Unique Technology Offers Opportunity to Enhance, Replace, Chemical Insecticides
This unique extraction and purification technology offers a Green, nature-based solution to pesticides. It takes a naturally occurring fungus that unquestionably kills only pest social insects such as termites, fire ants, and carpenter ants -- a fungus that the insects instinctively avoid -- and turns it into an irresistible attractant that insect workers carry back to the colony. Colony death occurs in a few weeks, and the spores from the fungus act as a long-term repellent in the immediate area against the formation of new colonies. The attractant ingredient alone can act as bait and feeding stimulant for any other insecticide, even without the killing aspect of the fungus. The technology offers a new platform for developing future systems of pest control substances.
A new way to use fungus
Some scientists speculate that a specific killer fungus has evolved for every insect species. A few spores from such a fungus could easily kill colonies of social insects such as termites, fire ants, and carpenter ants. Metarhizium anisopliae is a naturally occurring fungus that kills these social insects, and is harmless to humans, plants, and animals. But over millions of years, termites, fire ants, and carpenter ants have evolved exquisite sensitivity to the spores -- so much so that they avoid the spores and kill infected workers before they can re-enter the colony, making it difficult or impossible to use Metarhizium anisopliae as an insecticide, although it has been used as a repellent.
But the focus of prior investigations involves the spores of Metarhizium anisopliae. This new technology isolates late-sporulating strains (and uses the mycelium, or pre-conidial stage). Surprisingly, the fungus at this stage is almost irresistible to the insects, and their workers carry the fungus back to the colony to eat. As the fungus eventually grows and/or sporulates, it destroys the insects of the colony from within. The spores act as a repellent to new colonization in the immediate area.
Platform technology for insecticides
An extract can be made from the pre-conidial state of the fungus that acts as a powerful attractant. It can be added to almost any chemical insecticide to enhance its attractant powers and to act as a feeding stimulant. The extraction method is critical to production of the attractant, which is believed to be a complex molecule.
This new technology is an opportunity to create entire non-chemical pesticide systems. Patent claims are particularly broad and basic. Expansion of the patent is pending. Considered expansion of the patented technologies may encompass all social (queen-based) and non-social (non-queen based) insects. Additional entomopathogenic fungi are anticipated, including Beauveria bassiana, and many anamorphs of Cordyceps.
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