Archive for the ‘Pheromones’ Category

Using Integrated Pest Management to Reduce Pesticides and Increase Food Safety

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Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab

Mar 06, 2018

Photo: A farmer sprays pesticides on cucurbit crops in Bangladesh.
Photo: A farmer sprays pesticides on cucurbit crops in Bangladesh.

Written by Sara Hendery, Communications Coordinator of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management

In 2017, thousands of beetles and weevils moved into Ethiopia’s Amhara region. Like most living things, they were hungry, but their appetites desired a specific earthly delicacy: weeds.

Zygogramma, the leaf-feeding beetle, and Listronotus, the stem-boring weevil, were released in Ethiopia by Virginia State University, collaborators of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management, funded by USAID and housed at Virginia Tech. Zygogramma and Listronotus combat Parthenium, an invasive weed that threatens food security and biodiversity, causes respiratory issues and rashes on human skin, and taints meat and dairy products when consumed by animals. Biological control and other holistic agricultural methods are specialities of the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Innovation Lab. Its team of scientists and collaborators generate IPM technologies to fight, reduce and manage crop-destroying pests in developing countries while reducing the use of pesticides.  

The application of pesticides is a major threat to human health. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 50,000 tons of obsolete pesticides blanket the already at-risk land. Pesticides can taint food, water, soil and air, causing headaches, drowsiness, fertility issues and life-threatening illness. Especially vulnerable populations are children, pregnant women and farmers themselves; hundreds of thousands of known deaths occur each year due to pesticide poisoning. Pesticides often increase crop yields, but an abundance of crops is anachronistic when the cost is human life.

In a small community in Bangladesh, farmers used to rely on pesticides to manage insects and agricultural diseases destroying crops, but community members began to develop symptoms from the excessive pesticide use, and, more than that, children were doing the spraying. The IPM Innovation Lab implemented a grafting program in the community that generated eggplant grafted varieties resistant to bacterial wilt. Eggplant yields increased dramatically and purchases of chemical pesticides dropped, which meant safer and healthier produce for families.

This story is one of many. The IPM Innovation Lab taps into a collection of inventive technologies in both its current phase of projects in East Africa and Asia, and since its inception in 1993, to enhance the livelihoods and standards of living for smallholder farmers and people across the globe:

  • In Vietnam, dragon fruit is covered in biodegradable plastic bags to protect the plants from fungal disease.
  • In Niger, the release of parasitoids eliminates the pearl millet headminer.
  • The spread of coconut dust inside seedling trays grows healthy plants in India.
  • Parasitic wasps destroy the papaya mealybug from India to Florida.
  • Trichoderma, a naturally occurring fungus in soil, fights against fungal diseases in India, the Philippines and elsewhere.  
  • Cuelure bait traps save cucurbits from fruit flies in Bangladesh.
  • Eggplant fruit and shootborer baits protect eggplants from insect damage in Nepal, India and Bangladesh.

Pesticides do not necessarily eliminate pest invasion; they eliminate even the “good” insects on plants. Insects often develop resistance to popular chemicals when applied frequently, so not only is chemical spraying sometimes unnecessary, it is excessive.

Tuta absoluta, for example, is a tomato leafminer destroying tomato crops across the globe. In Spain, in the first year of the pest’s introduction, pesticides were applied 15 times per season, but the pest is resistant to pesticides and is so small (about the size of a stray pencil mark) that it often burrows inside the plant rather than around it. The IPM Innovation Lab and its collaborators generated one-of-a-kind modeling to track the movement of the species and introduced pheromone traps and neem-based bio-pesticides to help manage its spread, further ensuring the implementation of a series of technologies, rather than just relying on one, to reduce crop damage. The age-old saying “two heads are better than one” is accurate — just ask Zygogramma and Listronotus.

In developing countries, it is difficult to regulate the amount of chemical pesticides that make it onto crops, thus increasing the risk that chemicals will have a dramatic effect on the safety of food and the potential for exposure to foreign markets. One of the reasons pesticide over-application is common in developing countries is due to misinformation. In Cambodian rice production, pesticides are often misused because labels are printed in a foreign language; it is common that farmers mix two to five pesticides, resulting in pesticide poisoning. The IPM Innovation Lab’s project in Cambodia reduces the number of pesticides in rice production by introducing host-plant resistance and biological control.

Also, a fundamental practice of the IPM Innovation Lab is conducting trainings and symposia for farmers and IPM collaborators across the world to educate on the use and implementation of IPM technologies, further reducing the risk of possible harm to crops and human life. Additionally, IPM Innovation Lab partners with agriculture input suppliers and markets in project communities to ensure that bio-pesticides and IPM materials such as traps are readily available and that the purchase of pesticides are not the only option.

Ultimately, when you spray, you pay. The IPM Innovation Lab prioritizes both human and plant health by reducing the use of pesticides, and with the human population growing by the thousands every day, it is crucial that food is not only abundant but also safe and healthy to eat.

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Effective Management Remains Elusive for Beetle That Eats Almost Anything


The Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) is a widely known invasive species in North America. Adults feed on more than 300 plant species and can be downright difficult to manage. A new guide in the open-access Journal of Integrated Pest Management reviews their invasion history, ecology, and management. (Photo by Emily Althoff, originally published in Althoff and Rice 2022, Journal of Integrated Pest Management)

By David Coyle, Ph.D.

David Coyle, Ph.D.

Every spring, gardeners across this great land get excited as the seasons turn. All these new plants we put in last fall, or the new flower beds, or the growing garden—take your pick, really—are going to look awesome this year. (We’re all convinced of this.) I’m one of these people, an amateur flower gardener and tree aficionado. And every year, for the most part, things do look awesome, until about May, when the inevitable Japanese beetle emergence happens.

Popillia japonica, commonly known as the Japanese beetle, is native to Japan and first arrived in the U.S. in 1916. It is now established in 28 states and three Canadian provinces, has been detected in 13 additional states, and—let’s face it—it’s only a matter of time before it reaches the rest of the continent. Adults feed on foliage of more than 300 different species of plants, and the larvae are root feeders, preferring grasses. Japanese beetle larvae are a problem in turf, and adults are problematic on basically everything else. Trees? Check. Shrubs? Check. Flowers? Check. Garden plants? Check. Crops? Sometimes, yes, so check. Pretty much anything green is fair game as a food plant. Even geraniums, which are toxic to adults, don’t deter feeding. Adults that feed on geraniums become temporarily paralyzed, but once they regain bodily function they go right back to eating the same plant. These are truly fascinating and frustrating creatures.

Emily Althoff

Because of the Japanese beetle’s wide range and very in-your-face impacts, we have learned much about this system. But now, a paper published this month in the Journal of Integrated Pest Management reviews what we do and don’t know about P. japonica management. I spoke with the lead author, Emily Althoff, a Ph.D. student in entomology at the University of Minnesota, about challenges and opportunities associated with this well-known and universally loathed (I’m assuming) pest.

Coyle: What’s the best control option for the residential homeowner who has flowerbeds, shrubs, and flowering trees (asking for a friend)? What about someone who is very opposed to pesticides?

Althoff: One of the best home garden control options for those hesitant about insecticides is to hand pick the beetles off the plants in the mornings and place them in soapy water. While this is time consuming, it prevents the beetles from producing aggregation compounds and inducing attractive plant compounds as well, both of which would attract more beetles.

This is eye-opening to me, as I’ve never considered the impact of the aggregation pheromones. By removing adults in the morning, you can lessen their impact because they don’t call as many friends to the food party. Great advice.

A lot of people use different types of traps for Japanese beetles, and as an entomologist I’ve looked at a lot of these. So, tell me, why are there so many ridiculous ineffective traps on the market? Is the public that desperate to get rid of these things that literally any company can produce something that vaguely resembles a bug trap and people will buy it?

I think that the traps are a result of a few different things. I think it is very evident the pheromone and volatile cues are effective at attracting beetles. The issue is that they work too well in this regard, causing more beetles to arrive than the trap can hold. The commercially available traps are very effective at monitoring Japanese beetle activity. At the University of Missouri, these are used in the IPM pest monitoring network to quantify Japanese beetle emergence and populations throughout the state and report this information to growers every week.

However, the commercial traps are not designed to kill enough beetles to make a difference in damage rates in agricultural fields or gardens. We did count the number of Japanese beetles that bucket traps hold and found that approximately 3,500 beetles fill the trap. The traps are so effective at attracting Japanese beetles that they can fill up in as little as two days.

