How creepy-crawly sex will usher out pesticides and save our food

World

How creepy-crawly sex will usher out pesticides and save our food

We desperately need something that deals with pests in a sustainable way, and pheromones are just the thing

Harry de Quetteville

Sex. Picture it. Pullulating hordes, desperate to meet Miss or Mr Right. Sending out coy but unmistakable signals, then coupling up in a brief frenzy. The fate of the world depends upon it. Naturally, we’re talking about aphids.

Not just aphids. Mealy worms. Cabbage stem flea beetles. And perhaps most fascinatingly, terrifyingly, the fall armyworm. With a host of other creepy-crawlies, they represent the rogues’ gallery of global agriculture, forming a list of pests that threaten our very food supply and find themselves Wanted: Dead not Alive.

The hunt is not easy. Like all fugitives they are resilient and adaptable, constantly responding to the array of chemical weapons deployed against them. And in the past few years the battle has turned in their favour. So today a radical new technique is being rolled out, more honey trap than blunderbuss...

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