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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Binder, Bradley
item Robbins, James

Submitted to: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/25/1996
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: The European corn borer, Ostrinia nubilalis, is a serious pest of corn because caterpillars damage ears, leaves, and shanks. They also tunnel into the stalk, which retards vegetative maturation, weakens the stalk and increases ear drop. Highly mobile adults complicate the problem because they aggregate in weedy action sites within or adjacent to corn fields for sexual activity. After mating females disperse and return to the corn for deposition of eggs. How adult corn borers orient and find appropriate sites for eggs is not clear, although they are attracted to volatile chemicals from undamaged corn and repelled by the volatiles of injured plants in the laboratory. Individual components or blends of these chemicals probably are used as cues for host finding by adult corn borers. In the laboratory the volatile corn chemical farnesene is attractive to corn borers for egg laying while the closely related chemical farnesol deters females from depositing eggs. We tested to see how 28 natural plant chemicals and related chemical analogs influence egg laying of the European corn borer in the laboratory. Our results show that the chemicals range from deterrents to attractants for corn borer females and their effect on egg laying is related to the type of volatile chemical. The compounds described in this study may serve as a guide for the design of safe, environmentally compatible behavioral control methods for the corn borer which will decrease our reliance on use of insecticides.

Technical Abstract: Twenty-eight volatile plant compounds and related analogs were tested in separate laboratory assays to evaluate their ability to mediate the oviposition behaviors of the European corn borer, Ostrinia nubilalis. The compounds were acyclic and cyclic monoterpenes or sesquiterpenes or related compounds, and possessed different functional groups, chain lengths, and molecular weights. The compounds varied in their effect on O. nubilalis oviposition behaviors; they ranged from deterrents to attractants. Cyclic sesquiterpenes were the most attractive to O. nubilalis for oviposition but several acyclic sesquiterpenes deterred oviposition. Individual compounds or blends of these compounds also may be used as cues for host finding by adult O. nubilalis. The compounds described in this study may serve as a guide for the creative design of safe, environmentally compatible control methods for the European corn borer, a destructive pest of many agricultural crops.

Last Modified: 10/16/2017
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