Skip to Content

Pest Test

A bacterial protein called Bt toxin makes a safe and effective pesticide. But Bt-proof bugs could render the agricultural resource useless. So researchers at North Carolina State University are helping to develop a test kit that gives farmers early warning of Bt resistance, allowing them to give the affected area a break from Bt before a “super pest” emerges.

NC State entomologist R. Michael Roe calls the testing technique “embarrassingly simple” -a farmer merely adds water and a bit of Bt to wells in a cellular-phone-sized container, then drops in a few bugs from the field. Each well holds insect food mixed with an indicator dye that turns bug feces blue. Bt-susceptible pests sickened by the toxin don’t eat-and therefore don’t defecate. But resistant bugs produce blue droppings-a quick, colorful warning for the farmer, who would otherwise have to wait a week or so for the insects to die. A large-scale field study of the test kit, sponsored by Cotton Inc., should be completed this spring.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Here’s how a Twitter engineer says it will break in the coming weeks

One insider says the company’s current staffing isn’t able to sustain the platform.

Technology that lets us “speak” to our dead relatives has arrived. Are we ready?

Digital clones of the people we love could forever change how we grieve.

How to befriend a crow

I watched a bunch of crows on TikTok and now I'm trying to connect with some local birds.

Starlink signals can be reverse-engineered to work like GPS—whether SpaceX likes it or not

Elon said no thanks to using his mega-constellation for navigation. Researchers went ahead anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.