In the United States it’s not only summer, it’s insect season. While flypaper is among the many items used to keep the buzzing to a minimum, in South Africa, they don’t need it.

Hanging a few leaves of the Roridula gorgonias plant from the rafters will take hold of pests. Insects stick to the plant like, well, flypaper.

Once bugs land on it, they do not escape.

The odd thing is that each plant is populated by a group of Pameridea roridulae, or mirid bugs, which roam around the leaves with ease, feasting on the stuck bugs.

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research in Germany recently investigated the reason that this one type of bug does not stick to the R. gogonias plant. They found that the insect was completely non-stick. As described in their paper in the Journal of Experimental Biology, the scientists performed several experiments to investigate why.

Many insects have an oily coating, but there is something special about the mirid bug. Under a cryo-scanning electron microscope the researchers found that mirid bugs have a greasy covering thirty times thicker than the blowfly they compared it to. This key adaptation keeps it feasting, while other insects merely struggle in vain to break free.

Inside Science News Service is supported by the American Institute of Physics.