IOBC wprs Working Group Meeting

Pheromones for Insect Control in Orchards and Vineyards

Hohenheim 1999


The development of new pest control methods is a necessity. The use of a number of well-established insecticides has been restricted or banned within the past few years. In addition, conventional insecticides meet increasing criticism and dissatisfaction, due to health hazards, environmental problems and insect resistance.

Mating disruption by pheromones

Insects use sex pheromones to communicate for mating. By permeating the atmosphere with synthetic pheromone, olfactory communication and mate-finding can be prevented. Pheromones are species-specific and non-toxic, beneficial arthropods are not adversely affected. The mating disruption technique is close to a commercial breakthrough, but needs to become more economic and more reliable, especially at high population densities.
Most important work is done by growers and pest control experts who coordinate and survey the practical use of pheromones. Successful applications require basic knowledge of dispenser materials, active ingredients and their effect on insect behaviour, as well as the population dynamics of the pest species. Another crucial issue is the assessment of damage during the season.

Monitoring traps baited with sex pheromones

Pheromone traps are an efficient, inexpensive and specific tool to detect the presence of insects and to monitor their flight period. Pheromone traps are available for virtually all economically important lepidopteran species.
Pheromone lures are commercially available from a number of companies - but these lures vary greatly in efficacy. This is due to a varying degree of purity of the starting materials as well as inadvertent changes in dispenser materials, lure composition and dose from one year to the other. The Working Group is engaged in the quality control of pheromone lures.

Other biological techniques

The mating disruption technique is available only for key species. Insect pathogens, parasites and predators are efficient antagonists for a range of insects, which complement and enhance the efficacy of pheromonal methods.

Development through continued research

In Europe, mating disruption is used on ca. 30 000 ha against grape berry moths (Eupeocilia ambiguella, Lobesia botrana) and on ca. 10 000 ha against codling moth (Cydia pomonella). These applications demonstrate the potential of the mating disruption technique for insect control. However, these orchards and vineyards in Germany, Italy and Switzerland represent only a fraction of the surface on which only conventional insecticides are used. The practical use of pheromones is still lagging behind our expectations.
Pheromone research, funded by the public hand over four decades, has provided the basic knowledge for the development of new pest control techniques. It is important to realize that only continued, goal-oriented research will lead to reliable and more widespread applications.
The practical implementation of pheromonal methods is certainly a challenging task. It can only be achieved if communication and cooperation between research groups, chemical industries and extension organizations is improved.

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