Living on Earth’s Maggie Villiger reports on a novel survival technique for a caterpillar -- producing its own insecticide.
CURWOOD: Coming up, the journey of the pink dolphins comes to our website. First, this page from the animal notebook with Maggie Villiger.
VILLIGER: The European cabbage butterfly is considered a pest here in North America where it likes to feast on vegetables like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and of course, cabbage. Scientists wondered what allows this species to gain such a strong foothold wherever it goes. The bugs secret turns out to be a chemical defense system it produces in its larval stage. Rows of hairs run along the length of these caterpillars bodies. The tips of these hairs secrete a clear, oily fluid that collects in drops. In laboratory experiments, researchers watched as ants interacted with the cabbage butterfly caterpillars. As soon as an ant touched the caterpillars glistening hairs, it would back off and start frantically cleaning whichever body part had even brushed against the larva.
For good measure, the ant would also clean the body part it had used to clean the initial point of contact. When the scientists isolated the irritating secretion they found a new group of chemicals they named mayolenes. These chemicals derive from a family of compounds that plants use to repel insect attacks. It looks like the European cabbage butterfly is such a successful invader thanks to its own shield of insect repellant. Thats this weeks Animal Note. Im Maggie Villiger.
[ANIMAL NOTE THEME]
CURWOOD: And youre listening to Living on Earth
Living on Earth wants to hear from you!
P.O. Box 990007
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.
Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.
Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion
The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.
Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.
Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.
Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth