Catching the whiff of death sends crop-destroying mites to sleep

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London, September 29 : In what may prove very helpful in dealing with the crop-destroying mites, University of Amsterdam scientists in the Netherlands have found that just the smell of nearby attacks from a different species sends spider mites straight to sleep.

Research leader Martijn Egas says that when the mites encounter predators, they go into hiding, and enter a dormant state called diapause, normally used during long periods of cold, drought or famine.

During the course of study, the researchers put the mites inside parallel wind tunnels that were infused with air from chambers containing other spider mites that were either peacefully munching on bean leaves, or suffering attacks from a predatory mite species.

The researchers found that mites exposed to air from the predation chamber were 15 per cent more likely to enter diapause than those in the control chamber.

Based on their observations, the researchers came to the conclusion that the mere scent of an attack could mites into the hibernation-like state.

The finding attains significance because spider mites in diapause cannot revert to "normal life" for several weeks.

Egas hopes to exploit the effect of the predatory perfume for pest control.

"If we could time the release of odours to harvest periods, we could avoid significant damage to plants," New Scientist magazine quoted him as saying.

ANI

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