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Anti-Aphrodisiac

November 8, 2011

A chemical that repels the opposite sex could be used to help control a common crop pest without the use of pesticides.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

An anti-aprodisiac…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Western tarnished plant bugs are a common pest of cotton. But USDA scientists think the bugs’ mating habits may be a key to controlling them. According to research entomologists John Byers and Colin Brent, male plant bugs prefer to mate only with females that haven’t mated recently. Now, they’ve discovered that the males mark the females with a compound called myristyl acetate during mating. Brent explains.

COLIN BRENT (USDA):

It’s very advantageous for the males to know whether the female’s mated, that way, they don’t waste time going after a female that’s just going to kick them in the face, in response to their courtship attempts.

HIRSHON:

The researchers say pesticides are traditionally used to control the bugs, but they kill their natural predators as well. They think the love repellent has potential as a birth control agent to help decrease the bug population without pesticides. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the sceince society.