News - August 30, 2012

Organic pest control in Benin


Who? Tim Möhlmann, MSc Biology
What? Internship on weaver ants for the organic pest control of fruit flies in mangos
Where? International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Cotonou, Benin
Why? 'I enjoy working with insects'

'Fruit flies are a serious problem on mango plantations; they make 18 to 80 percent of the harvest unmarketable. Pesticides are not effective enough and they are harmful to people and the environment. But fruit flies seem to do less damage when there are weaver ants living in the tree. The ants probably leave a signal scent behind on the mangos, which puts off the fruit flies. During my internship I researched how much of the weaver ant chemical signal is needed for effective pest control and how long the signal stays active. That information can help us use the ants for organic pest control.
 The Beninese are cheerful people. They always greet you on the streets with a 'bonjour'. The children there always wanted to shake my hand, not to get money but because I was a "jovo" (white person). It sometimes felt like a celebrity when they ran towards me shouting, "jovo, jovo".
I visited Quidah with a German lad from my complex. Quidah is the voodoo capital of the world, a place from which slaves used to be sold and shipped. We visited a snake temple and saw the route the slaves used to have to walk before being shipped off to Brazil. You get a lump in your throat when you walk around there and think of all those who went to their deaths there. A belief in voodoo is often combined with a Christian faith in Benin. There are also many Muslims, but there are no clashes. I did not feel unsafe for a single moment. I think that is because many people believe in voodoo: what you do to someone else you will get back. TM