Freshwater zebra mussels are a problem for many regions of the planet. They multiply rapidly and clog water pipes. Scientists at the University of Cambridge have created biobullets for them – an “environmentally friendly” poison disguised as food. The nutrition of mussels looks like this: they draw particles from the water, evaluate their nutritional value and digest what they consider edible. Rejected fractions bind with mucus and are discarded. The point is to make the mussels consider the poison to be edible.
Based on the particles that were previously developed for feeding farm-grown mussels. BioBullets are tiny fat-coated spheres similar in size, shape, and surface texture to the algae, plankton, and bacteria that mussels normally feed on. At the same time, BioBullets contain a special combination of salts that is deadly to zebra mussels, but safe for native species.
If such particles are periodically driven through the water pipes where the mussels have settled, they will be swallowed and kill the mollusks from the inside. The remaining uneaten biobullets dissolve in water within a few hours, releasing salts in environmentally safe concentrations.
The technology is now being tested by UK water companies with good results. According to one company, BioBullets are 69% cheaper than the traditional, much less environmentally friendly method of flushing water pipes with chlorine. Scientists are working to make the particles even smaller and even more lethal to zebra mussels.
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