Wild finches in the Galapagos Islands "self-fumigate" by using a human-made pesticide to kill parasitic fly maggots, a study in the latest issue of Current Biology reports.
Birds, like the rest of us, like to be the boss. Instead of treating maggot-infested nests directly, biologists are setting out pesticide-treated cotton balls, which finches are grabbing as material for building nests.
Eggs Say 'Hey Mom, We Match': Photos
It's helping to rid nests of maggots, which may feed on the blood of baby birds, sometimes leading to their deaths.
The pesticide, permethrin, is safe for the birds, according to senior author Dale Clayton, a University of Utah biology professor.
"It might kill a few other insects in the nest," Clayton said in a press release. "This is the same stuff in head-lice shampoo you put on your kid. Permethrin is safe. No toxicologist is going to argue with that. The more interesting question is whether the flies will evolve resistance, as human head lice have done."
A colleague of Clayton's, Sarah Knutie, came up with the clever idea while studying animals in the Galapagos Islands. The finches here are related to Charles Darwin's famous finches, which helped the renowned British naturalist to formulate the theory of evolution after he observed incredible diversity among the birds.