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Emerging Science Note/Voodoo Wasps

Air Date: Week of

With an ability to paralyze much larger insects, voodoo wasps seem to have magic powers. Living on Earth’s Bridget Macdonald reports on how scientists want to use these parasitic wasps as weapons against agricultural pests.


YOUNG: Coming up – how grazing in the grass can restore degraded African landscapes. But first, this note on emerging science from Bridget Macdonald.


MACDONALD: Not everyone believes in Voodoo, but voodoo wasps really do cast a spell. Their venom can turn other insects into zombies, and a group of scientists wants to harness their powers.
MACDONALD: They’re one of the tiniest insects on the planet, but there’s more to voodoo wasps than meets the eye: with a single sting, they can paralyze insects that are giants by comparison.
Now a team led by the University of Rochester has decoded the DNA of three species of parasitic wasps.

The scientists have identified which genes tell the wasps to attack a particular insect, in hopes of recruiting them to fight agricultural pests. The army of wasps would be a natural alternative to chemical pesticides.

And scientists think they could provide other health benefits as well. If the wasps were trained to target insects that carry deadly bacteria, they could help stop the spread of diseases like malaria. Our future flying aces could be swarms of parasitic wasps. That’s this weeks Note on Emerging Science, I’m Bridget Macdonald.



Read the paper: Functional and Evolutionary Insights from the Genomes of Three Parasitoid Nasonia Species


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