To disrupt insect mating, a species-specific sex attractant is broadcast throughout an area. In an environment permeated with artificially applied sex pheromone molecules, male insects that rely on pheromones to locate females are unable to do so. |
They either follow an artificial signal to a frustrating destination or their sensory receptors become overloaded by constant exposure to pheromone molecules, leaving the insect temporarily unable to detect additional pheromone messages. The way in which artificial attractants might "out-compete" female moths and prevent their success in attracting a mate.
In field applications of mating disruption techniques attractants have been applied to fields or forests in hollow plastic fibers, capsule like pellets, and attractant-impregnated plastic strings or ties. Although mating disruption programs are not widely used, trials have been successful against the oriental fruit moth, pink bollworm in cotton, grape berry worm, tomato pinworm, and several pests of forest conifers. The trial use of pheromones to disrupt mating for codling moth control in apples has produced mixed results. Mating disruption programs are most successful where large areas are treated, where the treated area is isolated from sources of pests that might immigrate, and where the pest population is low. When pest densities are low, artificial attractants are more likely to out compete a high percentage of female insects in attracting males. For insect attractants to be broadcast into the environment for direct control, the attractants (regulated as pesticides) must be evaluated and approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The sex attractant of the oriental fruit moth has been approved for such use in plastic "ropes" to be tied onto the limbs of fruit trees.
Attractant-baited traps can be used to signal the need for additional sampling efforts or to time insecticide applications and eliminate unnecessary spraying. One example of the use of pheromone traps to trigger further sampling involves the black cutworm, a common but sporadic pest of seedling corn in the Midwest. Pheromone traps baited with a specific sex attractant are used in a statewide sampling program to monitor the annual spring migration of black cutworm moths from southern states into Illinois. In area where counts of male moths in traps indicate the potential for damaging infestations of cutworm larvae, producers are urged to check for cutworm density and crop damage in fields of seedling corn. For pests that cause unacceptable levels of damage even at low population densities, such as the codling moth or apple maggot in commercial apple orchards, traps can be used as the only sampling method for determining the dates to begin and end insecticide application programs.
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