If you grow tomatoes here in Northern Nevada you probably recognize the Tobacco Horn Worm. Researchers say he may hold the key to not only saving millions of crops, but also warding off the West Nile Virus.
When Washoe County conducts its mosquito abatement program it often takes to the skies with this. Called Methoprene its dropped into mosquito pools and inhibits the bugs from maturing without harming other wildlife.
Professor David Schooley helped develop Methoprene...and here at the University of Nevada he's now working on a way to destroy adult female mosquitos, the insect that drinks blood and spreads disease.
Schooley says "how much blood can she take in, in one sitting?..twice her body weight. It is like trying to when she's done with the blood meal its is like trying to get a 747 to take off with over one thousand people on board. The mosquito tries to get rid of the blood while she's feeding it by urinating on you."
Dr. Schooley says he's currently working on a synthetic mosquito hormone that would work as a diuretic to essentially dehydrate the mosquito to death. But because of the mosquito's size the hormone is tough to test. That's where these tobacco horn worms come in. They are larger and can be used to test Schooley's theory, which could ultimately be translated to the mosquito.
Much like the methoprene, the chemical could be used on mosquitos themselves or sprayed on netting, an added benefit, the Tobacco Horn Worm could also be dealt with the same way saving crops without disturbing other insects and animals in the ecosystem.
Even if the hormone were developed today, Dr. Schooley says it would take another 15-years before you'd see the product on the market.