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Scientists Use Sex-Crazed Bugs As Pesticide 107

ByronScott writes "In today's 'gross news' category, some female insects just 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, resulting in decreased populations. Yes, that means that the female bugs will miss out on the joys of motherhood, but the idea that the insects will be having some fun instead of being gassed to death by poisons is pretty cool."


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Scientists Use Sex-Crazed Bugs As Pesticide

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  • Disease (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by DJRumpy ( 1345787 )

    How long before unsafe sex becomes a concern? This smacks of the 60's for grasshoppers. Free love (as in beer). Woot!

    • Free love (as in beer). Woot!

      Uh, since when did grasshoppers ever pay for love or even sex? What would they use for money, anyway?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Assuming you're married or have a girlfriend, you would know that you pay. Maybe not in dollars in cents, but you pay...

  • Cool ! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gr8_phk ( 621180 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @07:46PM (#31545674)
    Wait 'til somehow one slips in with the super-sexed modification but not the sterilization.
  • 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.

    All natural male enhancement that works? And is legit?

  • Nothing New Here. (Score:5, Informative)

    by lobiusmoop ( 305328 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @07:54PM (#31545766) Homepage

    Sterile insect technique []. Developed in the 1950's.

  • from TFA "uval and his team are using a high-protein, bacteria enhanced “stud” breakfast to feed to the males before they’re released." I wonder if they use spanish fly?
  • by sirrunsalot ( 1575073 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @08:04PM (#31545870)

    Fascinating, but I can only imagine this is a very expensive solution to implement since the sterilized males must be specially bred, and, well, it's not exactly a self-propagating solution. Of course, that's also a benefit since as far as solutions that tamper with biology go, self-limiting processes can't very well get out of control. The article doesn't discuss what effect one male has or any practical implications of the solution.

    Although the technology certainly doesn't exist to implement it, I wonder what would happen if some sort of genetic time-bomb—something like the mechanism for the Hayflick Limit []—were used to create a bug that reproduces for a while, then it's descendants become sterile. It would still be self-limiting, more potent than one bug, and still pesticide-free! Well the hard part of scientific discovery is done, now it'll only take fifty years of toil in the lab to achieve it...

    • by jadin ( 65295 )

      Of course, that's also a benefit since as far as solutions that tamper with biology go, self-limiting processes can't very well get out of control.

      But my grandpa said all the dinosaurs were girls...

    • by Raptoer ( 984438 )

      The sterilized males are usually created using radiation, get a bunch of males together and irradiate them. Some may die, the rest will be sterile, although they may be weaker than wild insects. They've discovered a way to overcome the weakness in the sterilized males by feeding them a super diet.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        And of course as a side effect the various irradiated bugs bite unsuspecting field trip students and imbue them with super powers. I cannot wait until Grasshopper-Man starts solving crimes!
    • Just make sure you patent it so you can make money in 50 years...

    • by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @11:45PM (#31547168)

      Fascinating, but I can only imagine this is a very expensive solution to implement since the sterilized males must be specially bred

      The technique has been used worldwide with other insects for decades. You may not even know it ever existed, but there used to be flies which laid larvae in your flesh, where they would gestate and then eat their way out of your body. Yeah. Not nice. We got rid of that this way. (Not globally -- the species remains in a few other places)

  • by bsDaemon ( 87307 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @08:04PM (#31545872)

    nuff said.

  • by Gearoid_Murphy ( 976819 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @08:22PM (#31546024)
    insect sex is notoriously violent, insects do not use sex as a bonding mechanism so there's no pleasure, in the sense we know, associated with it. Many different species have developed various strategies to work around this, such as scrapers on the end of the males penis to remove rivals sperm. I kid you not, god help me, I'm after a bottle of wine and can't be bothered finding the link.
    • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @08:58PM (#31546280) Homepage Journal
      Supposedly the human male's penis [] is also designed to remove other male's sperm from the vaginal tract.
      • So you're telling us that sloppy seconds is better from a reproductive point of view?

        • The scraping is true and happens in all species where the female has no concept of fidelity. You can also judge the fidelity of the female by the relative size of the male balls. The bigger, the more sperm he produces. NOT to fertilize the egg, but to flood out his rivals sperm and create a protective covering against further attempts.

          Biology, messing with your preconceptions.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by mdwh2 ( 535323 )

        From the link, "two surveys of college students showed that sexual intercourse often involved deeper and more vigorous penile thrusting following periods of separation"

        There I was puzzled as to why having a good hard fuck seemed a good idea after a period of separation, but now I know - obviously it's just to remove someone else's semen.

    • by oljanx ( 1318801 )
      Party pooper.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      PZ Myers on beetle sex: You want to put WHAT in my what??!? []

    • You think THAT'S bad? How about the insect that realized "Hey, we have open circulatory systems... I can just stick it in anywhere and the sperm could probably get to an egg!"... and then proceeded to evolve weaponized penises (now there's a nice phrase) so that they could just puncture the female's carapace and inject semen, instead of trying to coerce the female into the right position. You know what the female's response was? Evolve a second set of genitals on its back.

      What, you don't believe me? Wikip []
  • by Captain Nitpick ( 16515 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @08:24PM (#31546036)

    The sterile insect technique [] dates to the 1950s, and has been used with great success in suppressing the screw-worm [] (eradicated in the US in 1982). An animal infested with screw worm maggots can die simply from the tissue damage as the maggots "screw" into their flesh. It's one of the few species against which there is an intentional attempt at extermination, and I can't disagree with it.

