Murder Hornets On A Bee-Killing Spree?

Murder Hornets On A Bee-Killing Spree?

U.S researchers at the Washington State Department of Agriculture have trapped one of the murder hornets for the first time last week. Also called the Asian giant hornet, why do they prey on bees? How are complex honeycomb structures made by bees anyway?

Crux of the Matter

Who Are These Murder Hornets ?

They are the world’s biggest predatory wasps who prey on honey bees, swooping down and grabbing them out of the air. Several dozen Asian giant hornets can together kill a whole hive and use them as protein nourishment for their young versions. So far, more than 1,300 traps have been set in Washington and their nests are being searched using infrared cameras.

Such mass attacks can kill thousands of bees in a few hours. Thus Entomologists (scientists studying insects) have nicknamed these orange and black insects after seeing their aggressive nature towards bees and protecting their kind in general to build colonies.

Difference Between Bees And Hornets
Hornets feed on insects like flies and bees while honeybees collect plant pollen as their protein. The former can sting again & again, yet survive. The bee dies after its one-time-use stinger rips out its abdomen.

Maths Behind Complex Honeycombs Solved?
As per a new study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, the algorithm behind the complicated architecture of beeswax cells has been discovered.

The genus Tetragonula (stingless bees) specialize in building hives in several shapes, from stacks of circles in a bulls-eye, a single/double spiral to a group of terraces. Each individual cell is the landing spot for an egg and a building block for structures 20 levels high.

Digital Model Replicates Real-Life Process
Bees building such complicated shapes without any blueprints actually follow an algorithm. When each bee follows the very same rule in a different part of the waxy hive, an overall pattern is formed.

Hexagonal building blocks are used because they have the shortest perimeter of shapes that fit together tightly, making the most efficient use of wax.

So How Do They Do It?
The digital beehive started with one cell, with the worker bees working on it. Random variables were selected for the new additions to a growing edge which then produces various output patterns.

In nature, crystals grow similarly, with different impurities causing their different shapes. Entomologist Tim Heard suggests that this structure improves airflow through the hive and helps the queen bee navigate her home more easily.

  • Coyote Peterson is a YouTube personality, wildlife educator, and host on Animal Planet. He is best known for his YouTube content, which includes animals stinging and biting him.
  • Vessel is a structure and visitor attraction built in Manhattan, New York City. Built by the British designer Thomas Heatherwick, the elaborate honeycomb-like structure rises 16 stories and consists of 154 flights of stairs.
  • Honeycomb structures are natural or man-made structures that have the geometry of a honeycomb to allow the minimization of the amount of used material to reach minimal weight and minimal material cost. They are widely used in the aerospace industry for this reason, and honeycomb materials in aluminum, fibreglass and advanced composite materials have been featured in aircraft and rockets since the 1950s.

History Of Ayodhya Ram Temple

History Of Ayodhya Ram Temple

With the date of inauguration of the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya on 5th August, let us take a look at the long history of the temple, permeated by conflicts at certain intervals.

Crux of the Matter

The Ceremony for the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya would be held on 5th August, 2020 to initiate the construction of the temple by “the installation of a 40 kg silver brick as the foundation stone by the Prime Minister”.

Only 5 people are expected to be on stage including PM Modi and UP CM Yogi Adityanath to maintain social distancing. The Temple construction is expected to be done in “3 to 3.5 years”. The dimensions of the temple are expected as follows:
Width: 270- 280 feet
Height: 161 feet
Length: 280-300 feet

With such dimensions, it is expected to be the 3rd largest Hindu temple of the world after the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia and the Sri Ranganatha Swamy temple in Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu.

Soil and holy water from temples and rivers across India have reached the temple site as “blessings”, including contributions from the Sangam – the confluence of Ganga, Saraswati, and Yamuna rivers – and soil from Kamakhya temple (Assam), Char Dhams and several other places of worship.

