Science has provided people with a lot of fantastic things, and now you can add controlling pest populations to that list. Scientists have been working to reduce populations of pests by genetically modifying them, essentially creating an entire population of modified male pests that suppresses the entire population! Sounds like a science fiction story, but it’s true!
New World Screwworm Flies
Have you ever heard of a screwworm fly? Well, these parasitic pests live in tropical regions of the Western Hemisphere and they have been devastating to livestock in those regions. Researchers from North Carolina State University and the USDA have introduced modified males into the population of these flies who can only reproduce other males. That means if no female flies are born then the population would eventually die off with no way to reproduce. Pretty ingenious!
The Sterile Fly Technique
New World screwworm flies lives off of warm-blooded animals, and they have already been eradicated in North and Central America through sterile insect techniques such as this. Those techniques have saved the billions of dollars, but the fly is still a huge problem in some Caribbean islands as well as in South America.
The sterile fly technique creates males and female flies that are sterile and then released into the population. They mate with fertile flies but don’t reproduce, so it helps to bring the populations of this parasite under control. This new strategy would be more cost effective since it only produces male flies to be released into the population, and it is more effective at eradicating the pest. Plus, this new technology could easily be used with other livestock pests, such as the Old World screwworm.
This is a promising new technique that could save local economies and breeders billions of dollars a year – all brought to you by science!