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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Peoria, Illinois » National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research » Crop Bioprotection Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #233591

Title: Male-Produced Aggregation Pheromone of the Lesser Mealworm Beetle Alphitobius diaperinus (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae)

item Bartelt, Robert
item Zilkowski, Bruce
item Cosse, Allard

Submitted to: Journal of Chemical Ecology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/23/2009
Publication Date: 4/1/2009
Citation: Bartelt, R.J., Zilkowski, B.W., Cosse, A.A., Steelman, C.D., Singh, N. 2009. Male-Produced Aggregation Pheromone of the Lesser Mealworm Beetle Alphitobius diaperinus (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae). Journal of Chemical Ecology. 35:422-434.

Interpretive Summary: The lesser mealworm is a widespread and abundant pest in poultry production facilities. The beetles feed on spilled grain, poultry feces, and dead and dying birds; they carry a variety of poultry disease organisms; and their tunneling in poultry house walls damages insulation, leading to increased heating and cooling costs. These insects are difficult to control by conventional means, and resistance to insecticides is occurring frequently. New methods involving pheromones and other attractants have proven useful in managing other insect pests, but a pheromone was not known for the lesser mealworm. The objective of this research was to develop this basic knowledge. In laboratory studies, we demonstrated that male beetles emit five compounds that are lacking from females and were therefore considered as likely pheromone components. The five compounds were chemically identified and were obtained or synthesized in quantities suitable for field testing. A blend of the five compounds was shown to be attractive to both male and female beetles in experiments in poultry houses in Illinois and Arkansas. A new type of trap was designed for these experiments. The field results confirmed that the five male-produced compounds do function as an aggregation pheromone. Now that the pheromone chemistry is known, the practical potential in beetle management can be addressed. The research will be of interest to other scientists in the fields of entomology, chemistry, chemical ecology, and poultry science and to poultry producers.

Technical Abstract: The lesser mealworm beetle Alphitobius diaperinus (Panzer) is a widespread, serious pest in poultry production facilities and is difficult to control by conventional means. Although pheromone-based tools have become useful in the management of other beetle pests, no pheromone was known for A. diaperinus, and this study sought to develop basic pheromone information. Volatiles were collected in the laboratory from groups of feeding male and female A. diaperinus. Male/female comparisons of collected volatiles by gas chromatography revealed five male-specific compounds that were identified as (R)-(+)-limonene, (E)-ß-ocimene, (S)-(+)-linalool, (R)-(+)-daucene, and 2-nonanone. Emission of these began 1-2 weeks after adult emergence and could continue for at least a year. The beetles decreased or ceased emission of the compounds if environmental conditions deteriorated (e.g., due to lack of food or water or to mold growth) but resumed again within days when proper conditions were restored. No female-specific compounds were discovered. A synthetic blend of the five male compounds was attractive to both sexes in poultry-production facilities in Illinois and Arkansas, indicating the blend functions as an aggregation pheromone. A new pitfall trap is described for field use.