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Spiroplasma: A Biotic Approach to Controlling Pests

These days, people are more concerned than ever about how chemicals are affecting our environment and our indoor living spaces.  Researchers are now investigating  the possibility of being able to control pests on our crops and in our homes without using harmful chemicals, One of these avenues of research is that of the bacteria known as Spiroplasma.

Spiroplasma is one of a group of bacteria that live on or inside various plants and insects. They are unique in that they have no cell walls, and generally live on or in their host without causing harm. However, researchers have noticed that if a different type of species of Spiroplasma is introduced into a host such as a tick or other arthropod, that it has the effect of being killing the male of the species. The females of the species serve to transmit the bacteria without being affected by it.  The potential uses for this “male-killing” bacteria are many. Populations of crop damaging and disease carrying insects could be reduced not only by eliminating the males of the group but also by inhibiting the reproductive cycle.  Since the bacteria are species and gender selective, other plants and creatures are not affected.

More research is being conducted into the safety, efficiency and cost of using Spiroplasma as a method of controlling and managing pests. If safe and cost-effective, it would be a valuable asset in reducing the number of chemical agents in our food, water,  homes, and the environment while eliminating invasive pests.

By Michelle Hawley © 2016

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