In today’s “gross news” category, some female insects might be getting lucky. As an alternative to toxic pesticides, scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have created “super-sexed” sterilized male leafhoppers to knock bug boots with females in the wild. Yes, that means that the female bugs will miss out on the joys of motherhood, but if the research proves successful, we may be able to eliminate a lot of the harmful and very ungreen chemicals that we currently use to keep food crops pest free.
The sterile insect technique that Professor Boaz Yuval of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment and his team are working on is not exactly new. Basically, the method is to rear millions of specimens of a pest species, separate the sexes, sterilize the males and release them into the wild. If all goes as planned, the sterile lab-raised males will copulate with females who will then be unable to lay fertile eggs.
So what makes the “super sexed” males so, well, sexy and irresistible to the females? Yuval and his team are using a high-protein, bacteria enhanced “stud” breakfast to feed to the males before they’re released. The formula should significantly improve their sexual performance.
Is all this talk about bug sex grossing you out yet? We admit that it’s not the most appropriate topic of convo (especially if you’re eating lunch), but it’s pretty cool to think that this could be a new way to keep all those yucky pesticides off of our food. Plus, the idea that the insects will be having some fun instead of being gassed to death by poisons is pretty cool.
Second image via Radu P.’s Flickr photostream