Monday, August 24, 2009

Organic Pest Control, the Mad Botany Way

So, there was an outbreak of fruit flies in the kitchen last week. The place looked like an introductory genetics lab in May, when the students start to get lazy about disposing of their old Drosophila cultures. After more prosaic control options--such as cleaning out the compost bucket--were exhausted, I starting thinking about the possibilities for mopping up the abundant fruit fly stragglers. If only I had something sticky like flypaper, with a sweet smell to draw the insect pests to their doom...

Then I remembered that I have access to Drosphyllum lusitanicum, the Portuguese Sundew or Dewy Pine, a large carnivorous plant from the western Mediterranean with leaves that drip with mucilaginous goo and smell strongly of honey.

Drosophyllum turns out to be brutally efficient at offing Drosophila. The first flies were caught before I even set the plant down by the sink, and within an hour it looked like the majority of the infestation was glued to the leaves and in the process of being digested. I brought the Drosophyllum back to its greenhouse lair after a couple of days: it's not the sort of plant that would survive in typical kitchen conditions for long. Besides, there wasn't anything left for it to eat.

For those tempted to try growing their own Drosophyllum, there are cultural notes at the ICPS website.


Julie said...

That was genius! Love it!

Matt said...

Thanks, Julie!