Location: Crop Protection and Management Research
Title: Revealing the elusive sex pheromone of the renowned cactus moth, Cactoblastis cactorum (Lepidoptera:Pyralidae): A tribute to Robert Heath Authors
Submitted to: Florida Entomological Society Annual Meeting
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: May 11, 2012
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: The South American cactus moth, Cactoblastis cactorum (Berg.) (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae), became famous as a biocontrol agent during campaigns in Australia and South Africa to control exotic weedy Opuntia spp. During these campaigns, monitoring the impact and success of the cactus moth did not require the knowledge of its sex pheromone or mating behavior. But when the cactus moth arrived unintentionally in Florida and began expanding its geographical range along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and threatening the native Opuntia biodiversity and Opuntia-based industries, identifying the sex pheromone of this now invasive pest became an urgent priority. Identifying sex pheromones of species within the family Pyralidae often can be difficult and the cactus moth presented a special challenge because of the minute amount of pheromone produced by the female. But, with support from the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Binational Cooperative Agreement on Cactoblastis cactorum between the United States and Mexico, Robert Heath provided technical expertise and leadership to successfully identify the putative sex pheromone and the development of a pheromone lure for C. cactorum. The use of this pheromone lure has been crucial to understanding the seasonal phenology and geographical expansion, to identifying new outbreaks, and to developing control tactics for this invasive pest. As a result, incursions in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula have been eradicated and geographical expansion along the United States Gulf coast has been mitigated. Currently, the use of the pheromone identified by Bob Heath and colleagues is being evaluated for mating disruption.