• Spider venom could hold key to effective insecticides
    The spider venom protein could help reduce crop damage from pests

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Spider venom could hold key to effective insecticides

Oct 25 2013

A protein has been isolated from the venom of the Australian tarantula (Selenotypus Plumipes) that can work as an insecticide. The novel orally active peptide was isolated from the venom using mass spectrometry (MS) and reversed-phase liquid chromatography (reversed-phase LC). Researchers are now using the peptide in order to see if it could help in the development of more effective insecticides.

It was found that the peptide has the ability to kill insects when it is consumed, differentiating from other types of spider venom, which kill when they are injected into prey. The protein is particularly venomous to the cotton bollworm, which is a well known pest for the agricultural industry. 

The orally active insecticidal peptide-1 (OAIP-1) was found to be as venomous as the synthetic insecticide imidacloprid. It was also found, in the study that is published in the journal 'PLOS ONE' that the cotton bollworm was more susceptible to OAIP-1 than other pests, such as mealworms and termites.

A more effective insecticide could benefit the agricultural agency, which currently reduces crops around the world by between ten and 14 per cent, as well as causing damage to between nine and 20 per cent of stored crops. Some of the species that are to blame for this destruction are immune to the current insecticides on the market. 

Margaret Hardy, from the University of Queensland, Australia, said to The Column that this insecticide resistance from many common species of pests has driven the need for the development of environmentally friendly alternatives. Introducing "green" insecticides to integrated pest management (IPM) programmes is the best way to limit the effects that such chemicals have on the environment, according to Ms Hardy.

“Our results are significant because it describes the discovery of the most potent insecticidal peptide published to date; the insecticide shows synergism with another, currently used conventional insecticide; and, because the peptide could be used as part of an IPM programme,“ she continued.

The study also suggests that the peptide could be beneficial in the development of plants that are resistant to insects, which could improve world crops. It could also be used for improving the efficiency of pest-attacking microbes in order to reduce their numbers.

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