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Voracious Butterflies Make Hay Chomping on Peruvian Cocaine

February 04, 1988|Reuters

LONDON — Cocaine barons in Peru have had more than $37 million worth of the drug destroyed in recent months--not by federal agents but by butterflies.

According to the New Scientist magazine published today, swarms of tiny white butterflies have destroyed over 50,000 acres of illegally grown coca plants in Peru. The butterflies, known locally as malumbia, are voracious eaters and feed exclusively on the leaves of coca plants.

The magazine said the Peruvian government intends to use the butterflies against drug traffickers and had asked researchers at universities to try to develop a way of propagating the insects. But it added little is known about the malumbia and it could take a long time for the government to be able to unleash the butterflies on the estimated 321,000 acres of coca cultivated in the Peruvian jungle.

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