Spraying pesticides prevents unwanted bugs from destroying crops, but organic farmers may not see it as the best solution to their pest problem. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has come to their rescue, helping farmers protect their cotton crops by shooting sterilized moths from cannons that are attached to drones.

The USDA is currently testing a program that uses remotely controlled drones that can blast out swarms of moths to get rid of pink bollworms that feed on cotton seeds and fibers instead of spraying pesticides.

Pink bollworms are a major cotton pest (especially in southern California) that in their larval stage are a white and pink caterpillar. In their adult stage, they are grayish brown moths.

Yes, thats's right. The government is shooting moths from cannons to attack other moths—well, sort of.

The USDA will raise pink bollworms, feed them an oil-based dye that would turn them into a permanent red color and sterilize them using radiation. When they mature, when there is a flare-up infestation, the lab-moths will be blasted onto the fields via cannons on aerial drones. As they enter the cotton fields, they will mate with the wild moths, tricking them to believe they are reproducing. Then the wild moths will eventually die off—the average pink bollworm is said to live for only one to two months—without procreating. Therefore, there will be fewer pests to feed on the cotton.

Scientists have been experimenting with the sterile moth strategy for a few years, but this is the first time they have added drones to the equation, a move which will allow farmers to target an infection more quickly.

Watch the moths get shot from cannons via government drones in the clip below.

Via: MotherJones

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