In the middle of a pandemic, the news was all abuzz, pun intended, about murder hornets. The invasive Asian giant hornet had been found in the Pacific Northwest. Despite the ominous nickname given this insect, within days I saw a video of how a swarm of bees worked together to overwhelm the murder hornet and of a praying mantis that quickly dispatched the would-be foe.
That’s what nature does. To borrow from the Marine Corps slogan, nature will “improvise, adapt and overcome.” Sometimes this is a good thing. Other times it is not.
Take pigweed, for example. Clemson University geneticist Chris Saski and a team of researchers believe they have discovered how pigweed protects itself against glyphosate herbicide by changing its DNA.
According to researchers, a specific genetic feature gives glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth its resistance to the herbicide. In resistant plants, the pigweed’s DNA changes to form a very large, self-replicating circular DNA in addition to its normal chromosomes that carry the gene for the protein that glyphosate attacks.
Pigweed circles the wagon of its own DNA, so to speak, to protect itself from glyphosate. Read more about this story on page 14, including how Michael Marshall, Clemson University Extension weed specialist, thinks this breakthrough will be a real game changer for the battle against the aggressive, invasive pigweed.
As for murder hornets, I am not really worried. I am from Florida. We have mosquitos the size of pterodactyls. Alligators inhabit every body of water from puddles to the ocean. Pythons are now actively hunted in the state, and freeze warnings come with the added caution to watch for iguanas falling from trees. Need I go on?