According to a new study published in the Journal of Economic Entomology (http://bit.ly/AlYBUM) by University of Florida researchers, a key amino acid essential for human nutrition is also an effective insecticide against caterpillars that threaten the citrus industry.
The Lime Swallowtail, or Citrus Swallowtail, is a well-known agricultural pest from southern Asia discovered in the Caribbean in 2006, and researchers say its potential impact on the U.S. citrus industry is cause for serious concern.
"Everything that's in the Caribbean eventually gets to Florida Florida is an invasive magnet," said UF lepidopterist Delano Lewis, lead author of the study published in the current issue of the Journal of Economic Entomology. "That's why we're trying to make the first strike to see how to stop it."
Experiments conducted on the UF campus at the Florida Museum of Natural History's McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity and the College of Medicine show when methionine is sprayed on leaves, it is 100 percent effective in killing larvae related to the Lime Swallowtail caterpillars within two to three days. If not controlled, the caterpillars can completely defoliate young wild lime plants.
Because the Lime Swallowtail, Princeps (Papilio) demoleus, is invasive and cannot be legally brought into the U.S., researchers experimented using a genetically related surrogate with a similar life history and appetite for citrus, the Giant Swallowtail, Heraclides (Papilio) cresphontes. Because these pest caterpillars have the same body structure and biology, researchers are confident methionine will also control the Lime Swallowtail, Lewis said.
"Its effectiveness is based on the biochemistry of the insect gut, so although this work was done on a surrogate, the methionine will block the ion channel in the same way," Lewis said.
Methionine is needed in the hum
|Contact: Richard Levine|
Entomological Society of America