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Horses be­dev­iled by black flies may soon find re­lief from an un­usual source: a sub­stance pro­duced by badgers to ward off wasps.

Tech­ni­cally known as a semio­chem­i­cal, the sub­stance was dis­cov­ered by French re­searchers study­ing a strange fact about badgers: “They at­tack wasp nests and seem nat­u­rally pro­tected from wasps,” says Ben­jamin Cre­ton, MSc, of the Re­search In­sti­tute in Semio­chem­istry and Ap­plied Ethol­ogy in Apt, France.

Semio­chem­i­cals are re­leased into the en­vi­ron­ment by mam­mals to com­mu­ni­cate with or in­flu­ence the be­hav­ior of other or­gan­isms.

“Chem­i­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tion is the most an­cient way of com­mu­ni­cat­ing among liv­ing be­ings,” ex­plains Cre­ton. “Each species owns its spe­cific re­cep­tors, which are ca­pa­ble of de­tect­ing im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion re­leased by con­specifics or other in­di­vid­u­als. The semio­chem­i­cals may have var­i­ous func­tions. Be­tween in­di­vid­u­als be­long­ing to the same species, we will ob­serve sexual pheromones, ma­ter­nal-ap­peas­ing pheromones, alarm pheromones or ter­ri­to­rial mark­ing pheromones.”

He con­tin­ues: “In the special case of par­a­sites, some semio­chem­i­cals will be re­spon­si­ble for the de­tec­tion of the most ac­cu­rate host--they will at­tract the par­a­site ---while others will make it pos­si­ble to avoid in­ap­pro­pri­ate hosts.”

The re­searchers soon learned that the badger semio-chem­i­cal pro­vided pro­te­con- ente types of m “K th ious im­pact of simulids (black flies) on horses, and tak­ing into ac­count that they are ge­net­i­cally not that far from mos­qui­toes, we de­cided to test this sub­stance in that ap­pli­ca­tion,” says Cre­ton

For the first part of their study, the re­searchers ap­plied a 3 per­cent so­lu­tion of the semio­chem­i­cal to the ears of 20 horses and ob­served them, along with un­treated con­trol horses, for one hour. They counted the num­ber of black flies that landed on the ears of each an­i­mal. That data showed that the semio­chem­i­cal had a 90 per­cent ef­fi­cacy rate in keep­ing flies off of horse’s ears.

In the sec­ond phase of the study, the re­searchers ap­plied a slow-re­lease for­mu­la­tion of the semio­chem­i­cal to each horse’s ears and counted black flies for 60 minute pe­ri­ods at eight, nine and 10 hours after treat­ment. The re­sult­ing data showed con­sis­tent re­sults in each pe­riod, with fly-re­pelling ef­fi­cacy rates of over 98 per­cent.

Cre­ton says that, based on this suc­cess, a com­mer­cial prod­uct utiliz­ing badger semio­chem­i­cals is un­der de­vel­op­ment. “We have signed an agree­ment with a part­ner, and they are cur­rently de­vel­op­ing a com­mer­cial prod­uct. Ac­cord­ing to their in­for­ma­tion, there is a rea­son­able hope to ex­pect a com­mer­cial prod­uct in spring 2017.”

Ref­er­ence: “Pro­tec­tion of horse ears against Simulid par­a­sitism: Ef­fi­cacy of a mam­mal semio­chem­i­cal so­lu­tion over 10 hours,” Vet­eri­nary Par­a­sitol­ogy, Au­gust 2016

The re­searchers soon learned that the badger semio­chem­i­cal pro­vided pro­tec­tion not only against wasps, but three dif­fer­ent types of mos­qui­toes.


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