Timeline Of Dispute

  • 1528: Babri Mosque constructed in Ayodhya by Mir Baqi, the commander of Mughal emperor Babur. Hindus allege that Ram temple at the site was demolished to construct the mosque, and claim the place claimed as the place of birth of Lord Ram (Janmbhoomi).
  • 1859: Fence to separate places of worship constructed by British, with the Inner court provided to Muslims and the Outer court provided to Hindus.
  • 1885: Court rejected Mahant Raghubir Das’s plea to construct a temple on Ram chabootra.
  • 1949: Idol of Lord Ram ‘resurfaces’, and the Government declares it a “disputed site” and locks up the premises.
  • 1950: Plea filed by Gopal Singh Visharad to allow worship of idols installed at ‘Asthan Janmabhoomi’.
  • 1959: Nirmohi Akhara, a denomination of Hindu religion worshipping Lord Ram, files suit to claim possession of the disputed land, and claims itself a “custodian” of Ram Janmbhoomi.
  • 1961: The UP Central Sunni Waqf board files suit claiming possession of the mosque and disputed land, and demands the removal of Lord Ram idols from the Mosque.
  • 1983: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) starts nationwide movement demanding construction of temple at the disputed site.
  • 1986: Local court directs the gates to be opened and allows Hindus to worship inside the Mosque. The Babri Masjid Action Committee is set up by Muslims.
  • 1989: Shilanyas ceremony performed by the VHP, where the first stone is placed in the plan of construction of the Ram temple.
  • 1990: BJP leader LK Advani leads Rath Yatra (procession) from Somnath to Ayodhya to demand construction of the temple.
  • 1992: The Babri Mosque is demolished by ‘Kar Sewaks’ comprising of VHP, Shiv Sena and BJP workers.
  • 2002: Allahabad High Court begins hearings concerning the ownership of the disputed land.
  • 2010: Allahabad HC directed a 3-way division of land between the Sunni Waqf board, Nirmohi Akhara, and Ram Lalla (infant form) represented by Hindu Mahasabha.
  • 2011: The Supreme Court (SC) stays the Allahabad HC order.
  • 2019: In August, the SC starts daily hearings after the mediation failed.
  • November 2019: The SC orders the disputed 2.77-acre land to be given to a trust for the construction of Lord Ram temple and allots 5 acres of land for Mosque construction at a different site in Ayodhya.
  • February 2020: The Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust (Temple Trust) is announced for the construction of the temple.
  • March 2020: First phase of construction begins, as idols of deities are shifted to temporary places where they would be kept till the construction of the temple is complete.
  • May 2020: The Temple Trust claims the discovery of “a five-foot Shivlinga, seven pillars of black touchstone, six pillars of red sandstone, structures of flowers and broken idols of deities” at the Ram Janmabhoomi.

  • The word “Ayodhya” is a regularly formed derivation of the Sanskrit verb yudh, the initial ‘a’ is the negative prefix; the whole, therefore, means “not to be fought”. This meaning is attested by the Atharvaveda, which uses it to refer to the unconquerable city of gods.
  • Angkor Wat is a temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world. It was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century in Yaśodharapura, the capital of the Khmer Empire, as his state temple and eventual mausoleum. Since around 1850, the Cambodian flag has featured a depiction of Angkor Wat in the center.
  • Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra is a trust set up for the construction and management of Shri Ram temple in Ayodhya. It was created as per the verdict of the Supreme Court of India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the formation of the trust in the Lok Sabha on 5 February 2020. The trust is led by Mahant Nrityagopal Das.

On SII & Its Big Gamble On Covid Vaccine

On SII & Its Big Gamble On Covid Vaccine

The Serum Institute of India (SII) announced mass production of Covid-19 vaccine even before its clearance, taking a chance to ensure speedy delivery of vaccines if they clear the tests. Let us take a look at the history of the firm, with several achievements already in its collection.

