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CMAVE Research Highlights

Detection and Control of Mosquitoes
Protection of Crops from Insect Pests
New Approaches to Controlling the Imported Fire Ant
Protection of Stored Food from Insects
Agriculture and Global Change
Other Interdisciplinary Achievements

Detection and Control of Mosquitoes

  • Mosquito Attractants: Volatile chemicals produced by human skin have been identified and combined with lactic acid to produce a powerful attractant for mosquitos. These patented attractant mixtures greatly improve the effectiveness of insect traps, and make large-scale "trapping-out" strategies for mosquito control feasible. Visit the Mosquito and Fly Research Unit for more information.
  • New Mosquito Trap: A highly efficient mosquito trap, based on the "counterflow" principle, was developed by USDA-ARS scientists and private sector cooperators, and has been marketed as the MosquitoMagnet. Powered by propane gas, this trap is a quiet and effective trap for use by homeowners and livestock producers. Visit the Mosquito and Fly Research Unit for more information.
  • Biological Control of Mosquitoes that Transmit Human Diseases: USDA-ARS scientists have discovered baculoviruses that are pathogenic to the mosquito vectors of West Nile virus and St. Louis encephalitis. These baculoviruses are a new category of biologically-based alternative for the safe control of disease carrying mosquitoes. Visit the Mosquito and Fly Research Unit for more information.
  • DEET: First tested DEET, the world's moste effective mosquito repellent, and its successor, A13-37220, now undergoing final evaluation by the Department of Defense.
  • Chemical Control and Repellent Treated Fabrics: Developed ultra-low volume (ULV) pesticide application for mosquito control and mosquito repellent treated fabric.

Protection of Crops from Insect Pests

  • Integrated Pest Management of Crop Pests: Methods of reducing pesticide use while maintaining effective control of crop pests have been demonstrated for the diamondback moth. The strategy included parasites, attractant traps for monitoring, pheromone dispersal for disruption of the moths, and trap crops to draw the pests away from the primary crop.
  • Biological Control of Fruit Flies: A new species of fruit fly parasite was discovered in Africa, while others in Central America have been evaluated for release against the Mediterranean fruit fly. At the same time, gene transfer in fruit flies makes possible release of genetically marked males for the sterile insect technique, which is widely used.
  • Discovery of Chemical Basis of Plant-Insect Communication: Cross-talk between insects and plants determines how a pest finds its plant host, and how parasites locate the insect pest. USDA-ARS scientists have uncovered the chemical basis of plant-insect communication and determined how plants use volatile signals as a defense against pests.
  • Trapping Pheromones: Discovered the attractant, trapping pheromones for Sweet Potato Weevil; Japanese Beetle; Banded Cucumber Beetle; Northern, Western and Southern Corn Rootworms; Fall, Southern and Beet Armyworms; and Heliothes moths, among others.
  • Southern Corn Leaf Blight Susceptibility: Discovered the mechanism conferring susceptibility to Southern Corn Leaf Blight, which destroyed 17% of U.S. corn in 1970.  This led to industry changes in hybrid seed production that have prevented further epidemics.
  • Fruit Fly Traps: Invented the world's most frequently used Mediterranean Fruit Fly trapping system.
  • Sterile Fly Releases: Developed widely used hormone and transgenic systems for control of the Mediterranean Fruit Fly using serile fly releases.

New Approaches to Controlling the Imported Fire Ant

  • Integrated Pest Management of the Imported Fire Ant:  A new approach is being taken to control of the Imported Fire Ant, which has been one of the most intractable pests in the United States since it invaded from Brazil in the 1930s. The new method is based on selective parasites and pathogens that are the basis of a multi-state effort to reduce fire ant populations through biologically-based and sustainable control strategies. Visit the Imported Fire Ant and Household Insects Research Unit or the Areawide website for more information.

Protection of Stored Food From Insects

  • Automatic Electronic Detection of Insect Pests:  USDA-ARS scientists invented and perfected an electronic system for automatically monitoring insects in stored grain.  The patented Electronic Grain Probe Insect Counter (EGPIC) is marketed by OPISystems as the StorMax Insector.  Visit the ARS web site for more information on the development of this system.
  • Insect Resistant Storage of Food: New technology was developed by USDA-ARS scientists to utilize insect growth regulators (IGRs) that selectively disrupt insect growth. The IGRs are integrated into the outer wrap of the packaged food or onto surfaces in the warehouse environment.
  • Grain Probe: Invented the Electronic Grain Probe Insect Counter to remotely monitor pest infestations in grain bins.

Agriculture and Global Change

  • Alternatives to Methyl Bromide: Methyl bromide is being phased out by 2005 because it was implicated in atmospheric ozone depletion. An alternative to methyl bromide as a soil fumigant, 1,3-dichloropropene (1,3-D), was tested with a barrier film for decreasing emissions of 1,3-D, making this agent more efficient as a methyl bromide alternative.
  • Agricultural Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide: Increasing carbon dioxide has been implicated in global warming. Likely effects of elevated carbon dioxide (always beneficial) and higher temperatures on specific U.S. crops have been tested. Forages, citrus and sugarcane should function well, but yields of seed grain crops such as soybean and rice would be decreased by rising temperatures predicted for this century.

Other Interdisciplinary Achievements

  • piggyBAC: Developed piggyBAC, the world's most commonly used transposon for inserting foreign genetic codes into insects.
  • Sulfluramides: Discovered a new class of insecticide, sulfluramides, a widely used toxic bait for ants, termites, and cockroaches.