Helpful insects may soon have a new way of getting
a free ride into farmers' fields--on a flying saucer. The insects are small
wasps, but they won't sting you!
Instead, they will attack cotton aphids.
Cotton is one of this country's
most important crops.
Learn more about
Farmers who free lots of the helpful wasps in
their fields might be able to raise healthy cotton plants without using as much
insecticide. This could help the environment and save money, too.
Learn more about the wasp.
It would take days for farmers to
walk all through their cotton fields and let loose groups of wasps in many
different places. That's why scientists invented the Bugslinger. This cool
device flings small, round disks loaded with wasps. The Bugslinger can fit in
the back of a pickup truck. A farmer could drive around the edge of the field,
stopping every now and then to launch another crew of little wasps.
Do you think the wasps get dizzy, though? If so,
they get over it fast. After all, these insects are found about 100 miles from
Cape Canaveral, Florida. Maybe they were destined to become
The researchers who invented the Bugslinger,
officially known as the "Aerodynamic Transport Body," are Lyle M. Carter,
Joseph H. Chesson and John V. Penner. They work for the Agricultural Research
They're made of powdered limestone. Limestone is
made up of shells and skeletons of tiny sea animals known as invertebrates
(in-VERT-uh-braits). Probably the chalk in your classroom has limestone in it.
Water--from rain, sprinklers or irrigation
furrows--eventually causes the limestone disk to break down and get recycled
into the soil.
Now the researchers want to test disks made out of
natural materials that would help the soil, such as compacted peat moss or
Wood, with design/graphics by
Shuart, Agricultural Research Service, Information Staff.
Click here to learn about the
U.S. Department of
Agriculture, and its
Lyle M. Carter, Joseph H. Chesson and John V. Penner are at the
Integrated Cropping Systems Research Unit
Bugslinger story in
Agricultural Research magazine
Want to see what a
cotton aphid really looks like up close? Click here.