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Corn earworm on cotton boll

Japanese Honeysuckle Fragrances Could Help Control Moth Pests

By Hank Becker
November 26, 1999

Natural compounds released by flowers of the Japanese honeysuckle could give scientists a new arsenal of tools to monitor or combat a variety of moth pests.

Many species of Lepidopteran moths such as corn earworm and cabbage looper are crop pests during their larval, wormlike stage. Each year, these pests cost U.S. farmers nearly $2 billion in losses and chemical control costs. In many areas, these pests have become resistant to conventional insecticides and natural controls such as Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt.

Agricultural Research Service scientists at the South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory, Lane, Okla., have discovered and patented volatiles from the flowers of night-blooming Japanese honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica. These compounds are effective attractants for a variety of important adult moth pests.

The ARS scientists also found that cis-jasmone, alone or with other floral volatiles from the honeysuckle flowers--particularly linalool and phenylacetaldehyde--attract both sexes of these insect pests.

Currently, most moth monitoring systems use sex pheromones as baits for one gender--usually male pests. To attract both sexes, the honeysuckle volatiles could be combined with the sex pheromones or other agents such as feeding stimulants or insect toxins.

Recently, ARS signed a cooperative research and development agreement with Trécé, Inc., Salinas, Calif., to study and test the honeysuckle compounds as the basis for safer and more effective strategies for controlling and monitoring moth pests.

Trécé scientists will analyze the compounds and develop formulations for commercially monitoring and controlling a broad range of moth pests. ARS and Trécé will work together to screen the formulas and evaluate final selections in field tests.

ARS is the chief research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Scientific contact: Sam D. Pair, ARS South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory, Lane, Okla., phone (580) 889-7395, fax (580) 889-5783, spair-usda@lane-ag.or.