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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Fighting Crop Pests…With Tape!?

Grubs and other insects that feed on crops from beneath the soil can mean fewer fruits and veggies to enjoy.

Spraying chemical insecticides is one way to stop the pests. Another is to use nematodes ("NEM-uh-todes"). These wormlike creatures are almost too small to see with the naked eye.

But don't let their size fool you. Some types of nematodes hunt down insects many times their own size. The nematodes wriggle inside the insects and release special bacteria that turn the pest's tissues into slush. After two days, new nematodes wriggle out of the dead insect to find more prey.

Over the years, scientists have tried different ways of growing these nematodes and putting them in products that growers can use instead of chemical pesticides.

Now, an even better way could come from using masking tape--yes, the same stuff used to close boxes. Agricultural Research Service scientists found that nematodes fight pests better when they are kept in mealworms that have been placed between two pieces of masking tape. Growers place the tape near crop plants, where the nematodes can begin the hunt.

The scientists even built a special machine with mechanical arms for packaging the dead mealworms in rolls of masking tape for sale to growers. So watch out crop pests--the nematodes are coming!

By Jan Suszkiw , Agricultural Research Service, Information Staff

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Last Modified: 8/12/2016
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