Pheromone Lures Both Sexes
By Rosalie Marion
August 20, 2002
Agricultural Research Service scientists
have discovered a pheromone produced by male Colorado potato beetles--but
attractive to both sexes--that may lead to new environmentally sound pest
management methods to protect potatoes. The Colorado potato beetle is the
potato crop's most destructive pest, costing growers millions of dollars
annually in crop losses and expenditures for synthetic pesticides.
The ARS scientists, led by entomologist Joseph C. Dickens with the
Chemicals Affecting Insect
Behavior Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., reported their discovery in the
July issue of the Journal of
The Colorado potato beetle rapidly develops resistance to synthetic
pesticides, many of which are now being reevaluated by regulators. The
pheromone, however, is a natural byproduct of the beetle's metabolism, so the
evolution of resistance to it is unlikely. Using the pheromone as a natural
chemical for luring and killing the beetles may one day lessen the amount of
synthetic insecticides required for pest control.
For 75 years, scientists in the United States, Canada and Europe have
searched for scents that attract the Colorado potato beetle. The generally
accepted view had been that a pheromone attractant would be found in females.
Thus, the discovery of the attractant in males provides a new model for this
beetle's chemical communication.
Since 2000, Dickens has identified several scents based on chemicals in
potato plants themselves. Those scents were made into the first experimental
plant lures to prove effective in field tests.
Under a cooperative research and development agreement with ARS,
Trece, Inc., of Salinas, Calif., hopes to
create products based on the newly discovered attractants that will exploit the
insects' own communication system. New products based on the technology could
include attracticides, or bait lures, formulated with small amounts of killing
The scientists now will conduct more tests to determine when and how
products using the pheromone-based attractant will transfer successfully from
lab to field.
ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.