Finding a mate can be difficult if your eyesight isn’t great. That’s why sharpshooters responsible for infecting grapevines with the Xylella fastidiosa bacterium use sound generated by shaking their bodies instead.
Protecting California’s grapevines from Xylella costs more than $100 million a year, therefore looking outside the box for tools to use in the vineyard to address this issue is vital.
Entomologist Rodrigo Krugner and his team at US Department of Agriculture are conducting research using lasers to pick up the insects’ vibrations and turn them into sound, to better understand courting behaviour.
Unlike the animal kingdom where the dominant males attract the females, in the sharpshooter world, females that call the longest and strongest are the dominants and other female sharpshooters defer to them. This is an important fact Krugner is looking to harness and test for mating disruption.
Krugner has developed a metallic electromagnetic shaker to hang on a vineyard trellis, which broadcasts a dominant glassy-winged sharpshooter female’s vibrations down the vine row to confuse the population. Early results of this prototype are promising, with males ignoring the real female sharpshooters and not mating at all.
We thank Liz Riley from Vitibit Pty Ltd for sharing the article with us.
With Xylella fastidiosa classified as Australia’s number one unwanted plant pest, we applaud the range of research being undertaken internationally to address this issue.