Pest control has never looked so sweet. Scientists have found that a simple derivative of sugar can shut down the immune defenses of ravaging termites, thus leaving the insects open to attacks from bacteria and fungus. Says lead researcher Ram Sasisekharan: “When you have an immune system that is compromised, you have a variety of opportunistic infections that take over…. You give these microbes sort of a leg up to attacking more seriously” [The Scientist].
As termites cause an estimated $30 billion in crop and building damages each year, and most current methods used to combat them rely on toxins that disrupt the termites’ nervous systems. These new findings could give rise to a whole new class of safer pest-control treatments, the authors say. “We wanted something environmentally friendly, biodegradable, and [that] does not play a toxic role” [National Geographic News], says Sasisekharan.source