Is Spider Venom the Solution to Controlling Locusts?

Meet Dr Shaodong Guo, a molecular biologist, who is leading a groundbreaking project at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) with the potential to revolutionise locust control in Queensland. Australian plague locusts have the ability to cause severe damage to crops and pastures, having one of the greatest economic impacts in Queensland due to the extent and frequency of outbreaks.

Harnessing Nature's Arsenal: Spider Venom to the Rescue

Thanks to $240,000 funding support from Advance Queensland’s Industry Research Fellowships, Dr Guo’s innovative project aims to develop environmentally friendly bioinsecticides derived from spider venom peptides. Dr Guo will leverage USC's world-leading collection of spider venom, screening it to identify peptides with potent locust-killing properties.

Why Bioinsecticides? A Sustainable Solution

A high-density swarm (more than 50 insects per m2) of Australian plague locusts will contain around 1 billion insects, which can eat 20 tonnes of vegetation a day. Locusts at both nymph and adult stage can cause extensive pasture damage. Current control methods rely heavily on chemical insecticides, raising concerns about endangerment of non-target species including honeybees, environmental pollution and the development of insecticide resistance in locusts.

Bioinsecticides derived from spider venom offer a compelling alternative. Spider venom peptides are known for high potency, biodegradability and target specificity. These characteristics make them effective against locusts while minimising harm to beneficial insects and the environment.

Industry Collaboration for Success

To maximise the project's impact, Dr Guo has partnered with Colere Group Pty Ltd, a Queensland-based company specialising in food, fibre, and biotech industries. Colere's expertise in pesticide development is invaluable, assisting to develop the environmentally friendly formulations and regulatory packages that would support the commercialisation of potential products, which will be the first locust-specific peptides insecticides in the world.

This collaboration ensures a smooth transition from research to practical application, benefiting Queensland's agricultural sector and establishing Queensland as a global leader in locust pest management using bioinsecticides.

About Advance Queensland’s Industry Research Fellowships

Advance Queensland’s Industry Research Fellowships support PhD qualified researchers to undertake innovative research that addresses an industry issue, in partnership with industry partners to translate research outcomes into practical application.

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Last updated 14 May, 2024
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