Friday, January 24, 2014

A Good Use Of Tobacco...!

Being a smoker has a lot of drawbacks, but I finally found a good use for the dreaded tobacco leaf!

Unfortunately, I think this particular use is only good for caterpillars! Still, it's nice to find that some good can come from something that is frowned on by the majority of the human race! Too bad I can't figure out how to make this work for me against mosquitoes!

The Caterpillar With Weaponized Bad Breath
By Nolan Moore on Thursday, January 23, 2014

You might smoke four packs a day, but your nicotine tolerance pales in comparison to the hornworm caterpillar’s. This guy spends his days eating tobacco leaves, but it’s not because he likes the taste. Thanks to a special gene, the hornworm caterpillar uses the nicotine in tobacco plants to ward off hungry spiders. They actually smell so badly that spiders detect them as toxic and potentially harmful.

Around the world, cigarettes and tobacco-related products are covered in dire health warnings. Some are pretty straightforward like, “Cigarettes can cause cancer.” Others are a little gorier, displaying horrifying pictures of tracheotomies and rotting teeth. But if the hornworm caterpillar could read, he’d just shake his head and laugh. These little larvae can handle more nicotine than Don Draper and the Cigarette Smoking Man combined. In fact, the hornworm caterpillar has a nicotine tolerance that’s 750 times greater than any measly human’s, and that comes in handy when he’s attacked by eight-legged predators.

Wolf spiders love munching on juicy little caterpillars, but the hornworm is more of a challenge than most insects thanks to its unique diet and genetic makeup. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Chemical Ecology in Germany discovered these little guys occasionally chow down on tobacco plants. It’s not that they’re particularly fond of the taste, and in fact, detoxifying all that nicotine takes a really long time and really slows the caterpillar down. But as researchers found out, the hornworm has an amazing way of turning the poison into a toxic weapon, a kind of “defense halitosis.”

Hornworms use a sci-fi sounding gene called “CYP6B46″ to mix the nicotine with the caterpillar’s hemolymph (essentially insect blood). When the wolf spider shows up looking for a snack, the caterpillar excretes its hemolymph through little holes known as spiracles. The spider gets a whiff of all that nicotine and decides the hornworm is way too toxic to eat. The eight-eyed arachnid takes off, and the hornworm lives to see another day. Talk about smoker’s breath.

I just realized that I don't care much for the hornworm, anymore than I do for spiders! Maybe I should just do away with both of them every chance I get!

Thanks to the folks at KnowledgeNuts for compiling this information for us! Good stuff!

Better have our coffee in the kitchen this morning. In the 30's out on the patio this morning!


Mamahen said...

Very interesting! I'll gladly join you in the kitchen tho the 30's sound warm next to the -4 here....How about some french toast if you don't mind me using your stove?

Chickenmom said...

Lots of spiders up here - maybe tobacco leaves would keep them away?
Mr. Hermit, we would LOVE to have 30 degrees.
French toast? I'll bring the maple syrup!

linda m said...

Maybe my hubby should chew on tobacco leaves. He hates spiders. I would love it if it were 30 degrees outside. It is -4 degrees right now with a bad wind chill. I'll bring some powdered sugar for the French toast. Have a great weekend.

BBC said...

Some people have turned tobacco into 'butter' and then used it in foods to kill dogs and cats with, it gives them a nicotine overload. I suppose it's even been used on some people.

Dizzy-Dick said...

I always learn something from your blog and enjoy reading about all the strange happenings, insects, people, and places. What I am going to do with all this great information is another question that needs to be answered. (grin) Keep up the great work, H.J.

edifice rex said...

Around here hornworms eat my tomato plants, so, spiders are the least of their concern if I find them!

HermitJim said...

Hey Mamahen...
I like the idea of some french toast!

I'll take my 30 over your -4 any day! Nothing personal, ya know?

Thanks for coming by today!

Hey Phyllis...
I'll try anything to fight the spiders! Don't like them a bit.

Maple syrup and french toast sounds like a winner to me!

Thanks for coming over this morning!

Hey Linda M...
Certainly couldn't hurt to try it! I don't like that bad wind chill!

Powdered sugar is good!

I appreciate the visit this morning!

Hey BBC...
Nothing much surprises me any more. They probably did!

Thanks for dropping in!

Hey Dizzy...
Certainly glad I can find some stuff that is interesting. Anything to entertain!

I'm just a warehouse of useless information!

Thanks for stopping by today!

Hey Anne...
I've had that same problem with horn worms and feel the same way!

Many thanks for coming by this morning!

Coffeefreek53 said...

I've never posted a comment before, BUT I had to today. YOU REFERENCE THE CIGARETTE SMOKING MAN!! How many folks know who that is.................I do, I do. Loved that show.

That's all.