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Forest Roundup

March 2, 2007

Scientists are enlisting the cheese industry in fighting a tree-destroying bug.


A fungus to the rescue. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Hemlock trees, some reaching over a hundred and fifty feet in height, grow in dense stands from Alabama to Canada. But since the 1950s, a tiny insect from Asia called the hemlock woolly adelgid has been attacking the trees, decimating the forests. Now a University of Vermont team is fighting back with a fungus that kills the bugs. They’re growing the fungus in whey, a cheap waste product from the cheese industry. Fungal spores within droplets of whey are sprayed on the trees, the fungal spores grow, attack the bugs and, it’s hoped, save the trees.

In other news, researchers studying a non-venomous Asian snake have found that it can eat toxic toads with no ill effects, save the toxin in special glands in its neck, and then use the toxin to defend itself. Deprived of the toxic toads, the snakes soon become harmless.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.