It’s the second straight gloomy day at Flowerbook, but the light morning drizzle did nothing to inhibit the early morning walkabout the land with Buster, Rocky, Bruiser and the new addition to the canine troupe – Sally – just around twelve weeks old. There’s something invigorating about these cold, damp mornings, but damned if I can put my finger on it. Anyway, in the course of the walk I checked out the fruit-fly traps I had devised yesterday and found to my delight, a whole slew of those pesky critters trapped inside – no matter that they were all males.

The thing about organic agriculture is that any chemical – fertilizer, pesticide, fungicide or weedicide, is a major no-no, so that getting rid of fruit-flies is the one problem that I find hard to combat. The slugs, aphids and other such ground-bound critters can be subdued with all manner of home-made concoctions, but fruit-flies are a different kettle of critter due to their aerial abilities. Anyway, a long time ago I heard about the CISIR developing a fruit-fly pheromone and managed to contact the scientist involved to score a small quantity of the concentrated liquid. And it worked – like a charm.

Now for those of you who may not be familiar with the term – a ‘pheromone’ is defined as ‘a chemical that triggers an innate behavioral response in another member of the same species’. And if you google for it you will find that there are quite a few different categories. The initial finding however, had to do with sex and was found in the late fifties resulting from experiments with silkworms. So, in short, a pheromone released through the innate genetic makeup of a creature serves the purpose of attracting another of the same species for mating. Bitches in heat are a good example.

Anyway, the fruit-fly pheromone is synthesized in a lab and is used to mimic the chemical put out by the female to attract the males. A simple trap consists of a plastic bottle with two holes (just enough to allow the fly entry) bored on either side of it, with a swab of cotton on which is dabbed a minute quantity of the synthetic signal. The holes allow the males to enter, with the intention of impregnating the female and having done their thing – with the cotton swab instead of with the real Mac Coy, the mini-brained critters don’t have what it takes to find their way out. And so they die, after a few days of searching for the escape route. This results in fewer males being able to fertilize the females, who, in the usual course of their lives bore holes in fruit and certain vegetables in which they lay their eggs. When the eggs hatch, the larvae proceed to eat their way out of the fruit, or vegie, which of course makes the host inedible. So you could well imagine the huge problem an organic gardener has with fruit-flies.

I had tried the CISIR after the first batch of synthetic pheromone finished; however, they had stopped making it. Anyway, after many years and in some desperation, I tried again last week and lo and behold – they had done it again – which is how this post originated. And now there’s some hope for the zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, pumpkin and other produce, as fewer females in this territory will be fertilized and less of them will need to bore those minute holes to lay those miniscule eggs that ruin the fruit.

There’s a whole lot more in my head about pheromones – especially the ones that apply to us humans, but that’s best left for later. Back at the laptop and gazing out of the window I see the drizzle has abated, but a stiff breeze has all the branches moving and the leaves doing shimmies in the blowing. The dogs are lying around me and WorldSpace has some Latino music that somehow fits the mood.

Advertisements