April 10, 2009

US Military Taking Aim At Insects On The Battlefield

In an odd turn of events, members of the US military are battling a new set of enemies: insects.

According to the AP, researchers from the Pentagon's Deployed Warfighter Protection Research Program attended the American Mosquito Control Association convention.

The program began in 2004, and spends $5 million each year to discover new weapons to be used against tiny winged foes that threaten American soldiers in other countries.

"When you're deployed, I would say 90 percent of all soldiers, service members, are going to have issues with filth flies," Army Lt. Col. Jason Pike, executive officer of the 65th Medical Brigade's Force Health Protection and Preventive Medicine program headquartered in South Korea, told the Associated Press.

"Filth flies carry many organisms which cause diarrhea ... It might not be fatal, but one soldier out of commission affects a lot of other people," he said.

But the plans being considered by the Pentagon's research program could one day be used on a wider more public scale. Many of today's popular repellants, such as DEET, were discovered due to military-driven research.

Graham B. White of the Armed Forces Pest Management Board described the process of fighting bugs as a "global perpetual need."

"Even if nobody went to war for a long time, these things would still need to be developed."

The program was also behind testing that led to recent Environmental Protection Agency approval of an insecticide that is highly toxic among mosquitoes but safe for mammals.

Navy Corpsman Joe Diclaro II has conducted studies on the common housefly. When designing traps, he found that although most devices are yellow, flies typically prefer the color blue more.

So he used blue signboard to develop his trap, which has killed about 3,000 flied in 24 hours during testing.

Dicarlo's is just one of dozens of insect-killing techniques that have received backing from the Pentagon's program.

Stephen Duke, of the National Center for Natural Products Research in Oxford, Miss., found that Two colorless, odorless compounds in certain American beautyberry leaves "” callicarpenal and intermedeol "” seem to be about as effective as DEET against mosquitoes and repel black-leg ticks and fire ants.

Researchers at Louisiana State University are developing fluorescent feces in hopes of killing sandflies by feeding sand rats a chemical harmless to the rodents but lethal to larvae that eat their feces.

Thomas Mascari, a postdoctoral student in entomology at the LSU AgCenter told the AP the bait is being tested in Kenya with plans to study in Egypt with the Navy in 2010.


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