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Printing and a thorn in it / Debra Weiner

XNUMXD printing may save an endangered thorn

After the plastic flowers of the spikes are printed layer by layer, they are "planted" in the spines of Wisconsin. Credit: Chicago Botanic Garden
After the plastic flowers of the spikes are printed layer by layer, they are "planted" in the spines of Wisconsin. Credit: Chicago Botanic Garden

There's something especially cruel about using beauty to kill, but that's exactly what scientists at the Chicago Botanic Garden began doing in the summer of 2015 with northern Wisconsin lizards. Kyrie Havens and her colleagues created about 60 flowers with a XNUMXD printer and planted them there to lure the invasive species to their waist.

Since the 90s, scientists have been deliberately spreading Larinus planus beetles all over the United States so that they would eat Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense), a domineering weed that has spread wildly on farms and pastures. But as with many invasive species control programs attempted in the past, all well-intentioned, things went wrong. The long-stalked insect specifically attacks local thorns, including Cirsium pitcher, which grows only in the Great Lakes region. Its habitat has been destroyed, so it is on the US Fish and Wildlife Service's endangered species list. According to Havens, if nothing is done to stop the weevils, which feed on the seeds produced by the thorns, they could bring the pitcher plant to the brink of extinction in half the time currently estimated.

Havens hopes the fake spikes will help control the spread of weevils. The plastic flowers of the fake spikes, which are purple, blue and white in color, some half-open and some fully open, are attached to thin rods that are 50 centimeters long and are "grown" next to their real brothers on the peninsula of Door County, Wisconsin. Most of them were attached to wool threads soaked in lemon or forest scent, both scents that attract weevils. "We needed a chemical signature that freaks out the germinal senses," says botanist Patty Witt. Video cameras record the activity around the fake flowers so that the researchers can examine the preferences of the weevils, but at the same time also monitor the number of other insects that visit the flowers and how long they stay there. Once scientists know what combination of shape, color and smell attracts weevils but does not attract bees and other pollinators, it will be possible to design an effective trap for weevils. However, it may take a few years to understand all the details of making such a trap, and therefore, at this stage, weevils that fall into the fake flower bin are caught by hand and thrown to the waist in a container of soapy water. But if the stinger plan works, we may in the future see vast fields of printed flowers protecting Wisconsin's vertebrates.

More fakes in XNUMXD printing / Kat Long and Sarah Levine

Insect lures
Entomologists from the University of the State of Pennsylvania are trying to destroy a species of harmful beetle called the letter picker (Agrilus planipennis). The beetle bores and destroys mila trees (a tree from the olive family with a hard but flexible trunk). The way the researchers chose to attack the invasive species is by printing electrified copies of females with a XNUMXD printer. When real male beetles land on fake females with the intention of mating, they receive a fatal electric shock.

Wildflowers
Plastic flowers printed in a variety of shapes help researchers at the University of Washington to understand how pollinators, such as the stickleback moth (a moth with a stinger that feeds on a float while hovering near a flower), choose to get their food from certain flowers.

fake eggs
The cowbirds lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, often those of the red-breasted. However, it turns out that the red-breasted ones have a good "lie detector" and many times they recognize the foreign eggs and throw them out of the nest. To understand what characteristics of the eggs tell the mothers of the red-breasted that they are foreign eggs, researchers from Hunter College placed a wide variety of XNUMXD-printed fake eggs in the nests of the red-breasted. They discovered that the invading eggs are identified by their color.

The article was published with the permission of Scientific American Israel

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