2004: Enticing new lures developed by Agricultural
Research Service (ARS) scientists could make backyard
gardens, fruit orchards and crop fields places of no
return for pesky caterpillars.
The lures, derived from molasses and floral odors,
tantalize both male and female moths--the caterpillars'
adult stage--with the promise of nectar. Instead, the
insects fly into the opening of a lure-dispensing trap,
never to escape.
Peter Landolt, research leader at the ARS Vegetable
Insects Research Unit in Wapato, Wash., and Connie Smithhisler,
a chemist there, developed the lures as an alternative
to chemically controlling the pests--loopers, cutworms,
fruitworms, armyworms and corn earworms.
According to Landolt, most currently used lures act
on the male moth's sense of smell. These lures work
by dispensing a synthetic version of the female moth's
chemical sex attractant, or pheromone, which the males
find irresistible. Saturating the air with synthetic
pheromone confuses the male moths, disrupting their
ability to find mates. Such lures are also used to monitor
the pests' movements and whereabouts. But most lures
offer no way of keeping tabs on the female moths, according
He and Smithhisler overcame the problem by identifying,
testing and synthesizing blends of volatile compounds
from molasses that attract both sexes of moths. In another
"unisex" lure formulation, the researchers
combined various floral scents, including those from
Oregon grape, honeysuckle and Gaura flowers. The molasses-derived
lure is now commercially available for garden use as
the product SMARTrap. The floral based lures are in
their second year of field tests. In one trial, by Washington
State University graduate student Leonardo Camelo, who
works at the ARS lab, use of the floral lures in a "killing
station" reduced the number of alfalfa loopers
by 75 percent.
Read more about the research in this month's issue
of Agricultural Research magazine, online at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/nov04/moth1104.htm
ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific