November 4, 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 to Landolt.
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 research