Closeup of a goldenrod stem on which a large round gall has formed. The stem and gall are purplish-red in color. The gall is several times wider than the narrow stem extending below and above the gall. Two narrow leaves grow out from the gall. Yellow goldenrod flowers can be seen, out of focus, in the background.

How Some Insects Turn Plants Into Pollution Detectors

A wide variety of insects cause their host plants to form protective galls. These abnormal growths are rich in nutrients—as well as contaminants the plant might absorb from the soil. New research shows these insect-induced galls can double as highly sensitive pollution detectors.

green caterpillar with dark stripes along its length crawls vertically on an ear of corn (maize) near an larval exit hole

Fall Armyworm Study Shows Maize, Sorghum as Preferred Host Plants

Studies have shown host plants for fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) potentially numbering in the hundreds, but a group of researchers suggests differentiating between plants that the insect prefers for its full life cycle versus those that are more likely to be secondary food sources.