Writing from the beach in Panama City, Florida during Spring Break this new research from Hebrew U seems to ring true: that “males with the muscle,” get the chicks – in both the human and insect worlds. According to a new study at an Israeli university, researchers have uncovered a new sustainable pest control technique using “super-sexed” (but sterile- sorry guys) male insects to copulate with female ones. The approach, the researchers hope, will help the agri business use less chemicals, such as DDT, used since early in the last century to control crop pests or carriers of diseases.
Their trick? A Breakfast of Champions jock drink.
Pest resistance is up, even with the use of nasty chemicals, and they have a serious effect on human health. That’s why we eat organic. However, this approach has led to the evolution of resistance to pesticides and has severely negative impacts on human health and the environment.
Prof. Boaz Yuval at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is now working on upgrading an old approach, known as the sterile insect technique. Useful against several dozen insect species, he is rearing million of insects that compete with or who eat the problematic and usually invasive pest.
The males will have sex with the female insects, but being sterile means that no baby insects will result. The sterile insects, are weaker than their “sexed” counterparts making this method not so effective in the long-run. Nature isn’t that stupid! To counteract, Prof. Yuval has developed a super shake just like the ones jocks drink when pumping iron.
A high energy protein drink
Prof. Yuval has found that feeding males on high protein diets significantly improves their sexual performance and that bacteria residing in fruit flies are important, and that the factory reared flies lacked the bacteria found in wild insects.
A super-sexed fruit fly. Credit: Roi Caspi for Hebrew University.
With this information in hand, Yuval and his colleagues are formulating a high-protein, bacteria enhanced “breakfast of champions” which will be provided to males before their release, and significantly improve their sexual performance when released in the field. He thinks that this approach can be applied to a variety of plant and animal pests, as well as to organisms that transmit human disease, thus making an important, organic and environmentally friendly approach to pest control.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they are giving out free samples of this stuff to the beach party-ers in Florida next year.
Image via Kaganof