Irradiating moths and spraying them over crops using drones sounds like the plan of a half-rate, has-been supervillain. Funnily enough, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has done just that: In a test program, they are bombarding cotton crops with laboratory-grown, red-dyed pink bollworm moths from a remotely piloted aircraft, as reported in Popular Science.
The reason for doing this initially seems counterintuitive. It is an attempt to stop the very same pink bollworm moths from eating their way through the seeds and fibers of the cotton plant, reducing its quality to unacceptable levels. Surely these irradiated new moths will develop superpowers and become an even greater threat than their regular brethren, I hear you cry. Actually, no; irradiating these moths – which have been dyed red so they can be identified by scientists – sterilizes them.
The idea is that the regular moths will attempt to copulate with their infertile cousins, but since no offspring will be produced, the population will fall, leaving the cotton more intact and looking its best.
Each drone run releases thousands of presumably baffled, irradiated, infertile moths onto the cotton fields. It would probably be quite an unfortunate experience walking through the area as a drone overhead unleashed its payload.
As Popular Science reports, this isn’t the first time animals have been ejected from an aircraft in order to get rid of pests. In Guam, mice – already deceased – are coated in poisonous chemicals and dropped from a helicopter. The hope is that the highly invasive and aggressive brown tree snake gobbles up one of these dead assassins and dies as a result.
In the case of both locations, I would advise taking an umbrella. You never know when you’re in for some more unorthodox, fauna-based weather.
Check out the USDA’s video below showing footage of the moth-armed drones carrying out their infestation-stopping business:
[H/T: Popular Science]