Smell Dispels

Up-close photo of broccoli.

Ah! The sweet smell of broccoli!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying – NOT!

Broccoli stinks! Unless you’re a MIDGE! Midges are tiny flies whose larvae survive on plants like broccoli and cauliflower. How can we keep them off our veggies?!

Chase Stratton from the University of Vermont and colleagues say: hide that yummy scent! Maybe we can protect crops by DISGUISING that tempting aroma! Eau de Garlic, anyone?

The researchers put one female and two male midges in a mesh cage. Inside? A broccoli plant spritzed in smelly essential oil. The midge trio spent a week with the perfumed broccoli *ahem* GETTING BUSY. 

Eighteen different scents were tested like this, including mint and garlic. Some midges got broccoli sprayed with plain water.

Results? Midges produced FEWER LARVAE on odor-disguised broccoli! Plants more distantly related to broccoli were the most repellent. One day, fragrant essential oils may be an eco-friendly alternative to pesticides.

So, garlic wards off vampires AND midges! But I still say, hold the broccoli.

Reference: Stratton, C. A., Hodgdon, E., Rodriguez-Saona, C., Shelton, A. M., & Chen, Y. H. (2019). Odors from phylogenetically-distant plants to Brassicaceae repel an herbivorous Brassica specialist. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 1–11.