Chemical signal for locust swarming identified in step toward curbing plagues

Related

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON – Scientists have identified a chemical compound released by locusts that causes them to swarm, opening the door to possible new ways to prevent these insects from devouring crops vital to human sustenance as they have for millennia.

Researchers said on Wednesday they identified the pheromone – a chemical produced by an animal that affects the behavior of others of its own species – in the world’s most widespread locust species, the migratory locust, or Locusta migratoria.

Called 4-vinylanisole (4VA), it is primarily released from the hind legs and is detected by the antennae of other locusts and sensed by odorant receptors, the researchers said.

4VA powerfully attracted locusts regardless of age or sex, the research published in the journal Nature showed. Its production was triggered in the insects when as few as four to five solitary locusts came together, precipitating swarming behavior.

“In human history, locust plagues, drought and flood were considered as three major natural disasters which caused serious agricultural and economic losses all over the world,” said research leader Le Kang, a professor of entomology and ecology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Zoology.

“As the most widely distributed and one of the most dangerous locust species, the migratory locust represents a serious threat to agriculture worldwide,” Kang added.

Swarms can include billions of locusts and span hundreds of square miles (km) as the insects voraciously consume crops, imperiling food security. Migratory locusts inhabit Asia, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, attacking pastures and critical crops such as wheat, rice, corn, millet, barley, oats, sugarcane and sorghum.

Kang said further research is needed on whether 4VA exists in other locust species such as the desert locust, called Schistocerca gregaria, that currently is ravaging parts of Africa and the Middle East.

The chemical insecticides currently used to suppress locust outbreaks raise concerns about human health and safety. The identification of 4VA could inspire new methods.

A chemical could be developed to block 4VA’s effects to prevent swarming, Kang said, or a synthetic version could lure locusts into traps to be killed. Locusts genetically modified not to respond to 4VA could be developed and released to establish wild non-swarming populations, “subject to biosecurity evaluation,” Kang added.

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)

- Advertisement -
SourceReuters

Add your comment(s)

 

Latest

‘It worked’: Pandemic-inspired outdoor dining to become permanent in NY

By Barbara Goldberg NEW YORK - New York is committed to making outdoor dining a permanent option for the thousands of restaurants that have embraced...

Some 3,500 U.S. companies sue over Trump Chinese tariffs

By David Shepardson WASHINGTON - About 3,500 U.S. companies, including Tesla Inc <TSLA.O>, Ford Motor Co <F.N>, Target Corp <TGT.N>, Walgreen Co <WBA.O> and Home...

Economic uncertainty ahead of U.S. election partially fueled by virus and joblessness

By Ann Saphir With COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. topping 200,000 this week following a rise in new daily cases last week for the first...

Trump pledges to make Juneteenth federal holiday

By Steve Holland and Lisa Lambert ATLANTA - President Donald Trump made a series of promises at a campaign event in Atlanta on Friday in...

Space bubbles are a real thing and they are easing New York restaurant troubles

By Aleksandra Michalska NEW YORK - Space bubbles are frothing up business at a New York bistro, offering fresh air in safe capsules on sidewalks...

Trending