Sex, maggots, castration and politicians lead to this year's Golden Goose Award - for a technique that could prevent Zika's spread

Sex, maggots, castration and politicians lead to this year's Golden Goose Award - for a technique that could  prevent Zika's spread

"Sometimes offbeat, quirky-sounding science is the best science, paving the way for discoveries years down the road which can revolutionize medicine, physics, biology, technology and how we view the world," said US Republican Representative Randy Hultgren from Illinois.


About 80 years ago, two entomological researchers, Edward F. Knipling and Raymond C. Bushland, figured out a technique to eradicate the screwworm fly, which was wreaking havoc with livestock across America and costing ranchers hundreds of millions of dollars per year in losses and pest management.


To stop the zombie-like insect from continuing to thrive, Knipling and Bushland devised an insect-sterilization technique that's still in use today. The pair postulated that if they could sterilize the male screwworms through radiation, they'd be unable to reproduce and the population would eventually dwindle. And that's exactly what they did, even though they were often mocked and told by colleagues that they could never "castrate enough flies."

By 1982 their technique had wiped out the screwworm all the way down to Panama and, according to The Golden Goose Award website, that has saved farmers and ranchers billions of dollars over the past 50-plus years, plus it has given US consumers an estimated five percent reduction in the cost of beef at the supermarket.

Not a bad return for an initial investment of just US$250,000 by the US Department of Agriculture!

Full story:


Photo: Inch, bull or bulldog ant inspecting my bicycle tyre. I had a couple of these climbing over me when I sat down at a picnic table and failed to notice the well disguised ant nest between my feet. You can imaging my surprise when one fell off me onto the book I was reading! Thankfully they weren't in an aggressive, biting mood...

4 Replies

  • Dear Neil,

    You are an interesting fellow. Your posts are always so informative. CLL has it's silver lining just like everything else if you look for it. For me it's the interesting articles you administrators bring to us. Also that ant of yours looks scary! I'm glad he and his buddies didn't bite you. Here in the US we have "fire ants". They cover your body first and then give the signal to "bite". Ouch.....really hurts! (But they are very small.) How big is your ant?

    So yes, it is so interesting that for only $250,000 these scientists were almost able to eradicate the pesty screw fly. As a CLL community we all know what can happen when genetic mutations occur.

    Thanks good one,


  • Glad you liked the article Kathy - even if it is a bit off topic.

    That ant would be over an inch long, hence one of their common names. That's why I photographed it on my bike tyre for ease of comparison - not having a ruler handy :)

  • I believe I heard in passing the TV, that the search is on for the same application to stop the mosquito carrying the Zika virus....

    My hope is that the other mosquitoes that carry other viruses are also felled by any new applications.

    Great article, Neil, and not so far off topic or quirky to not be relevant to immune systems that need help from the outside while scientists are searching to find how to trick the genetic system to fight off whatever comes--I guess so that eventually humans can live forever?

  • Science advances can be pretty amazing. An astute observation or a novel approach can have a amazing results. The skepticism is fine, too, because it lessens the likelihood of a failed idea becoming a "popular fact".

    (That is a great photo of a VERY scary looking ant!)

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