'Jekyll and Hyde' bacteria offer pest control clue

Dec 19, 2007

New research at York has revealed so-called ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ bacteria, suggesting a novel way to control insect pests without using insecticides.

Researchers at the University of York studied the relationship between plant-dwelling insects and the bacteria that live in them – and discovered an unexpected interaction.

Plants are not ‘easy meat’ for insects. In fact, many insects thrive on plant food only because of the presence of a third party: symbiotic bacteria that live in the insects and provide extra nutrients.

While studying interactions between black bean aphids and their associated bacteria, York researchers discovered an intriguing new category of organism that they dubbed ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ bacteria.

Black bean aphids can live on a number of different plant species. In most situations, their internal bacteria are harmless or even beneficial – this is their ‘Jekyll’ side.

But on certain plants, the relationship between insect and bacteria changes with the microscopic organisms exhibiting a disruptive ‘Hyde’ side. The insects grow and reproduce very slowly, while the bacteria themselves proliferate to very high densities in a short time – almost as if the bacteria were ‘betraying’ their hosts.

Further experiments have suggested that the factor triggering this strange change is the composition of nutrients in the plants where the creatures live.

The results, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, may point the way to new methods to control aphids and other insect pests.

Professor Angela Douglas, of the University’s Department of Biology, said:

“We now have the basis to explore precisely how these insect pests control their bacteria – and perhaps to develop ways to make the bacteria ‘turn nasty’ on the insects. These findings offer exciting new opportunities to control aphids and other pests without using insecticides.”

Source: University of York

Explore further: Myanmar captures rare white elephant in western jungles

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study shows troubling rise in use of animals in experiments

6 hours ago

Despite industry claims of reduced animal use as well as federal laws and policies aimed at reducing the use of animals, the number of animals used in leading U.S. laboratories increased a staggering 73 percent from 1997 ...

NY surveying banks on cyber security defenses

8 hours ago

(AP)—New York financial regulators are considering tougher cyber security requirements for banks to mandate more complex computer sign-ins and certifications from the contractors of their cyber defenses, the state's top ...

Life-saving train design is rarely used

9 hours ago

(AP)—Nearly a decade ago, the U.S. secretary of transportation stood at the site of a horrendous commuter train crash near downtown Los Angeles and called for the adoption of a new train car design that ...

Climate change may flatten famed surfing waves

9 hours ago

On a summer day in 1885, three Hawaiian princes surfed at the mouth of the San Lorenzo River on crudely constructed boards made from coastal redwoods, bringing the sport to the North American mainland.

Recommended for you

Chinese ivory traders find haven online

55 minutes ago

China's booming e-commerce websites have carried thousands of advertisements for illegal wildlife products including ivory, rhino horn and tiger bone, a wildlife trade monitoring network said on Tuesday.

Sizing up cells: Study finds possible regulator of growth

11 hours ago

Modern biology has attained deep knowledge of how cells work, but the mechanisms by which cellular structures assemble and grow to the right size largely remain a mystery. Now, Princeton University researchers ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.