The University of Cincinnati is decoding the genetics of agricultural pests in projects that could help boost crop and livestock production to feed millions more people around the world.
Joshua Benoit, an associate professor in UC’s College of Arts and Sciences, contributed to genetic studies of New World screwworms that feed on livestock and thrips, tiny insects that can transmit viruses to tomatoes and other plants.
It’s the latest international collaboration for Benoit, who previously sequenced the DNA for genomes of dreaded creatures such as bedbugs.
Just in time for Halloween, Benoit’s new study subject is no less creepy. The New World screwworm’s Latin name means “man-eater.” These shiny blue flies with pumpkin-orange eyes lay up to 400 eggs in open cuts or sores of cattle, goats, deer and other mammals. Emerging larvae begin gnawing away on their hosts, feeding on living and dead tissue and creating ghastly wounds.