Whether it’s a cloud of mosquitoes swarming through your neighborhood, an infestation of roaches, or a gaggle of assorted garden-loving pests, most homeowners have had to deal with insect invasions from time to time. And with the help of pest control experts, most modern infestations are dealt with as quickly, and safely, as possible. But the future of pest control may lie not in the hands of your friendly neighborhood exterminator, but in the high-tech innovations of cutting-edge science.
Two of the most innovative advances focus on eliminating insect problems from the inside out; one by destroying one of the world’s deadliest disease carriers before it can reach adulthood, and the other by leveraging the power of plants to reprogram and destroy pests.
A Sweet Siren’s Song for Mosquitoes
Using bait to trap insects is nothing new, and chemical controls are as old as poison itself. But a firm in Riverside, California—backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as some serious science—is using something a little sweeter (if just as deadly) to lure mosquitoes to their demise.
Drawing inspiration and raw materials from nature, ISCA Technologies has developed a formula that’s deadly to mosquitoes but harmless to other species (including humans and important beneficial insect species such as honeybees). Pregnant mosquitoes are drawn to the sweet substance once it’s been added to their breeding grounds, and the resulting larva feast on a bacteria added to the mix that kills them before they can reach maturity. It’s preventative medicine and pest control in one!
The goal is to reduce and effectively control one of our planet’s most deadly killers. According to the World Health Organization and the President’s Malaria Initiative, mosquitoes kill nearly 750,000 people every year, and infect millions more with a variety of diseases such as Zika, encephalitis, and Dengue Fever. The “cocktail” created by ISCA has shown great promise, but needs to clear assorted government hurdles before it enters the marketplace, so it’s a little early to look for it on shelves or ask your exterminator for a dose in your yard, pond, or birdbath. Still, it’s not hard to imagine that this one-two punch of environmentally friendly extermination and powerful disease control will be an essential part of tomorrow’s toolkit for pest control professionals.
Plants Versus Pests
If you’re like a lot of gardeners and farmers all over California, you’ve probably wished at one time or another for a magical cure for pest infestations. Food safety and environmental concerns are ever-present when it comes to balancing truly effective pesticides with the health and surroundings of the folks who’ll be eating nature’s bounty. But what if the plants themselves could help in the fight against pests, with nary a spray or dusting?
The July 19th, 2017 edition of Trends in Biotechnology reports that scientists have leveraged the ability of plants such as corn to “switch off” (or on) certain sequences in their genetic code (specifically, their RNA) to kill pests who consume the plant. The technique—which goes by the impressive term Plant Mediated RNA Interference—relies on the plant modifying the genes of the pests and parasites, effectively destroying their bodies’ ability to function by disabling certain essential processes.
It might sound like science fiction, but many plants (like the cotton plant) already “borrow” genes from bacteria and other organisms to poison beetles and other pests. The science is still in its early stages, and field-ready versions of these plants are still ways off, but it’s possible that the gardens and farms of tomorrow will have corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other plants that resist insects by destroying them from the inside out. No word yet on whether the plants will be able to weed themselves, but here’s hoping!
The promise tomorrow’s science holds for advancing pest control technology is truly wondrous. But until these and other technologies are approved and become widespread, your best bet in dealing with persistent and pernicious pests is a call to your friends at American Rat Control. Using the safest, most environmentally responsible methods available, they can help you identify and remove even the toughest pests for peace of mind today, tomorrow, and into the future.