Insect Societies Have A Lot to Teach About Healthy Social Living

Ants Macro on Green Leaves, Naypong Studio –

Agriculture is widely considered the start of humanity living in large, closely inhabited settlements as opposed to small nomadic tribes. With any behavioral change, there is a cost-benefit. We are currently experiencing a real-time cost-benefit of living in an agricultural society with the development of the coronavirus pandemic. Social living has increased humanity’s ability to do just about everything including pathogen (bacterium, virus, disease causing microorganism) transmission.

However, humanity is not the only agricultural society successfully living on Earth today. If we look closely—very closely—there are tiny, yet massively populated societies facing the same pathogen transmission challenges.

Some of these societies have developed unique strategies to protect themselves—like a certain species of aphids whose soldiers explode their abdomens to seal and defend their colony from disease threats.

Others employ versions that we see in human communities, like developing a diverse gut microbiome for strong immune systems.

Taking a closer look at social insect models could be the key to unlocking more effective human strategies for pathogen management.

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January is National Radon Action Month: Test Your Home and Protect Your Health

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is over and here in Wisconsin, the weather is cold. Our doors and windows are closed, and that’s one of the first steps in getting good results from a radon test.

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

Radon is a radioactive gas that results from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer overall and the leading cause in non-smokers. The EPA estimates that as many as 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year are caused by radon. Radon is colorless and odorless, and the only way to know if your home has a problem is to test for it.

By now you are asking, “What does radon have to do with the Forest Products Laboratory?” Radon was detected in the basement of the FPL’s Research Demonstration House, an unoccupied residential structure built in 2001 on a permanent wood foundation. This discovery took place during a case study focused on estimating the rate of moisture infiltration from soil surrounding the basement foundation. Initial test results showed an average of 8.7 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of radon in the basement of the house during winter – far above the EPA action level guideline of 4 pCi/L. Researchers C.R. Boardman and Samuel V. Glass took advantage of the installation of the radon mitigation equipment to validate the moisture infiltration model used to estimate the rate of moisture entry. In a  follow-up study, they monitored both moisture infiltration and radon levels for 1 year. The active soil depressurization system, a standard radon mitigation technique, reduced basement radon levels to below 1 pCi/L and reduced moisture infiltration by over 75% during the winter. The final in-depth report, “Basement Radon Entry and Stack Driven Moisture Infiltration Reduced by Active Soil Depressurization,” was recently published in the February 2015 edition of Building and Environment.

The EPA and the U.S. Surgeon General recommend testing all homes for radon. If levels are high, take steps to lower them. Reliable techniques exist for reducing radon levels in homes. Research by public and private agencies, years of extensive hands-on mitigation experience, and long-term follow-up studies on the durability of radon mitigation systems have formed a strong knowledge base of proven mitigation techniques for homes, schools, and commercial buildings. The techniques are straightforward, and for a typical single-family residence, can be done in one day by a qualified contractor.

Take a step to protect your health and purchase a radon test kit or hire a contractor today.

To learn more about radon, visit and see to locate your state radon program.