Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Tifton, Georgia » Crop Protection and Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #232956

Title: Boar taint detection using parasitoid biosensors

item Olson, Dawn
item LUNDBY, F - Norwegian Institute For Food Research

Submitted to: Journal of Food Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/12/2010
Publication Date: 2/1/2011
Citation: Wackers, F., Olson, D.M., Rains, G., Lundby, F., Haugen, J. 2011. Boar taint detection using parasitoid biosensors. Journal of Food Science. 76(1):S41-S47.

Interpretive Summary: Boar taint is a large problem in the pig husbandry industry, because meat from uncastrated male pigs diffuses, when heated, a penetrating and unpleasant smell. The major chemicals responsible for this boar taint are indole, skatole and androstenone. Currently, there is a strong need to detect and report the presence of these compounds and their mixtures at low concentrations. We tested the ability of a parasitic non-stinging wasp to learn and report through distinct behaviors the three boar taint compounds both individually and in combination using classical conditioning paradigms. We also established the effectiveness and reliability of boar taint odor detection when wasps were used as biosensors in a contained system called the ‘wasp hound’. We found that the wasps are able to successfully learn indole, skatole and to detect them when in a 1:1:1 mixture of the three compounds both in a table-top bioassay and when using the ‘Wasp Hound’. In both cases, the wasps were unable to report the presence of androstenone individually or when in a mixture of 3 compounds at the concentration tested. We conclude that use of these wasps as biosensors using the ‘Wasp Hound’ is promising and discuss future training paradigms that may improve their responses to compounds such as androstenone.

Technical Abstract: To evaluate the potential for a non-stinging wasp to be used as a biosensor in the pig industry, we trained wasps to 3 individual chemicals associated with boar taint. Training consisted of presenting the odors to hungry wasps while they were feeding on sugar. This associates the chemical with a food reward and results in females exhibiting a distinct food-searching behavior in the presence of the chemical odor. The wasps were trained and tested to the odors both individually and in combination of a 1:1;1 mixture of the 3 odors. Similar tests were carried out using the contained ‘Wasp Hound’ to determine the potential of developing a portable biosensor. We found that the wasps had limitations in their response to androstenone when exposed to the compound in isolation and when presented the mixture. The response to indole and skatole in isolation and within the mixture was very reliable both in the general tests and using the ‘Wasp Hound’. We conclude that the training and testing within the portable ‘Wasp Hound’ has high potential as a biosensor and we also report other means of training that may further improve their responses.