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How some beetles ‘drink’ water using their butts


Some beetles “drink” using their butts, and scientists are starting to understand how.

Red flour beetles, a major agricultural pest, open their anus to get water vapor in the air flowing into the lower gut and condensing on any poop there. The insects draw water out of the fecal material using special cells lining their lower digestive system, researchers report March 21 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This “amazing mechanism” could one day be exploited to make beetle-specific pesticides that could protect crops while safeguarding bees and other insects, says Kenneth Halberg, a comparative endocrinologist and physiologist at the University of Copenhagen. 

Insect pests get into as much as 20 percent of the global food supply every year, destroying food and costing farmers money, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates. Beetles are particularly pernicious. These insects can thrive in arid environments, including in supplies of wheat and other bone-dry crops. One way dry-adapted beetles survive is by…

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