Japan’s flightless ladybugs help farmers – naturally

06/25/2012
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Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home

Your house is on fire and your children are gone

All except one, and that’s Little Anne
For she has crept under the warming pan.

TOKYO (majirox news) — Aphids, or greenfly, are a pest, as every gardener knows. And to those who depend for their livelihood on growing vegetables, a plague of aphids can be a business disaster.

Rather than spraying the crops with chemicals, there is an alternative in the form of ladybugs (ladybirds, as the British refer to these spotted insects). Most ladybugs are predators. They eat other insects, most of which are considered pests to people. They are often called a ‘gardener’s best friend.’

However, as in the children’s rhyme above, collecting ladybugs and placing them on plants may not work as a pest control measure, as the Coccinellids (to give ladybugs their scientific name) simply fly away.

A Senior Research Fellow of Japan’s National Agricultural Research Center for the Western Region, Tomokazu Seko, has developed an answer to this problem. He has bred a strain of ladybug that does not fly. These flightless “natural pesticides” were bred over 20 to 35 generations and can reproduce up to seven generations in a year.

As consumers become ever more aware of the chemicals, both pesticides and fertilizers, used in commercial crop production, and turn toward organic foods, the employment of natural resources, such as these ladybug, will become more popular.

Trivia fact: Ladybugs (ladybirds) are so called because the red color of the most common species was the same as that traditionally used to represent the cloak of the Virgin Mary, and the seven spots on their back were held to represent her seven joys and seven sorrows.

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