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Vibrating Flies

November 13, 2015

Researchers keep a citrus-killing fly from mating by jamming its unique courtship calls.

Transcript

Florida Dept of Agriculture Pub Domain Photo by Jeffrey Weston Lotz

(Jeffrey Weston Lotz/Florida Dept of Agriculture)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Saving orange groves with fake mating calls. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The love call of the Asian citrus psyllid fly may be its undoing. The invasive flies cause billions of dollars in damage to orange groves. At a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, USDA entomologist Richard Mankin explains that psyllid flies court by producing vibrations that travel along tree branches. Mankin’s research involves imitating the vibrations to frustrate the flies.

RICHARD MANKIN (USDA Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, Gainesville, FL):

At cocktail parties, if there’s too much background noise, you can’t hear the person next to you talking, so we were thinking this might be something feasible to do with the psyllids when they were trying to mate. 

HIRSHON:

In the lab, playing phony courtship vibrations reduced mating by 75%. Now the researchers are developing methods to jam the flies’ love calls over an entire orchard. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.