03/01/2019, 16.44
JAPAN
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From the kitchen to the lab: using wasabi to fight fire ants

Fire ants are an invasive alien species, native to South America. In rare cases, its sting can cause death. In 2017, Japanese authorities discovered some in a port in Kyushu Prefecture.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The wasabi (or Japanese horseradish) is a plant that can be used to make a very spicy green sauce. It is also excellent at keeping away dangerous and venomous fire ants, whose stings can be quite painful.

Experiments by Yoshiaki Hashimoto, an associate professor of entomology at the University of Hyogo, and others have found that the insects hate the organic compound that gives wasabi its pungent taste.

In Japan, fire ants are an invasive alien species. Originally from South America, they have spread to the United States, China and Australia.

People with allergies to its venom have been hospitalised for shock after being bitten, which in rare cases has even led to death.

Concerns about the invasive alien species arriving in Japan began climbing in 2017 when some were found in a port in Kyushu Prefecture near shipping containers from China.

Hashimoto and his team conducted their experiments using fire ants that had spread to Taiwan.

Capsules containing Allyl isothiocyanate (AITC), responsible for wasabi's sharp flavor, were worked into "wasabi sheets" and kept fire ants away.

This indicates that placing wasabi sheets on cargo shipments might stop the ants from entering shipping containers and being transported to other nations.

Hashimoto said he wanted to quicken the development of the technology to help stop their spread around the world.

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