23 February 1998
"Caterpillars can jump-start plants"

CATERPILLARS could be good for your crops – at least that is what scientists claim at the University of California.

They have shows that leaf-eating insects that attack plants trigger a kind of immune response that arms the plant to fight off future onslaughts.

Plants that have been attacked also produce more seeds than intact control plants. Radishes niggled by caterpillars produced 60% more seeds that those whose leaves had simply been clipped off. The theory is there is something in caterpillar saliva which “jump-starts” the plants.

  • The Times 23/02/98 page 15