Chemical weapons of insects

In Southern Kazakhstan, Central Asia, Transcaucasia, on trees and bushes, you can often see large insects with a bizarrely extended body, long legs and without wings. They are stickmen. They are inactive, but when the danger approaches, they freeze and become like a dry stick or leaf, so it's difficult to notice them. And if the pursuer still finds a stick? Then all the hope for chemical weapons of insects. The sticks in the thoracic region have a pair of elongated glands opening immediately behind the head. They release a liquid containing dialdehydterpenes and some other substances. At the moment of danger, the liquid is sprayed with force at a distance of 30-40 cm, and since it has a tear and irritating effect, many ants, carnivorous beetles, birds and even some insectivorous mammals are afraid of it. For man, the liquid released by the stick is not dangerous.

Then all the hope for chemical weapons of insects. The sticks in the thoracic region have a pair of elongated glands opening immediately behind the head

And who does not know the beautiful caterpillar butterfly mahaona, large, green, with black transverse bands and orange-red dots? You can meet it in May - June, and in the south - and in August along roads, in meadows, forest fringes. The bright coloring makes the caterpillar visible from afar, and it would have been tight if it were not for its chemical weapons. It forms on its body iso-oil and 2-methylbutyric acid, which are released in the form of droplets on the surface of the body. Both acids are volatile, have a sharp odor and a sour taste. They well repel ants and birds.

But special chemical weapons of insects are distinguished by ground beetles. Some of their species for protection are pushed out of the glands located at the end of the abdomen, a spicy taste, a caustic liquid consisting of methacrylic and tiglytic acids. And ground beetles give off another liquid that evaporates instantly in the air with a rather loud crack - "explosion". Sometimes scorers defend themselves with turns, making several shots in a row. These extracts are acidic and caustic, they color the human skin in a rusty-red color. Some major South American scorers to take in hand should only wear gloves, otherwise you can get very burned.

This feature of ground beetles has long attracted the attention of researchers, but the secret of their chemical weapons was uncovered only in 1965. It turned out that the active substances of the "explosion" - hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide. They are formed in the insect organism in isolated chambers, and when splashed, they mix and under the influence of a special enzyme they interact to form vapors of water, acid and quinone.

Can insect chemical weapons research have any practical results? It turns out they can. Many insects harm rural and forestry. Knowing their "military potential", one can better plan biological control measures against them. Chemical weapons of insects are also used by man. It helps to create repellents - substances that repel harmful insects.

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