions, according to a study conducted by Italian scientists. About 50 third and fourth-grade schoolchildren were shown pictures of boys and girls with facial expressions that depicted joy, neutrality, and anger. The researchers found the shy children had weak responses to overtly hostile and neutral facial expressions, indicating diminished brain involvement. They say such children are at a heightened risk of developing anxiety disorders, in particular social phobia, later in life.

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