Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

From tissue engineering to mosquitoes: biopolymers as tools for developing a novel biomimetic approach to pest management/vector control.

Abstract

Background: Pest management has been facing the spread of invasive species, insecticide resistance phenomena, and concern for the impact of chemical pesticides on human health and the environment. It has tried to deal with them by developing technically efficient and economically sustainable solutions to complement/replace/improve traditional control methods. The renewal has been mainly directed towards less toxic pesticides or enhancing the precision of their delivery to reduce the volume employed and side effects through lure-and-kill approaches based on semiochemicals attractants. However, one of the main pest management problems is that efficacy depends on the effectiveness of the attractant system, limiting its successful employment to semiochemical stimuli-responsive insects. Biomaterial-based and bioinspired/biomimetic solutions that already guide other disciplines (e.g., medical sciences) in developing precision approaches could be a helpful tool to create attractive new strategies to liberate precision pest management from the need for semiochemical stimuli, simplify their integration with bioinsecticides, and foster the use of still underemployed solutions. Approach proposed: We propose an innovative approach, called "biomimetic lure-and-kill". It exploits biomimetic principles and biocompatible/biodegradable biopolymers (e.g., natural hydrogels) to develop new substrates that selectively attract insects by reproducing specific natural environmental conditions (biomimetic lure) and kill them by hosting and delivering a natural biopesticide or through mechanical action. Biomimetic lure-and-kill-designed substrates point to provide a new attractive system to develop/improve and make more cost-competitive new and conventional devices (e.g. traps). A first example application is proposed using the tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus as a model. Conclusions: Biomaterials, particularly in the hydrogel form, can be a useful tool for developing the biomimetic lure-and-kill approach because they can satisfy multiple needs simultaneously (e.g., biomimetic lure, mechanical lethality, biocompatibility, and bioinsecticide growth). Such an approach might be cost-competitive, and with the potential for applicability to several pest species. Moreover, it is already technically feasible, since all the technologies necessary to design and configure materials with specific characteristics are already available on the market.