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Sunday, January 24, 2021

UF research: amino acid can double as pesticide

UF researchers have discovered an insecticide that comes from something humans eat every day.

Methionine is an essential amino acid that humans get from food, and it can double as a pesticide against the invasive lime swallowtail caterpillar that could threaten Florida's citrus industry.

"This shows that we can find an alternative to the bad chemical pesticides," said Delano Lewis, co-author of the study, which was published in the Journal of Economic Entomology.

Because the lime swallowtail can't be legally brought into the U.S., researchers experimented using a similar species.

The pesticide was 100 percent effective in killing the caterpillars on wild lime trees within three to four days.

It is harmless to citrus plants, mammals and birds, Lewis said. In the soil, the amino acid would become fertilizer for the plants.

"It's better than most of the other chemicals out there because it's more targeted to the specific type of insect you want," he said.

The research was funded by UF's Division of Sponsored Research and the Florida Museum of Natural History's Museum Associates Board.

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