Walk on carpet and you may build up enough static electricity to generate a little shock. Researchers are now capitalizing on the phenomenon to trap insects.
The bizarre strategy is to let the critters charge up as they walk, then use this electricity to attract oppositely polarized poisonous particles–like a magnet gathering iron filings.
Static builds when one material transfers electrons to another by repeated contact. Insects accumulate static charges as they fly or walk. One ecological benefit of this is that pollen grains stick to the insects, which then carry them to flowers. Until now, however, no one has actually measured the amount of charge involved.