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Tobacco plant 'stickiness' aids helpful insects, plant health Date:


North Carolina State University
Researchers show beneficial relationship between 'sticky' tobacco plants and helpful insects that consume tobacco pests.

Researchers at North Carolina State University have shown that "sticky" hairlike structures on tobacco leaves can help attract beneficial insects that scavenge on other insects trapped on the leaves, increasing leaf yield and reducing pest damage to plant structures.

In a study examining pests of tobacco plants and opportunistic insects that eat the pests, researchers show that sticky glandular trichomes on tobacco leaves trap insects that aren't adapted to interacting with perilous plant surfaces. The trapped insects perish and then become food for the spined stilt bug (Jalysus wickhami) -- a small but long-legged insect predator that has a beneficial relationship with tobacco plants.

Tobacco plants provide a trapped-insect buffet that spined stilt bugs are more than happy to feast upon, which helps protect the plant from pest infestation and damage. Better still, the spined stilt bug -- which uses its long legs as leverage to navigate across the sticky parts of tobacco leaves to reach its bug banquet -- isn't harmful to tobacco plants, researchers say, although it drinks some sap from tobacco plants to stay hydrated between pest meals.

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