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Tue, Feb

Refining Pesticides to Kill Pests, Not Bees

Typography

Pyrethroid pesticides are effective. Sometimes too effective.

Pyrethroid pesticides are effective. Sometimes too effective.

Researchers at Michigan State University’s entomology department have unlocked a key to maintain the insecticide’s effectiveness in eliminating pests without killing beneficial bugs, such as bees. The study, featured in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that molecular tweaks can make the difference.

Pyrethroids target the voltage-gated sodium channel, a protein found in nerve and muscle cells used for rapid electrical signaling. Pyrethroids basically work by binding to the voltage gate of the sodium channel and prevent it from closing. The nervous system becomes over-stimulated and the insect is killed. These pesticides, however, don’t have the same effect on humans, or other mammals for that matter.

Ke Dong, MSU insect toxicologist and neurobiologist and co-author of the paper, honed in on a single protein that could afford bumble bees the same resistance as humans – tau-fluvalinate, a pyrethroid insecticide. Dong worked with Shaoying Wu, lead author from Henan Agricultural University (China), who conducted the research in Dong’s lab as a visiting scholar.

Read more at Michigan State University

Image: Researchers at Michigan State University's entomology department have unlocked a key to maintain the insecticide's effectiveness in eliminating pests without killing beneficial bugs, such as bees. The study, featured in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that molecular tweaks can make the difference. (Credit: Photo by Bill Ravlin)