Sunbathing helps these bugs stay healthy

August 24, 2012

Sunbathing may be healthy – at least for one group of North American insects that apparently uses the activity to fight off germs, Simon Fraser University scientists have found.

Western Boxelder bugs (WBB), found largely in B.C. interior regions, are known to group together in sunlit patches and while there, release monoterpenes, strong-smelling that help protect the bugs by killing germs on their bodies.

Researchers previously thought the compounds had a role in reproduction or defending the bugs against predators. But their latest study found that the compounds were emitted when the bugs were in sunshine – in effect, sunbathing – and weren't used for communication or other purposes.

According to the researchers, sunlight appears to activate the biosynthesis of the compounds in the bugs, described as highly gregarious creatures. The chemicals then physically encase on the bugs' and set off a chain of events that ultimately protect them from germ penetration.

Their findings are published in the August issue of the journal Entomologia Experimentalis it Applicata.

"Prophylactic sunbathing defends these bugs against pathogens that they encounter in their shelters," says SFU biology professor Gerhard Gries, who co-authored the paper with colleague Zamir Punja and former graduate student Joseph Schwarz, now working on his PhD in entomology at Washington State University. Gries holds an NSERC-Industrial Chair in Multimodal Ecology at SFU.

"If they are converting the sun's solar energy to fuel chemical work, without the aid of microbial symbionts (organisms that live together with a host, often to their ) we would consider this a highly remarkable feat in the animal world."

Gries says while the phenomenon may exist in other insects it has yet to be observed or reported.

Explore further: Ladybugs may be cute, but watch out when they get near wine

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not rated yet Aug 25, 2012
Even if it's only powering its immune system this way, still amazing... couple of years back, no animals were known to photosynthesise... now we've found three!

Must be others out there....
not rated yet Aug 26, 2012
sunbathing is also good for human! nudists love it! google "naturistmingle" to meet true nudists, it offers a friendly and confidential environment for nudists to look for friendships, relationships, and resources concerning the nudist lifestyle.

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