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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Hilo, Hawaii » Daniel K. Inouye U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center » Tropical Crop and Commodity Protection Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #220418

Title: Can Menage-a-trois be used in Controlling Insects?

item Jang, Eric
item Carvalho, Lori
item Nagata, Janice
item Schneider, Esther

Submitted to: Journal of Chemical Ecology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/5/2007
Publication Date: 7/6/2007
Citation: Suckling, D.M., Jang, E.B., Carvalho, L.A., Nagata, J.T., Schneider, E.L., El-Sayed, A.M. 2007. Can Menage-a-trois be used in Controlling Insects?. Journal of Chemical Ecology. 33: 1494-1504

Interpretive Summary: In this study, we tested a novel idea for control of insects using behavioral confusion between species of fruit flies. The concept was to apply attractants of one species onto another species whereby, the first species would be chasing and interfering with normal behavior of the second species and vice versa. If the confusion was sufficient, then perhaps critical behaviors such as mating could be inhibited. Although we observed significant interaction and behavioral disruption between fly species as a result of cross application of attractants, the flies tended to behave normally during mating, thus reducing the possible effectiveness of this technique. However, the applicability of this technique to other species and cross species (moth to fly) remains to be determined.

Technical Abstract: We propose a new cross-species approach that might be capable of interrupting mating of one species, using another insect species as the mercenary agent. We argue that insects treated with a sufficiently powerful attractant for a second species might interfere with mating of one or both species, for example, by leading males astray in pursuit of the false trails created by suitably dosing individuals of the first species. Our reciprocal test systems used 1) methyl eugenol, an attractant for male Oriental fruit flies (Bactrocera dorsalis), applied to melon flies (B. cucurbitae) and 2) cuelure (a lure for melon flies (B. cucurbitae)), aplied to B. dorsalis. Toxicology tests indicate no mortality after a week from either attractant applied to individual flies at doses up to 100 ng, which was effective in attracting insects in a field cage and in the field. In wind tunnel choice tests, 100 ng of either lure topically applied to tethered flies attracted fruit fly males of the second species which exhibited prolonged bouts of phsically disruptive behaviors including chasing and bumping. In small cages, the presence of lures on males did not translate into a reduction in mating of either species, with one group of three (menage) per cage. However, in large field cages with multiple pairs of both species present, there was a significant reduction in the mating rate of Oriental fruit flies resulting from cuelure applied to males, compared to untreated controls. These results do not yet provide the practical proof of this new concept for pest management, but we suggest other strategies which are proposed for further research.