Plants have developed a lot of different defense mechanisms. Did you know some plants even do their own forms of pest control? It’s certainly not to the level of threatening the human race like in the movie “The Happening”, but it’s interesting that similar phenomenon do occur in nature.
How plant’s protect themselves from pest issues
There are many varieties of ways that plants protect themselves from pests and use natural forms of pest control. The most common one is they have a thick hard covering of bark that pests can’t get through.
On top of that, many plants that have exposed parts, like leaves and small branches, cover them in a waxy outside layer that keeps pests away as well.
Another form of pest control plants use is through mechanical means. This could be from things like thorns, or coatings that cause rashes or allergic reactions to predators.
If predators get past exterior harm or protection from bark, wax, thorns, etc., the next step comes in the form of chemical pest control.
Enzymes and chemicals plants use for pest control
There are a few different reasons why this form of natural pest control from plants work. One reason is that plants can release juices or enzymes that smell or taste bad to their predators.
This is effective as once theses pests get a taste, they quickly abandon their efforts and look for another meal elsewhere. Another method is that some of these enzymes released by plants are actually toxic when ingested.
Plants causing cannibalism as a form of pest control like in “The Happening”?
Now for the crazy part. Recently there was some new research coming out that some plants actually can cause cannibalism in their predators. This is similar to, spoiler alert, what happens to the humans in the movie “The Happening.” In the movie the plants release enzymes into the air which causes humans to either kill themselves or go on murderous rampages as they have become “pests” to the earth and plant life.
While this probably won’t ever happen in real life, there are some similarities to what some plants actually do in the environment as a defense mechanism. Some predators in dire situations tend to resort to cannibalism when there aren’t adequate food sources available.
So plants are’t directly causing cannibalism in pests that aren’t already doing that, but when some predators have the choice between a plant that tastes bad, or their neighbor, they tend to choose their neighbor.
By boosting up the chemicals and enzymes or treating plants with them in advance, scientists have noticed an increase in cannibalistic activities in these pests to avoid eating the treated plants. Further study is certainly required, but this could be an effective form of pest control that could be used in the future to protect crops around the world.
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