Did you know there are 200 million insects for each human on the planet? This October, Horizon delves into the mysteries of this diverse set of creatures and their seemingly infinite survival skills. We talk to researchers about why it's vital to maintain the diverse range of insect species, find out how robots and ants can work together to solve problems and explore how the superpowers of bugs could be put to use for humans.
Herbivorous insects are estimated to be responsible for destroying one-fifth of the world's total crop production annually, but a new, natural approach to pesticides that turns insects' taste and smell preferences against them could help reduce this toll.
Insects have to cope with a wide range of environmental factors in order to thrive – disease, drought and habitat changes. Scientists hope that studying insect biology and behaviour could help humans cope with problems from climate change to disease control, shift work and even jet lag.
To many people, they are merely creepy-crawlies to be swatted away or avoided, but the planet we live on is dominated and run by insects, argues Professor Alexey Solodovnikov, curator of the beetle collection at the Natural History Museum of Denmark. He believes more must be done to understand and protect this hugely diverse group of animals.
Even though we all spend about a third of our lives asleep, there's still plenty left for us to learn about the science of sleep. This month, Horizon looks at the importance of shuteye for our physical and mental health, and how sleep-deprived brains may be both awake and asleep at the same time. Plus, we investigate what exactly drives us to sleep and wake up, the effects of insomnia, and how the way our bodies use sleep to form memories is inspiring scientists to discover ways to improve our brains.
Hormones are blamed for everything from weight gain to mood swings and this December, Horizon takes a closer look at these chemical regulators and their effects on our bodies and minds. We explore the impact of the so-called love hormone on the human-dog relationship and what it can tell us about social disorders. We find out what’s being done to neutralise the hormone-disrupting chemicals that are found in water and sewage, and we discover the importance of hormonal rhythms in tracking disorders that can lead to obesity, heart disease and osteoporosis.
Studying environments that are similar to Mars, and their microbial ecosystems, could help prepare biologists to identify traces of life in outer space.
For many people who struggle to get a good night’s rest, being able to switch on and off the brain circuits that control sleep would be a life-changer. The good news is that’s exactly what scientists hope to do, but first they need to get a better understanding of what’s going on.
Extremophile bacteria have adapted to survive inhospitable niches.
A better understanding of sleep pressure could advance therapies.
Sleep expert says that around 10 % of people are at risk of insomnia and employers should invest in therapy for those affected.