Crux of the Matter

Serum Against Covid
The Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI) recently cleared the Serum Institute of India (SII) to conduct Phase II and III trials of Covid-19 vaccine in India, after successfully clearing the Phase-I. The vaccine is named ‘AZD1222’, and is being developed by the Oxford University in tie up with the British-Swedish pharma giant AstraZeneca.

SII CEO Adar Poonawalla had announced to start production as soon as the Phase-I was cleared, and the institute has initiated the production after the recent clearing of Phase-I. The aim to make the vaccine available on a large-scale in a short time is cited as the reason for starting the production before the clearance, and the vaccines would be available to public only after the clearance of all requisite tests.

Poonawalla recently declared that he would be spending $450 million on the mass production of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Serum Testing
Mylabs Discovery Solution and the SII recently launched Covid-19 testing kits that can conduct 32 tests/hr.

History Of The Serum Institute Of India

  • The Serum Institute of India (SII) is the largest vaccine producer in the world, producing over 1.5 billion vaccine doses per year against diseases like Polio, Tetanus, Hepatitis-B, etc.
  • The company was founded in 1966 by Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla, who started with a fund of $12,000 to “diversify” his income from ‘horse-breeding’. The Poonawalla family owns the largest stud farm in India.
  • Currently, Dr. Cyrus is the 165th richest man in the world with a worth of $11.8 billion, and was ranked 19th in the list of the richest Indians (2019).
  • The company started with the production of ‘Tetanus Antitoxin’ in 1967.
  • The SII recorded a revenue of $840 million as of November 2019.
  • The Poonawallahs invested $4.1 billion to open the Poonawalla Biotech Park in Majari, Pune, which is the largest vaccine facility in the world.

Vaccine Empire

  • 65% of children worldwide are estimated to receive at least one vaccine dose produced by the SII.
  • 2010: The SII launched the Nasovac nasal vaccine for H1N1 (Swine flu) virus, which is a single dose vaccine to be sniffed once in each nostril.
  • 2012: The SII acquired Bilthoven Biologicals of Netherlands, and obtained technology to make the IPV (Injectable Polio Vaccine, Salk) which was possessed by only 3 other vaccine producers earlier.
  • November 2014: Serum signed a deal with Cipla to market its paediatric vaccines across the world.
  • May 2015: Cipla agreed to market the influenza drug made by Serum across India.
  • 2017: The SII launched Rabishield (Rapid action drugs against Rabies) in partnership with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
  • July 2020: The SII developed the first Indian vaccine against pneumonia, named the “Pneumosil” or ‘Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Conjugate Vaccine (PPSV23)’.
    The firm is expected to produce 100 million doses per year, with 40-50 million doses being reserved for Indians.
  • SII has received approbation for its low cost of vaccines, with doses of several of Serum’s vaccines costing as low as ₹5 per dose.

  • Dr. Cyrus S. Poonawalla is an Indian Parsi businessman, also known as the “vaccine king of India”. Hurun Global Rich List – 2019 listed Dr. Poonawalla as the 4th richest person in India and 100th in the world with a net worth of $13 billion.
  • Adar Poonawalla is the chief executive officer (CEO) of Serum Institute of India. He initiated and launched in 2014 Serum Institute’s oral polio vaccine, which became a bestseller for the company. In 2017, Modi nominated Adar Poonawalla as brand ambassador for Swachh Bharat.
  • Serum is the fluid and solute component of blood which does not play a role in clotting. The study of serum is serology. Serum is used in numerous diagnostic tests as well as blood typing.

History of Electric Vehicles

History of Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles have been in existence longer than the General Motors EV1 of the late 1990s and today’s Tesla Inc. Let’s understand how things came to be as they are now.

Crux of the Matter

1830s – 1840s
1832-1839 – Batteries (galvanic cell or voltaic cell) were not yet rechargeable. Scotland’s Robert Anderson built the first motorized carriage between this period.

Then Robert Davidson of Aberdeen, built a prototype electric locomotive (rail transport vehicle) in 1837. William H. Taylor in the US made similar motors from 1838.Both these men worked independently, unknown to each others’ works.

