The Sex Life of the Screwworm Fly: How an Odd-Sounding Study Saved Ranchers Billions

Providing scientists with funding to spend hours watching flies in breeding cages might seem like a waste of money. And in fact, Raymond C. Bushland and Edward F. Knipling, were often ridiculed, and were the butt of many jokes. But we're lucky they persisted, because their work has eradicated the screwworm fly from North and Central America, saving ranchers about $1.8 billion a year. Their research is also giving us a way to fight the mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus. As described in the video below, the screwworm fly is a nasty pest. The female lays its eggs in even the smallest wounds, or the navels of newborn calves. When the eggs hatch as maggots, they begin feeding within the animal's wound, literally eating it alive. A full-grown cow can be killed in less than two weeks. What Bushland and Knipling discovered from their hours of watching the breeding screwworm flies was that the female was monogamous, mating with only one male. The males on the other hand were "promiscuous in the extreme." The two thought that if they could sterilize the males and release them into the wild, they could breed with wild females who would waste their one breeding experience on an infertile male. Over time, they believed they could make screwworm flies exterminate themselves. The p

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One thought on “The Sex Life of the Screwworm Fly: How an Odd-Sounding Study Saved Ranchers Billions

  1. Thank you very much for the great article. I saw one, just one, last year and none this year. Science at it’s finest! walk in beauty

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