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Fruity whiff may inspire new mosquito repellents

Odors from ripening bananas can jam fruit flies’ and mosquitoes’ power to detect carbon dioxide

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4:25pm, August 26, 2009

Fruit flies actually have a love-hate relationship with the smell of fruit. And a new insight into the chemistry of that attraction and repulsion could lead to novel repellents for other insects, researchers say.

Carbon dioxide is a known turn-off to fruit flies when it emanates from stressed peers. “Drosophila sniff CO2 and avoid it like crazy,” says neurobiologist Anand Ray of the University of California, Riverside. But ripe fruit puffs out the gas and still attracts plenty of flies. In this case, compounds released by the fruit block the flies’ CO2 receptors, Ray and Riverside colleague Stephanie Turner report online August 26 in Nature.

Mosquitos, in contrast, outright love CO2. They hunt down blood meals by following plumes of the exhaled gas. But as in fruit flies, a fruit compound can jam CO2 receptors in the notorious mosquito Culex quinquefasciatus, the researchers say. This species spreads West Nile fe

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