Davidson’s advanced version called Galvani was launched. It could go 1.5 miles at 4 mph towing 6 tons of heavy goods. The railway workers saw this as a threat to their jobs tending steam engines and so they destroyed it.

Rechargeable batteries came into existence, with the invention of the lead–acid battery by French physicist Gaston Planté.

Thomas Parker helped in the deployment of electric-powered trams (a rail vehicle that runs on tracks in public streets) and subsequently built prototype electric cars in England.

Scottish chemist, William Morrison, applied for a patent on the electric carriage he’d built and then it appeared in a city parade in 1888. It had 24 battery cells that needed recharging every 50 miles, with front-wheel drive, 4 horsepower & a top speed of 20 mph. Later on, it gathered interest in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Electric battery cars became popular for taxi services during this period, after Walter Bersey had introduced them in London. There was General Motors’ EV1 launched in 1996 and in 1997, the first mass-produced gas-electric hybrid vehicle Toyota Prius was launched in Japan.This was followed by the Honda Insight in 1999 US, Japan and thereafter Europe, North America and worldwide in 2000.

However, in the early 1900s, battery-powered vehicles had an edge over their gas counterparts. They did produce a high level of noise, vibration, and emanate smell associated with gasoline. Plus these battery cars were preferred as they did not require a manual effort to start or gear changes.

Things changed with the invention of the electric starter by Charles Kettering in 1912, making gas cars to travel faster and longer than their electric versions. Plus added discoveries of large petroleum reserves worldwide, led to the wide availability of cheaper gas. Again gas prices soared between 1960s-1990s, creating interest in electric vehicles once more.

Gas Giants Overpowering Electric Aspirants
Throughout the EV emergence, there has been a constant pressure exerted by the oil industry, who was always afraid of losing its monopoly on transportation fuel over the coming decades.

There were reported figures of low consumer demand and hyped advertisements about the success of gas driven cars in the US. Then due to lack of infrastructure and finances, EV models were later destroyed or donated to museums and educational institutions.

In fact even now, for an undisclosed sum, oil giant Shell bought German home energy-storage startup Sonnen in 2019, in order to utilise their assets to Compete against Tesla and it’s batteries.

2000s – Present
The emergence of MOS (metal-oxide-semiconductor) technology and lithium ion battery led to the development of modern age electric road vehicles with less power losses.

The likes of Japanese Nissan Leaf, American Tesla Model X, German BMW i3 and South Korean Hyundai Ioniq Electric became popular electric cars, with more attempts at installing their respective charging stations. Additionally, Chinese and Taiwanese firms became manufacturing in e-bikes like the Gogoro series and Okinawa iPraise.

  • Bertha Benz was a German automotive pioneer. She was the business partner and wife of automobile inventor Karl Benz. She was the first person to drive an automobile over a long distance in 1888.
  • Hummer is a brand of trucks and SUVs, first marketed in 1992. After closing the brand, it was revived earlier this year by General Motors. It was announced that a new electric pickup Hummer will soon be released.
  • Rivian is an American automaker and automotive technology company. Founded in 2009, the company develops vehicles, products and services related to sustainable transportation. In 2017, Rivian announced it was building an electric SUV.
  • In 1907, the tram car commenced in Mumbai, formerly Bombay and was run by the Electric Supply and Tramway Company till 1964. They later introduced double-decker trains to streamline traffic and increased routes.
  • The second oldest electric tramway in India after the Chennai tram service, was started by WBTC and CTC in 1902. To date it’s the only tram network operating in the nation.

Understanding Midday Meals In India

Understanding Midday Meals In India

Akshaya Patra recently raised funds for Midday Meals amidst Covid-19 pandemic, adding to the history of the provision of such in the country. Let us understand how midday meals work in India.

