Magazine article Science News

Fruity Whiffs Can Mask the Scent of Carbon Dioxide for Flies, Mosquitoes: Study Suggests New Approach to Making Insect Repellents

Magazine article Science News

Fruity Whiffs Can Mask the Scent of Carbon Dioxide for Flies, Mosquitoes: Study Suggests New Approach to Making Insect Repellents

Article excerpt

Fruit flies actually have a love-hate thing with the smell of fruit. And a new insight into the chemistry of that relationship could lead to novel repellents for other insects, researchers say.

Carbon dioxide is a known turn-off to fruit flies when it emanates from stressed peers. "Drosophila sniff C[O.sub.2] and avoid it like crazy," says neurobiologist Anand Ray of the University of California, Riverside. But ripe fruit puffs out the gas and still attracts plenty of the flies. In this case, compounds in the fruit block the flies' C[O.sub.2] receptors, Ray and Riverside colleague Stephanie Turner report online August 26 in Nature.

Mosquitoes, in contrast, love C[O.sub.2]. They hunt down blood by following plumes of the exhaled gas. But as in fruit flies, a fruit compound can jam C[O.sub.2], receptors in the mosquito Culex quinquefasciatus, the researchers say.

This species spreads West Nile fever virus and the parasites that cause the limb swellings of filariasis. Ray proposes that compounds that could keep the mosquito detectors from sensing those plumes might render people hard to find.

The paper looks like a significant contribution toward developing new controls for disease-spreading insects, says Pablo Guerenstein of CONICET, Argentina's research council in Diamante and Entre Rios National University in Oro Verde.

An aversion to C[O.sub.2] turned up in fruit flies when researchers stressed some of the insects. …

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