    The technique inspired the Nebula Award-winning science fiction story The Screwfly Solution []. In the story, the technique does not so much go wrong as horribly right.

  • Do they have lots of $100's? do they play golf?

  • FAIL (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <<deleted> <at> <>> on Friday March 19, 2010 @08:35PM (#31546114)

    The bug will not only have sex with one, but many male bugs. And one of them will have working sperm. Done.

    Maybe making the females sterile would make a bit more sense. ^^

    For database designers: It’s a one-to-many relationship.

    • This is true, the only reason this technique was so successful with screwworm is because the females only mate once. So all they got were duds from

      By the same principle, sterilizing females would have no effect if the males mate with more than one female.

    • Re:FAIL (Score:5, Funny)

      by Cryacin ( 657549 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @10:05PM (#31546614)
      Actually, usually for database designers it's a one to zero relationship.
      • Actually, usually for database designers it's a one to zero relationship.

        Initiate enough union queries and eventually you'll start seeing results. The first results will likely not be what you had hoped for but over time you may manage to debug your querying process and even optimize it. As soon as you think you've got a handle on it, child processes start spawning uncontrollably, your performance will drop through the floor and the rest of your life becomes one long death march.

        • And be careful not to union all... Ensure all your selects are distinct and make your inner joins properly. (I prefer joining on the table, myself.) (Others prefer self-joining while viewing.)

  • Higher intelligence made lower intelligence go and make sex like crazy. Now imagine that WE are at the lower end, and some hypothetical super-human AI on higher end (it made us go and have sex like crazy, so we don't eat it's resources). It would be pleasurable, but still.... not sure if that would be optimal situation :/
  • Invasive Stranger (Score:3, Interesting)

    by b4upoo ( 166390 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @09:21PM (#31546404)

    A sterilised insect is actually a foreign entity. I do recognise that feeding the population involves killing insects but a surplus of these insects might be good for the environment when it occurs. It seems that we are trying to micro manage an environment that we really do not understand. My area is loaded with pythons, monitor lizards, iguanas, a three foot long exotic rat, many species of parrots and more plants than I can name all of which are foreign to Florida. The funny thing is I enjoy most of the invaders that our government makes war upon. I particularly like fishing for huge talapia as well as rainbow and peacock bass. All three of those fish are foreign species.

  • Seriously, STOP Playing GOD... Nature will find a way, and might even create a new species that is *WAY* more dangerous to crops.

    Many things were deemed safe until they found out otherwise. I'm pretty sure GenX and previous remembers Thalidomid. Many crippled or dead children.

    Thay are many more examples but it's the only one that comes to mind at that late hour. Seems a human being needs 8 Hours of sleep *PER DAY* , not per week :)
    • On another note, Am I the only one having that problem? I can only click on the first half of a line to position the cursor while typing.

      WinXP (Up to date) FF 3.6 (Up to date)
    • by Boronx ( 228853 )

      "Seriously, STOP Playing GOD..."

      This isn't a game.

  • What scienists say (Score:4, Insightful)

    by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @11:12PM (#31547020) Journal

    What scientists say: (insert abstract followed by lengthy, scholarly work which includes some mention of sex).

    What journalists hear: SEX, SEX,SEX,SEX,SEX,SEX,SEX,SEX... Oh, BTW SEX!

    The preceding was an homage to Gary Larson [] author of The Far Side.

    • Is your sig a direct quote of someone else?

      I ask because the actual phrase is "for all intents and purposes".

      Oh, and I disagree about the "no longer a word"-ness of "whom".

  • "the idea that the insects will be having some fun..."

    Insects hate anthropomorphization.

  • How many unwanted pregnancies could be prevented if Ecstasy tablets included a dose of birth control hormones? Club kids would make wonderful lab rats.
  • No Tiger Woods related jokes yet? Is this slashdot or what?
  • Perhaps they do need to go to rehab. []
  • You mean that if we supercharge human libido with pr0n, pr0n-like clips on TV, semi-naked girls everywhere *and* give them contraceptives - the population will start quickly decreasing? Oh.. It's good no one have tried anything like that.
  • This will work for a short time but it is a certainty that there are females out there now that can detect and prefer the fertile male partners over the infertile male partners. Natural selection will favor the resulting offspring that all will inherit this stronger ability to select the fertile males. Then this technique will be, ahem, neutered. Read The Beak Of The Finch [] if you do not believe me. It has a chapter devoted to the long term ineffectiveness of pesticides.
  • ...a tweetle beetle jottle. And when they jottle in a bottle it's called a tweetle beetle bottle jottle.

    AND when beetles from a bottle have a fizzle with their jizzle it's called a bottled beetle jizzle fizzle. AND...

    when beetles from these bottles with the fizzle in their jizzle eat a brekkie that is specky and battle beetles for a jottle...

    they call this a fizzled jizzled specky brekkied bottled beetle jottle battle.

  • Haven't these so called scientist learned anything from that little Killer Bee incident??? @#$%% Next thing you know these bugs will be chasing your cat trying to mate with her.
  • So, Rick James was actually a biologically engineered pesticide?
  • Gee thanks, now when I eat fruits or veg I'm going to be thinking of bugs having sex on it.

    • by unitron ( 5733 )

      Well, fruits and vegetables generally result from some bug having helped the plant have sex in the first place.

  • As I told you, it would be absolutely, totally, and in all other ways inconceivable.

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