Drunken Bugs, Expiration Dates, Ped Xing


Everybody’s so worried about being bitten by mosquitoes these days. It sort of occurred to me that maybe if you were drunk and had a pretty high blood-alcohol level and were bitten by a mosquito, it would get drunk too. Could this happen?

— Junior, North County

Staggering mosquitoes? Mosquitoes with tiny lampshades on their heads? Hitting on your girlfriend? Passed out on the couch? Yikes. What a picture. As much fun as it might sound, it’s not going to happen. The state of being blotto is a result of the effects of alcohol on the brain. Mosquito nervous systems and brains are not like humans’, so the tiny amount of alcohol they’d ingest wouldn’t affect them as it affects us. This is entomological speculation, though. Nobody’s bothered to try to get a mosquito drunk under laboratory conditions.

But that’s not to say that all of insectdom is immune. Some bugstudiers in Ohio have been feeding alcohol to honeybees and produced some laff-a-minute results. Seems that the honeybee is wired up much like humans and can be used to study human-brain problems. These particular lab wonks are looking for a good animal model to study the molecular-level effects of chronic alcohol intake in humans, and the honeybee seemed like their best bet. They rounded up bees, fed them food with various levels of ethanol in it, then stood back and waited for the fun to begin. Results were just as you’d expect. Low levels of alcohol produced mild behavioral changes. The bees fed very high levels spent all their time flat on their backs.

Hey, Matt:

There is something that’s been bugging the crap out of me for a while. Seems like I get a different answer, depending on who is doing the answering. Money is tight nowadays, so I’ve been doing a lot more grocery shopping rather than eating out. But depending on what I pick up, they are all marked with “best by” date, “sell by” date, or “use by” date. Now, “use by” date is pretty self-explanatory. What the heck is “best by”? Is there a “taste-o-meter” that I can use to determine whether the item is at 60 or 70 percent of its maximum taste capability? Don’t even get me started with “sell by.” Is this some conspiracy from the food industry to make us discard and buy more when they are perfectly fine for consumption? Help me save some $$$!

— Tom, via email

Sit down and towel off, Tom. You’ve got your stuff in a knot over very little. No conspiracy by the USDA or some megamart cartel. Simply an effort to be a little helpful, maybe to protect a brand’s image. First of all, only baby food requires date stamps by federal law (a few states have related laws). All this sell-by and use-by stuff is an idea thunk up by manufacturers of food that might quickly lose its liveliness on the shelf. The USDA emphasizes that dates on packages have nothing to do with product safety, though they recommend you don’t buy any product with a sell-by date that’s passed. Dates are related to product quality and freshness. So, yes, I guess the companies have their own taste-o-meters that judge when their prune juice has begun to pass its peak of pruniness, and they want to give the store a heads-up about that. The feds do say that if you have a calendar date on your package, you must explain what it means — sell by, use by, whatever — so what you see is the manufacturer’s choice. To net it out, “sell by” means the vendor should pull the product at this time because it’s passed its prime, but it’s not deadly. “Use by” means the product will start to poop out at this time, but it won’t kill you. “Best by,” ditto. The manufacturer wants only his best-tasting goods on the shelf, and these dates help. They are very sorry they have caused you so much pain and anxiety.

Hey, Matt:

Once a pedestrian has pressed the button ONCE on the traffic light pole indicating that he’d like to cross the street, may the pedestrian then consider the button officially pressed, or if he instead presses it A HUNDRED TIMES, like some peds like to do, does that communicate to Mr. Pole that there are literally herds of pedestrians waiting to cross, causing him to change more quickly to green so the herd won’t be kept waiting? Or, once a button is pressed, is it PRESSED, like an on/off button? Thank you.

— Donna, via email

Press the little button once and consider it fully pressed until the light changes. The 2nd, the 50th, the 100th push — no matter how hard somebody slams Mr. Pole — will make no difference. The button is either pressed or not pressed. And that’s that. Whamming repeatedly on the device only serves to work off a little impatience and give Mr. Ped something to do until he can cross the street.

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