Key to medically relevant Italian spider bites: a practical quick recognition tool for clinicians

G. Paolino, M.R. Di Nicola,, P. Di Pompeo, J.C.M. Dorne, S.R. Mercuri


Introduction. Spider bites are often overestimated because there
are no specific clinical or histopathological aspects that characterize
them, and skin lesions that resemble a spider bite are often wrongly
considered to be a “true spider bite”. However, even in case of a
true spider bite, it is almost impossible to confirm the biting species,
since very often neither physicians nor patients are trained in spider

Objective. The aim of this report is to provide clinicians with a rapid
and simple recognition of the few Italian medically relevant spiders, in
order to take relative medical measures in case of spider bites.

Materials and methods. We defined spiders of considerable medical
relevance the ones that cause local symptoms with possible systemic
involvement, while we defined spiders with mild medical relevance the
ones whose bite is not a medical emergency but is particularly painful
or can cause lasting symptoms. We focused on the identification of the
four spider taxa of major clinical interest through a brief descriptive,
photographic and graphic guide, in association to dermatological

Results. Spiders of considerable medical relevance are Loxosceles
rufescens and Latrodectus tredecimguttatus, while spiders of less severe medical relevance are Steatoda paykulliana, S. nobilis, S. grossa,
Cheiracanthium punctorium, Amblyocarenum spp. and Macrothele
calpeiana (the presence of the latter in Italy is only accidental and
very sporadic). The only species capable of causing necrosis is Loxosceles rufescens, while Latrodectus tredecimguttatus can cause more
systemic symptoms.

Discussion and Conclusion. With the aim of promoting a first and
rapid recognition of the species, we performed a morphological usable
aspect for an initial and quick recognition according to an identification
key. Clin Ter 2021; 172 (4):336-346. doi: 10.7417/CT.2021.2338

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Climate change effects on bread wheat phenology and grain quality: A case study in the north of Italy

Giovanni Maria Poggi, Iris Aloisi, Simona Corneti, Erika Esposito, Marina Naldi, Jessica Fiori, Stefano Piana and Francesca Ventura

Increasing temperatures, heat waves, and reduction of annual precipitation are all the expressions of climate change (CC), strongly affecting bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) grain yield in Southern Europe. Being temperature the major driving force of plants’ phenological development, these variations also have effects on wheat phenology, with possible consequences on grain quality, and gluten protein accumulation. Here, through a case study in the Bolognese Plain (North of Italy), we assessed the effects of CC in the area, the impacts on bread wheat phenological development, and the consequences on grain gluten quality. The increasing trend in mean annual air temperature in the area since 1952 was significant, with a breakpoint identified in 1989, rising from 12.7 to 14.1°C, accompanied by the signals of increasing aridity, i.e., increase in water table depth. Bread wheat phenological development was compared in two 15-year periods before and after the breakpoint, i.e., 1952–1966 (past period), and 2006–2020 (present period), the latest characterized by aridity and increased temperatures. A significant shortening of the chronological time necessary to reach the main phenological phases was observed for the present period compared to the past period, finally shortening the whole life cycle. This reduction, as well as the higher temperature regime, affected gluten accumulation during the grain-filling process, as emerged analyzing gluten composition in grain samples of the same variety harvested in the area both before and after the breakpoint in temperature. In particular, the proportion of gluten polymers (i.e., gliadins, high and low molecular weight glutenins, and their ratio) showed a strong and significant correlation with cumulative growing degree days (CGDDs) accumulated during the grain filling. Higher CGDD values during the period, typical of CC in Southern Europe, accounting for higher temperature and faster grain filling, correlated with gliadins, high molecular weight glutenins, and their proportion with low molecular weight glutenins. In summary, herein reported, data might contribute to assessing the effects of CC on wheat phenology and quality, representing a tool for both predictive purposes and decision supporting systems for farmers, as well as can guide future breeding choices for varietal innovation.

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Polyethylene bio-degradation by caterpillars of the wax moth Galleria mellonella


Plastics are synthetic polymers derived from fossil oil and largely resistant to biodegradation. Polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) represent ∼92% of total plastic production. PE is largely utilized in packaging, representing ∼40% of total demand for plastic products ( with over a trillion plastic bags used every year [1]. Plastic production has increased exponentially in the past 50 years (Figure S1A in Supplemental Information, published with this article online). In the 27 EU countries plus Norway and Switzerland up to 38% of plastic is discarded in landfills, with the rest utilized for recycling (26%) and energy recovery (36%) via combustion (, carrying a heavy environmental impact. Therefore, new solutions for plastic degradation are urgently needed. We report the fast bio-degradation of PE by larvae of the wax moth Galleria mellonella, producing ethylene glycol.

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AGH Outside Asia

Locations where the Vespa mandarinia’s nest and specimens were found.
Click the image to open it in Google maps

The Asian Giant Hornet can be found in most Asian countries from China to Japan, South to Vietnam, and to the West to Nepal, and eastern regions of India.

Since August 2019, it has also been found on the pacific coast of North America close to the border between Canada and USA. In the map above you can find all the locations where individual specimens or nest have been found.

Vespa mandarinia, commonly known as Asian Giant Hornet or Japanese Giant Hornet, is the biggest living hornet on the planet. Its size is quite impressive; the body can reach a length of 50 mm, while the wingspan can be over 8 cm.

This specimen found in Yunnan reaches a huge wingspan of 93.51 mm and the body length (without antennas or legs) is well over 60 mm. This individual was definitely above the average size normally reached by this big hornet.

Here is the poster made by the Washington State Department of Agriculture
after Blaine’s nest was removed

How dangerous is Vespa mandarinia?

From 15 to 26 people die every year in Japan for being stung by Hymenoptera (bees, wasps hornets). In China, the yearly figures are between 30 to 40 people.
When compared with the figures form a European country like Italy (which has free access to good quality healthcare) and you notice that 10 to 20 people die even there with a fraction of the China population and roughly half of Japan population you can say than Vespa mandarinia is not more dangerous then Vespa crabro or Vespa orientalis.

Besides a small part of the population who suffers from specific allergies, it takes an average of 60 stung to kill an adult person in good health. Most people stung by 30 giant hornets survive the painful experience.

Here a short video about this insect

For more information please check this link

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Online Databases

Acta Plantarum – Italian plants database

Araneae – Italian spider and other italian Arachnids database

Atlas Hymenoptera – Hymenoptera world atlas

Bladmineerders – Bladmineerders – Plant Parasites of Europe leafminers, galls and fungi

Barcode of Life Data System (BOLD) – cloud-based data storage and analysis platform for DNA sequences

Britsh Bugs – Online identification guide to UK Hemiptera

BugGuide – Guide to identification, images, & information

Cabi ISC – Invasive species compendium

Catalog of Life – complete catalog, update yearly, of all known living species – All the diplododa

DoPI – The Database of Pollinator Interactions

Encylopedia of Life – known information about every life form

Featherbase – Online Database about european feathers

Fishbase – database about all Fishes

Leps – Moths and Butterflies of Europe and North Africa

NCBI – National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information

Planetcatfish – The biggest info collection about Loricaridae

Pollinator Accademy – How to identify the main pollinators – Lepidoptera and their ecology

Spider Silkdome DB – Spider Silkome Database

World Spider Catalog – an online database that grants access to scientific literature and taxonomy on more then 48.000 spider species

Do you know other online databases about living species?
Please let me know

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Genome of the pitcher plant Cephalotus reveals genetic changes associated with carnivory

Kenji Fukushima, Xiaodong Fang, David Alvarez-Ponce, Huimin Cai, Lorenzo Carretero-Paulet, Cui Chen, Tien-Hao Chang, Kimberly M. Farr, Tomomichi Fujita, Yuji Hiwatashi, Yoshikazu Hoshi, Takamasa Imai, Masahiro Kasahara, Pablo Librado, Likai Mao, Hitoshi Mori, Tomoaki Nishiyama, Masafumi Nozawa, Gergő Pálfalvi, Stephen T. Pollard, Julio Rozas, Alejandro Sánchez-Gracia, David Sankoff, Tomoko F. Shibata, Shuji Shigenobu, Naomi Sumikawa, Taketoshi Uzawa, Meiying Xie, Chunfang Zheng, David D. Pollock, Victor A. Albert, Shuaicheng Li & Mitsuyasu Hasebe


Carnivorous plants exploit animals as a nutritional source and have inspired long-standing questions about the origin and evolution of carnivory-related traits. To investigate the molecular bases of carnivory, we sequenced the genome of the heterophyllous pitcher plant Cephalotus follicularis, in which we succeeded in regulating the developmental switch between carnivorous and non-carnivorous leaves. Transcriptome comparison of the two leaf types and gene repertoire analysis identified genetic changes associated with prey attraction, capture, digestion and nutrient absorption. Analysis of digestive fluid proteins from C. follicularis and three other carnivorous plants with independent carnivorous origins revealed repeated co-options of stress-responsive protein lineages coupled with convergent amino acid substitutions to acquire digestive physiology. These results imply constraints on the available routes to evolve plant carnivory.

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Resilient responses by bats to a severe wildfire: conservation implications

Leonardo Ancillotto, Luciano Bosso, Paola Conti & Danilo Russo

Post originale

Nel 2017 un incendio catastrofico distrusse gran parte delle aree forestali del Vesuvio. Grazie a un monitoraggio dei pipistrelli iniziato prima di quell’evento, siamo stati in grado di misurare la risposta della comunità di chirotteri con un confronto prima-dopo praticamente unico in letteratura. L’articolo è appena uscito: L. Ancillotto, L. Bosso, P. Conti & D. Russo (2020). Resilient responses by bats to a severe wildfire: conservation implications. Animal Conservation. Se vi interessa, richiedetelo tramite Research Gate.

In 2017, a catastrophic wildfire destroyed most of Mt Vesuvius’s forest. Thanks to an ongoing long-term bat monitoring programme, we could establish the bat community response through a before-after comparison, something so far unique in the scientific literature. Find out more by requesting the article through Research Gate: L. Ancillotto, L. Bosso, P. Conti & D. Russo (2020). Resilient responses by bats to a severe wildfire: conservation implications. Animal Conservation.


Wildfires shape ecosystems globally, yet little is known on their effects on wildlife distribution and spatial behaviour. We used bats as models to test the effects of fire on ecosystems because they are multi-habitat specialists and feature ecological and life traits such as behavioural plasticity and longevity that make them able to respond to both short-and long-term environmental changes. We aimed at testing the effects of a severe wildfire on a Mediterranean bat assemblage in terms of occupancy, activity and individual fitness. Here, we measure the effects of fire on activity levels and occupancy by a Mediterranean bat assemblage at the Vesuvius National Park, in Southern Italy, over 4 years, encompassing a year when a severe wildfire occurred. By comparing bat occurrence and activity at burnt versus unburnt sites with a Before-After/Control-Impact approach, we found that bat responses to wildfires are species specific and depend on the time elapsed since the fire. Species that rely more strongly on forest areas showed a strong short-term adverse response in terms of occupancy and activity, while species adapted to open habitats showed no response 1 year after the wildfire. However, most species showed a general positive effect due to the passage of fire 2 years after its occurrence , probably because of vegetation regrowth. The wildfire event was also associated with reduced reproduction in at least one species, and to worse individual body conditions 1 year after the wildfire. Our results show that most bats in a Mediterranean ecosystem show resilience to the occurrence of fire, yet many species show negative short-term responses by altering their spatial behaviour and decreasing their investment in reproduction. Future increases in fire occurrence and intensity due to climate change may alter bat assemblages and impair population viability in the long term, hampering the fundamental ecosystem services provided by structured bat communities.

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How to tell apart Saffron and Colchicum

Colchicum sp.
Colchicum sp. picture taken near Brasimone Lake, Bolognese appennine Italy

In the Italian mountain meadows in September the Colchicum flowers are blooming. They are really astonishing flowers and dangerously similar to Crocus.

Within the Genus Crocus, the Species Crocus sativus is quite important for both gastronomic and economical aspects. Crocus sativus is well-known ad “Saffron” and it blooms between October and November. The blooming period of the two species may vary due to altitude, latitude, and weather conditions.

The differences between those two genera are many, but the most important is the presence of some very toxic alkaloids in the Genus Colchicum.

The species Colchicum autumnale is particulary rich in colchicine an extremely toxic alkaloid, that can lead to a painful death if eaten (I will spare you the details, but is a really unpleasant death).
The toxic dose for an adult human is about 10 mg.
The Colchicum autumnale blooming period is usually one or two months before Crocus sativus.

Colchicine has also therapeutic applications and is used in agronomic and medical scientific research even in experimental therapies against the virus SARS-CoV-2.
Should you want to know more read

The morphological difference easier to spot is the number of stamens
The flowers of Colchicum have 6 stamens each
The flowers of Crocus have 3 stamens each

Colchicum sp. flowers near Brasimone Lake in Italy. Please note the 6 stamens
Colchicum autumnale
Crocus sp. flowers, you can see the 3 stamens in each flower

For further information

Crocus sativus L.

Colchicum autumnale L.


If you are looking how to care for Saffron flower please check this link

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Spider bites of medical significance in the Mediterranean area: misdiagnosis, clinical features and management

Gabriele Fusto, Luigi Bennardo1, Ester Del Duca, Daniela Mazzuca, Federica Tamburi, Cataldo Patruno, Steven Paul Nisticò


Despite the disrepute spiders have had for centuries, their bite is a rare occurrence. In the Mediterranean area, only two of the numerous known species are considered of medical significance: Latrodectus tredecimguttatus and Loxosceles rufescens. Spider bites have no pathognomonic signs or symptoms, therefore most diagnoses are presumptive; a spider bite can only be diagnosed when a spider (seen at the time of the bite) is collected and identified by an expert, since most physicians and patients are unable to recognize a certain spider species or distinguish spiders from other arthropods. Skin lesions of uncertain etiology are too often attributed to spider bites. In most cases, these are actually skin and soft-tissue infections, allergic reactions, dermatoses etc. Misdiagnosing a wound as a spider bite can lead to delays in appropriate care, cause adverse or even fatal outcomes and have medical-legal implications. Concerningly, misinformation on spider bites also affects the medical literature and it appears there is lack of awareness on current therapeutic indications for verified bites.

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