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Scientists have identified a chemical that causes locusts to swarm.
The chemical, called 4-vinylanisole (4VA), is emitted by migratory locusts from their back legs. As other locusts detect 4VA, they become attracted to it, causing them to form destructive swarms.
According to the scientists, their discovery of 4VA may help in coming up with new ways to regulate or stop locust swarms.
For their research, the scientists looked for specific chemicals emitted only by sociable locusts. They identified six scents and tested whether any of them could attract solitary locusts. They found that 4VA attracted both solitary and sociable locusts regardless of their sex and age.
Findings also showed that the size of a swarm was dependent on the amount of 4VA in the air. The scientists observed that a swarm grew bigger when there was an increase in 4VA concentration in the air.
Lead researcher Le Kang explained that locust outbreaks cause enormous agricultural and economic losses worldwide.
Currently, using pesticides is the only effective method to suppress locust outbreaks. However, these chemicals can harm plants, animals, and even humans.
The researchers suggested safer and more targeted approaches to fight swarms. One suggestion was to create a chemical to block the effect of 4VA. Another was to use an artificial 4VA scent to attract locusts and destroy them.