A GRISLY tale being played out in gardens across the country has been discovered by a team of Irish researchers.
Scientists in NUI Maynooth have discovered that parasitic worms, just a millimetre long, fight each other to the death.
They battle to win the right to reproduce and feast on the carcasses of host insects, which prey on fruit bushes and saplings.
And biology lecturer Dr Christine Griffin said the research could be used to help develop new forms of pest control which would avoid the use of insecticides.
The two-year research project, funded by Science Foundation Ireland, will help discover if the nematode worms could be used to control vine weevil, which preys on strawberries and soft fruit bushes; and the pine weevil, which devastates young trees.
"On the one hand they (the worms) kill insects, but we discovered they will also fight each other to the death," she said.
"The worms will compete for females and the resource (host weevil) and kill off the competition.
"Fighting to the death is quite rare. The more you know about your organisms the better, because you can help them kill your targets."