Crux of the Matter

Recent Fund Raising
Akshaya Patra, the world’s largest midday meal provider working as a not-for-profit organization, recently raised $950,000 through a virtual event of Texas to provide meals amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. The event was named ‘Virtual Gala’ and was attended by philanthropists from all over the world. The aim of the meeting was to help Akshaya Patra in eradicating “childhood hunger” in India.

In the latest New Education Policy (NEP) 2020, the Indian government also proposed ‘breakfast’ as a supplement to the midday meal.

History Of Midday Meals In India

  • 1925: Midday Meal started in Madras for disadvantaged and underprivileged children.
  • 1980s: Gujarat, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and the Union Territory of Pondicherry were providing Midday Meals on a state basis.
  • 1995: The National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (NP-NSPE) was launched, aiming to enhance children’s health and also increase enrollment in schools.
  • 2001: The Midday Meal Scheme (MDMS) was launched on a national level. The scheme was mandated to provide children in every Government and Government-aided primary school a “prepared Mid Day Meal with a minimum content of 300 calories of energy and 8-12 gram protein per day for a minimum of 200 days”.

Current Status

  • The Midday Meal Scheme (MDMS) is currently run in “Government, Govt. Aided, Local Body, EGS and AIE Centres, Madarsa and Maqtabs supported under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Schools run by Ministry of Labour”.
  • The Government also mandates a minimum nutritional requirement of the meal. Primary class students are provided 100 gm of rice/grains while the Upper primary class students are provided 150 gm of such. The minimum calorific intake mandated for students is 450 calories for the Primary students and 700 calories for Upper primary students.
  • The aim of Middy Meals is not only to enhance health but also to eradicate “classroom hunger” which affects students’ learning. The scheme also aims to “socialize” children of different caste and religious groups together, and provide employment to disadvantaged groups.
  • More than 25 lakh cooks are employed for Midday Meal provision (2016-17), and more than 11.6 crore children in the country are aided by the Mid Day Meals.


  • A 2011 study has found that the Mid Day Meal increased overall enrollment in schools by 13% over a period of 10 years.
  • Studies have also found that the average reading score “for children who ate school lunches for three to four years” was 18% higher than those having for less than a year.

Non-Govt Schemes
Several NGOs are offered contracts to provide the Midday Meals across the country. These operate as either ‘centralized’ by setting up large “factory-like” kitchens or as ‘decentralized’, where the region and the roads are inadequate to set up large production settings.

Akshaya Patra
Akshaya Patra is the largest Midday Meal provider in India, run by the International Society For Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). It provides free Midday Meals to over 1.8 million children in 19,039 Government schools and Government-aided schools, having set up 52 kitchens in 12 states and 2 Union Territories. The organization has also aided in the time of Covid-19 by providing 70 million servings of ‘dry rations’ and cooked meals.

Other Organisations
Some other NGOs facilitating the provision of Midday Meals are Jay Gee Humanitarian Society & People’s Forum, Naandi Foundation Ekta Shakti Foundation, Isha Education, Rajasthan Bal Kalyan Samiti (RBKS), Milaan Be The Change, etc.

Several community programs are also run like the Tithi Bhojan (Gujarat), where people are encouraged to celebrate family events by providing Midday Meals in the locality. The Tithi Bhojan has been adopted across the country by the names “Sampriti Bhojan” in Assam, “Sneh Bhojan” in Maharashtra, “Shalegagi Naavu Neevu” in Karnataka, “Utsav Bhoj” in Rajasthan, etc.

  • Madhu Pandit Dasa is the chairman and founder of the Akshaya Patra Foundation. He is also awarded Padma Shri Award by GOI for his services towards the youth of India through Akshaya Patra.
  • CLT India (Children’s LoveCastles Trust) is an Indian non-profit, non-government organization based in Jakkur, Bengaluru. It was founded in 1997. It aims to provide education using technology to the under-served communities and its solutions serve the base of the pyramid. CLT started with providing midday meals.
  • In 1982, ‘Food for Learning’ was launched with assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Initially, the program was aimed at scheduled caste and scheduled tribe girls.