Monsanto has a new enemy… fungi. Mycologist Paul Stamets holds a patent for insect-killing fungi – or mycopesticides – that could disrupt the pesticide industry and “help save the world.” According to Stamets, after insects eat the fungi, they “become mummified” and a “mushroom pops out of their head.”
Entomopathogenic fungi are a particular type of fungi that kill insects. When Stamets’ family had a problem with carpenter ants, he turned to entomopathogenic fungi for answers. Insects typically avoid the spores of fungi that could result in their demise, so Stamets morphed a fungus culture into a “non-sporulating form.”
The spore-less fungi attracted the insects, which ate the mycelium of the fungus. Stamets said the carpenter ants at his house carried the mycelium to their queen, and just a week after laying the fungus traps, there were no more sawdust piles – the telltale sign of carpenter ants. After the mushrooms sporulate, they repel other insects. Stamets described the system as a “near-permanent solution.”
An insect-killing fungus could have huge implications for companies that peddle toxic pesticides. Stamets gave a TED talk on his insect-killing fungi, as well as on five other “ways mushrooms can save the world,” and in his talk said of his patent, “It’s been called an Alexander Graham Bell patent. It covers over 200,000 species. This is the most disruptive technology – I’ve been told by executives of the pesticide industry – that they have ever witnessed. This could totally revamp the pesticide industries throughout the world.”
Stamets is also the founder of Fungi Perfecti, a company that offers mushroom products from all-natural insect repellent to mushroom tea to MycoGrow, a product that reduces the need for fertilizer and helps plants grow faster.