The coating protects them from microbes and environmental stress.
An international research team, led by Joanne Yew from the University of Hawaii, Mānoa, identified the ‘spidey’ gene (nicknamed after Spiderman) in vinegar flies. The team hopes that with further study they can bridge the gap to pest species.
News reports state that Yew said:
“When we knocked out spidey in adult flies, the flies exhibited several striking features: their life span was shortened by about 50 per cent, they lost almost all of their waxy coating and flies frequently got stuck to the sides of the plastic vials and were unable to free themselves.”
Vacant property firm Orbis said:
“Infestations are incredibly difficult to avoid and once infected, a building can need multiple treatments." “The ability to remove an insect’s waxy coating could make their control easier and will enhance expert services. This is particularly important news in light of the study Orbis reported on earlier this year, revealing that bed bugs are developing a resistance to insecticides.”
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Read same info from Newscientist.com below:
Scientists have discovered a gene that, when inactivated, can give flies super sticky powers. The gene, found in vinegar flies and named spidey, after Spider-Man, is responsible for producing their protective waxy coating – switching it off makes flies extra sticky.
The lipids that make up this waxy layer normally act as a raincoat and protect flies against various exterior elements, including microbes and environmental stress. They also carry information about the age, sex and social status of the carrier.
A team of international scientists led by Yin Ning Chiang of the National University of Singapore found that removing the spidey gene caused the flies to lose their protective lipids, resulting in a dramatically shortened lifespan.
“Loss of the lipids allows substances like food to accumulate on the surfaces of their legs,” says Chiang.
“The flies eventually get completely stuck to surfaces.”
Without the lipid shield, gunk builds up on the flies. The insects then get caught up in this sticky mess as it aggregates and creates a force that sucks them down onto surfaces.
Attractive coatMany insects rely on their lipid coating not only for survival but also to choose mates of the right species.
“The discovery of this gene could be a very useful tool,” says Tristram Wyatt of the University of Oxford.
“It could help scientists to study the pheromones of fruitflies and further our knowledge of how these chemicals have shaped speciation and evolution.”
The information also could be used for pest control by disrupting insect mating. Because spidey is found in many insect species, researchers think that this finding may prove useful for controlling various disease-bearing insects and agricultural pests through chemical manipulation of the gene to disrupt the animals’ development, lifespan, mating and wall-clinging abilities.
In addition, understanding how the insects’ special lipid raincoat protects them from the outside world could one day help to produce anti-rust, antimicrobial or superhydrophobic surface coatings.