These charming yellow flowers belong to a thorny shrub known as Prosopis juliflora, commonly known as mesquite. Its hardiness and drought tolerance mean that it has quickly become an invasive and unwanted weed in many parts of the world. As well as being a problem for gardeners and farmers, the plant’s flowers bring a problem of their own: they provide sugary nectar that insects love to drink, including mosquitoes infected with the parasite that causes malaria. Scientists working in Mali, West Africa, have done a simple but ingenious experiment to see whether cutting off the bright mesquite flowers can cut down the numbers of their mosquito feeders too. They found a big drop in mosquito populations in areas where the shrubs had been cut, especially in the numbers of blood-sucking females that carry the malaria parasite, showing that simply pruning these bushes could make a major difference to malaria transmission.
Written by Kat Arney
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