Here’s an interesting little tidbit: mosquito saliva is bad for you. It has long been known that various viruses, including malaria and west nile virus, are spread by mosquitos; the virus resides in the mosquito’s mouth parts and is injected into the host during a bite. But scientists have recently discovered that exposure to uninfected mosquito saliva can alter the course of subsequent infection. A case of west nile virus is much worse in animals that have been bitten by “clean” mosquitos (those not carrying the virus) in the recent past. Here’s a great reason to wear your bug repellent all the time!
The Mexican fruit fly, Anastrepha ludens, is a serious pest of crops in California. So much so, that the California Department of Food and Agriculture routienly monitors for the pest. Recently, several flies were found in traps, and this prompted a swift reaction from authorities. Pesticides were applied by hand, and the state has begun its sterile fly drop. This is where things get interesting.
A. ludens only mates once. If a fertile male mates with a sterile female, the infestation can be curbed effectively. Entomologists sterilize millions of females using radiation, then dye them special colors so trappers can tell the difference between fertile and sterile flies. They then chill the ladies to knock them out, gather them into huge balls, and drop them out of planes over infested areas. The drop warms the flies, who wake up and fly away before hitting the ground. Bugs are fun, y’all!
Scientists are getting flies drunk again. Not for any nefarious purpose, mind you, but to discover the genetics behind ability to hold your liquor. They’ve discovered the gene that allows someone to drink their friends under the table, and they are manipulating it in fruit flies. This may lead better treatment for alcoholics (everything is going gene therapy now-a-days!)