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Putting the “P” in pest control

A team of scientists from Victoria University of Wellington has been awarded $1 million from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to create new ‘super-lure’ pest control technology.

Dr. Wayne Linklater, leader of the research project, says that New Zealand’s primary food industries are struggling to eradicate pests, with effective traps important in guaranteeing facilities are pest-free.

“Rodents and brushtail possum carry diseases like Bovine, TB and Leptospirosis, which are a serious problem if they get into agricultural food production and processing systems.”

Animal urine, it turns out, is the most effective bait for these vermin.

“Currently, the most effective pest-controls require widespread and repeated use of poison. Our new invention offers New Zealand better economic and environmental returns.”

The research team has found that the proteins and chemicals in rat and possum urine act as pheromones and trigger an attraction in other animals. They identified that the proteins may bond to the chemicals allowing them to release more slowly, making them active for longer and highly suitable for luring pests into traps.

“We can at least double the amount of contact time an animal has with a trap by using urine compounds, meaning an animal is more likely to be caught,” says Dr. Linklater.

The next phase of ‘Project P’ is now developing protein-chemical pairs as lures for traps. This will involve testing different combinations of wild rat and mouse urinary proteins and chemicals to find the best pheromone attractions in self-resetting traps.

Recently graduated from AUT's journalism undergraduate programme, Catrin has a unhealthy love of dogs, sun, beaches, and coffee. She's also Welsh and proud to let you know it.

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