Kang Le's Team Reveals the Mystery of Locust Aggregation

The team of Academician Kang Le in Hebei University has found the aggregation pheromone molecule of locusts by tackling key problems, revealing the mystery of these pests’ swarming. This result has been published in the top international academic journal Nature on August 12.

The research fully identified and verified the pheromones in migratory locust swarms from various aspects, such as chemical analysis, behavior verification, neurophysiology recording, olfactory receptor identification, gene knockout and field verification, and finally found that 4-vinylanisole (4VA) is the aggregation pheromone of locusts. Its paradigm elevated the study of chemical ecology to a new level, which is an important breakthrough in entomological research.

Three referees of Nature highly appreciated the research paper during their reviewing, and two of them gave anonymous comments, pointing out that “the current study offers an impressive, highly skilled, and thorough research” and “it concerns a fascinating biological problem, making very important advances in this area”. Professor Leslie B. Vosshall from Rockenefeller University, the world-famous neurobiologist and a member of the National Academy of Sciences of United States, is a transparent referee of the paper. She wrote it clearly in her comment that “the research makes the exciting discovery of a single molecular that has all of the properties of the long-sought locust aggregation pheromone. The paper covers an astonishing amount of ground. I support it unconditionally, and it should be prioritized for publication in Nature.”

The study immediately aroused great repercussions both at home and abroad after being published, and over 300 news reports sprang up in the following 24 hours, including those from Time, Reuters, New York Times, Science News and other famous media agencies. Various well-known Chinese media highly complimented the study, including People's Daily, Guangming Daily, Economic Daily, China Daily, China National Radio, CCTV, China Radio International, People's Daily Online, Xinhua Net, China Science Daily.

Migratory locusts are the most widespread locusts in the world. According to its records in almost 2,600 years, China has suffered more than 800 large locust plagues, while migratory locusts are still severe agricultural pests for Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Australia now. For a long time, people rely on the massive spraying of chemical insecticides to prevent and control locust plagues, while the unreasonable use of chemical pesticides has brought enormous adverse impact on food safety, ecosystem and human health. This study not only reveals the mystery of locusts’ aggregation, but also makes the green and sustainable prevention and control of locusts possible.