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New Insect Diet That May Reduce Pesticide Use

New Insect Diet That May Reduce Pesticide Use

Image source: usda.gov by Jack Dykinga

Agriculture may have a new best friend. And a seemingly unlikely one – insects.

Resorting to dousing fields with pesticides to control infestations may soon be a thing of the past.

Researchers have been working to find a way to wean off of chemical crop control by integrating more natural means to kill pests that are harmful to harvest yields.

And it sounds like they may have found an alternative. By introducing a man-made diet to specific insect populations, they are able to facilitate the eaters to mass produce in huge numbers. Then they can be released into fields where they feed on the crop damaging insects, making a real dent in maintenance without having to rely on chemical containing products.

Studies have looked into synthetic insect diets before, but this diet in particular seems to have the sought after effect. The diet provides more than what is needed for them to stay alive, but they actually flourish in numbers.

It was initially thought that most predatory insects only ingested the liquids from their victim; however it was found that they can also absorb solids from them. This has led to new ways of thinking about their sustenance habits and if they could be altered and beneficially applied in the field.

Researchers refer to the new fares as a junk-food diet since it is high in cholesterol, which is something the studied insects cannot create themselves. The recipe, which is in the application process by entomologist Allen C. Cohen for a patent, can also be bought at the local grocer or butcher as it contains beef liver and ground beef. Ingredients can also include oysters, fish entrails and eggs.

The researchers discovered that this food regimen can mass-rear varieties like lacewings and big-eyed bugs which are known to feed on many insects, including menacing whiteflies, mealybugs, aphids and several others. Insects like these can have devastating effects to planted fields, not to mention the financial costs involved with trying to eradicate them.

The new food is expected to be much cheaper to produce also, and the insects supposedly cannot differentiate between their normal diets and the scientist rendered one.

Though more field tests and investigations into the long term effects of the high cholesterol, synthetic diet are surely in the works, seeking a more organic approach to areas like pest control will hopefully result in more promising applications.

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