Washington, June 26 : A chemical ecologist at the University of California, Davis (UCD) has devised a way to control mating and reproduction in Japanese beetles, an invasive species responsible for millions in damages to crops each year.
Walter Leal points out that the beetle's sense of smell helps it zero in on a mate.
He says that the potential mate is programmed to release sex pheromones in exactly the right proportions.
When the male beetles have to track females while both of them are flying, they lose the pheromone scent from a moment before, and pick up the latest scent as the females move through the air.
Leal says that he has identified and cloned a pheromone-degrading enzyme that allows receptors in the beetle's nose to lose the pheromone scent from the female's earlier locations as she moves to new places.
According to him, isolating this enzyme may help eliminate entirely the beetle's reception of the pheromone scent, and thereby make them unable to find females, mate and reproduce.
The researcher says that the discovery made during the National Science Foundation-funded study may be useful to agricultural pest control.