Scientist has pupal powers

By Joseph Altman Jr.

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Hormone therapy for insects?

It isn't science fiction, it's reality, and University of Arizona entomology professor William Bowers is the man who is doing it. The insects, however, may not like the idea as much as he does.

Bowers' research of insect hormones will be rewarded when he accepts the 1994 Kenneth A. Spencer Award from the American Chemical Society on Thursday. The Spencer Award recognizes meritorious contributions to the field of agricultural and food chemistry. Bowers said it is the "premier award for agricultural chemistry."

Julie Gerry, chairwoman for the Spencer Award, said over 25 nominations were received for the award.

The award consists of a medal and a $5,000 honorarium.

Bowers' research centers around using an insect's hormones to control its growth.

The juvenile hormone in an insect is what allows it to develop while in the larval stages. When that hormone disappears, a molting hormone takes over and allows the insect to molt into a pupa and then an adult.

But if more of the juvenile hormone is added at the larval or pupal stages when the molting hormone should take over, the insect will not make the metamorphosis to the mid

next step. Instead, it will grow into a larger larva or pupa until it dies without reproducing.

Hormone products are now being developed commercially and are useful for stopping the growth of mosquitoes or the reproduction of beetles, Bowers said.

And since insect hormones differ from human hormones and control different processes, he called them "the safest products ever developed."

"If we swam in a vat of insect juvenile hormone, it wouldn't do a thing to us," Bowers said. "It isn't even poisonous to the insect. We just supply it at a time when it shouldn't be there."

In addition to giving insects more hormones, another method of control involves taking them away.

If the juvenile hormone is removed from an insect before its larval stage, the insect's molting hormone will turn it into a sterile adult that will soon die, Bowers said. Those anti-hormones are not on the market yet.

In addition to the Spencer Award, Bowers was also elected to the U.S. National Academy of Science for 1994, and will be honored in Washington, D.C. next month.

His research has led to the publication of 107 articles and 37 book chapters. He also has edited seven books and holds 19 patents.

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