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Partnership Could Yield New "Attract-and-Kill" Lures for Bad Bugs

By Tara Weaver
January 11, 1999

Attract-and-kill lures so effectively controlled insect pests in a recent Agricultural Research Service study that a private company has agreed to help further develop the technology. ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

In ARS laboratory and field experiments, lures containing a special blend of pheromone to attract cabbage looper and beet armyworm moths--laced with a minute quantity of insecticide--successfully drew the pests to their death. This suggests that attract-and-kill lures can control these and probably other insect pests in the field on a large scale.

Encouraging preliminary results led IPM Technologies, Inc., Portland, Ore., to sign a two-year Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with ARS to build on these results and bring new commercial products to market to manage crop-damaging pests.

The problem has been that systems for applying mating-disruption pheromones are generally short-lived, labor-intensive, inconvenient and expensive compared to more conventional alternatives such as insecticides.

Scientists with ARS’ Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology in Gainesville, Fla., will work with IPM Technologies to develop low cost, environmentally safe, synthetically based pheromone lures that mimic the insects' natural chemical scents to control major worldwide agricultural pests.

This strategy reduces pesticide spraying to control crop-feeding insects, because it targets only pest insects. It also helps save beneficial insects that would normally be killed with area-wide pesticide sprayings.

The insects targeted--fall and beet armyworm, cabbage looper, diamondback moth, tobacco budworm and corn earworm--are among the most destructive U.S. crop pests. Corn earworm and armyworms attack a wide variety of crops including cotton, corn, sorghum, peanuts, lettuce, tomatoes and peppers.

Other pests such as the diamondback moth and cabbage looper are more limited in the range of plants attacked, but they can totally destroy crops such as cabbage, collards and broccoli.

Scientific contact: Everett Mitchell, Behavior and Biocontrol Research Unit, ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, 1600 S.W. 23d Dr., Gainesville, FL 32604, phone (352) 374-5710, fax (352) 374-5804,