Biotech Updates

Researchers Reveal Plants' Defense Mechanism Against Insect Attack

January 16, 2013

A research study by entomologists from Pennsylvania State University (PSU) suggests that a plant may start to prime its defenses as soon as it gets a whiff of a male fly searching for a mate. The researchers added that once plants smell a sex attractant emitted by true fruit fly males, they appear to prepare chemical defenses that make them less appealing to female flies that could damage the plants by depositing eggs on them.

In a field study, the researchers exposed some plants to the odor of the male fly and then counted the number of exposed and unexposed plants on which female flies laid eggs by noting the distinctive scarring that occurs when females puncture the stem to lay their eggs inside. The researchers found that females were significantly less likely to lay eggs on plants exposed to the male emission and about four times more likely to lay eggs on plants in a control group that were not exposed to this odor cue.

View PSU's news release at