New weapon in war on pests: Fungus?

New weapon in war on pests: Fungus?

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Researchers at the University of Florida say a genetically engineered fungus could become a major weapon against mosquitos and fire ants.

Prof. Nemat Keyhani, a microbiologist, is working with the fungus called Beauveria bassiana. He says, so far, tests have shown the fungus can kill mosquitos without harming other insects like butterflies and moths. He says tests infecting fire ants with the fungus have also had positive results.

"As the fungus infects the fire ant, it weakens their system and makes them more susceptible to the fungus infection," he explained.

Keyhani has been working on the project for about five years. He says the fungus could be used in conjunction with chemical insecticides as part of an integrated pest management approach.

He says the fungus is not harmful to humans and insects cannot develop resistance to it, as is the case with some chemical insecticides.

Keyhani says the fungus has already won approval from the EPA. But, he says, commercial use of the fungus won't occur until economical methods of application are perfected. He hopes that corporations will see value in his work and invest in further research.

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