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Young squash bugs seek out adults’ poop for an essential microbe

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For young squash bugs, a sip full of feces can help the microbes go down.

Squash bugs (Anasa tristis) are a major agricultural pest, and a bacterial partner called Caballeronia is essential for their survival. To pick up the bacteria, fledgling squash bugs home in on adult poop in the environment, researchers report in the July 10 Current Biology.  

If the nymphs don’t find the microbe, they die, says evolutionary biologist and behavioral ecologist Scott Villa of Davidson College in North Carolina. And Caballeronia is not plentiful in the environment. So having to fend for themselves is a risky strategy, Villa says. “If it’s so important, why in the heck did they not just put them on a platter for their kids?”

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