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Virus makes plants lie to insects

Deceptively delicious smell of infected squash plants tricks aphids into spreading disease

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4:46pm, December 15, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS — A common virus turns a squash plant into just the right kind of deceptive advertiser.

When cucumber mosaic virus, known as CMV, infects garden-variety squash plants, the plants smell more alluring to aphids than healthy plants do, reports ecologist Kerry Mauck of Pennsylvania State University in University Park. The infected plants don’t live up to their odor, though. Upon landing on a virus-ridden plant, the aphids take a taste and, yuk, move on.

That swift retreat works out well for the virus, Mauck reported December 14 at the annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America. CMV spreads when a

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