There are few things more irritating than a fly buzzing around the house. South Africans have an unconventional solution to the problem. They hang up a bunch of Roridula gorgonias leaves. Attracted to the shiny adhesive droplets on the leaf's hairs, the hapless pest is soon trapped by the natural flypaper. However, this is not the end of the story. Each R. gorgonias plant is home to a population of Pameridea roridulae (mirid bugs), which dine on the trapped insects. Yet the mirid bugs successfully evade their host's sticky clutches. Curious to find out how, Dagmar Voigt and Stanislav Gorb from the Max-Planck Institute for Metals Research, Germany, decided to take a look at the apparently non-stick bugs to see how they elude R. gorgonias' grasp and publish their results in The Journal of Experimental Biology on August 8 2008 at http://jeb.biologists.org/
But how could the team get their hands on R. gorgonias plants complete with their own private mirid bug colony so far from the plant's home? 'Fortunately there are a few R. gorgonias enthusiasts in Germany' says Voigt, and after contacting Klaus Keller in Augsburg, he agreed to supply the team with the hairy plants and their residents.
Back in their Stuttgart lab, Voigt and Gorb decided to test how non-stick mirid bugs really are. Wrapping a bug in a leaf the team were amazed when they unrolled it and 'the bug jumped up and ran away!' says Voigt. The bug was completely non-stick. Next the team checked the mirid bug's surface by pressing a bug against a glass slide and looking at the slide under a microscope to see if they were covered in a special glue-proof coating. The bugs seemed to be coated in a greasy fluid. Voigt explains that all bugs are covered in a greasy layer, so what made the mirid bug's surface more non-stick than other insect coatings?
Flash freezing the bugs to ?C, Voigt and Gorb took a high-resolution loo
|Contact: Kathryn Phillips|
The Company of Biologists