Japanese beetle larvae (Popillia japonica)
Japanese beetle leaf damage
Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) traps are very effective in monitoring their presence but not in reducing their numbers. "The issue is that they work too well in this regard, causing more beetles to arrive than the trap can hold," says Emily Althoff, a Ph.D. student in entomology at the University of Minnesota. "However, the commercial traps are not designed to kill enough beetles to make a difference in damage rates in agricultural fields or gardens. We did count the number of Japanese beetles that bucket traps hold and found that approximately 3,500 beetles fill the trap. The traps are so effective at attracting Japanese beetles that they can fill up in as little as two days." (Photo by Raymond Cloyd, originally published in Althoff and Rice 2022, Journal of Integrated Pest Management)

Do you think Japanese beetles have crowded out any native species? Or did they fill a new niche?

While Japanese beetles are numerous and can defoliate entire trees and create severe economic damage to agriculture, in my opinion, their polyphagous nature prevents them from competing with native species for resources. Unfortunately, their damage to some commodities, like grapes, can actually create more feeding opportunities for other native beetles.

What’s the most Japanese beetles you’ve ever seen on one plant?

Too many to count!

Can confirm. I’ve seen this level of infestation too! Any other Japanese beetle tidbits of knowledge you’d like to share?

In the early days of the beetle’s arrival, many, shall we say, unique solutions were suggested for its management including the mobilization of Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops and paid bounties for beetles—a quart of beetles could get you 80 cents. Additionally, early management strategies such as aerial arsenic sprays were written about by Rachel Carson in her work Silent Spring.

Japanese beetles are here to stay, and to those of us doing battle with these voracious folivores, well, I wish I had better news. Management is either challenging or labor-intensive, depending on your perspective. On the other hand, if you’re using them in feeding assays, it’s really easy to collect ample amounts for your trials (make lemonade out of lemons, I always say). For those of you on social media, it’s pretty easy to track Japanese beetle emergence across their range because, the minute they’re out, extension folks are posting about them. Good luck, fellow gardeners!

Read More

Japanese Beetle (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) Invasion of North America: History, Ecology, and Management

Journal of Integrated Pest Management

David Coyle, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Conservation at Clemson University. Twitter/Instagram/TikTok: @drdavecoyle. Email: dcoyle@clemson.edu.


New Guide Offers IPM Tips for Japanese Beetles in Soy and Corn

April 29, 2019

How Do We Know Which Invasive Plant Pests Will Be the Next Big Threats?

June 7, 2021

Biological Control for Hemlock Woolly Adelgid: Where Do We Stand?

October 7, 2019 Research NewsDave CoyleEmily Althoffintegrated pest managementinvasive insectsInvasive speciesJapanese beetleJournal of Integrated Pest ManagementPopillia japonicatraps

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How the discovery of a moth sex gene could lead to crucial insecticide

JANUARY 8, 2022by Study FindsSHARES1ShareTweet

MEDFORD, Mass. — European corn borer moths are one of the biggest causes of damage to crops, tunneling their way through vegetables and fruit. It costs nearly $2 billion a year in the U.S. to monitor and control the hungry insect. One recent study reveals a way to predict mating habits and develop a possible “insecticide” to stop reproduction comes from the European corn borer moth’s reproductive genes.

Researchers have identified a gene in moths that controls their sex lives. This gene sheds light on the evolution of changing sexual habits. Control of this gene could become a method of pest control, thereby protecting crops from moths.

“This is the first moth species out of 160,000 in which female signaling and male preference genes have both been identified. That provides us with complete information on the evolution of mate choice and a way to measure how closely these choices are linked to evolving traits and populations,” says co-author Professor Astrid Groot, of the University of Amsterdam, in a statement.

There are two types of European corn borer, called E and Z, with sex mainly occurring only within each group in the wild. Groot helped identify the gene controlling the pheromone difference in E and Z females.

“That means we now know – at the molecular level – how chemical matchmaking aids in the formation of new species. Similar genetic changes to pheromone preference could help explain how tens of thousands of other moth species remain separate,” explains corresponding author Erik Dopman, a professor of biology in the School of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University.

The study follows the discovery of the blend of molecules the female emits to draw mates from miles away. Known as “assortative mating,” a signal is sent by the female and must be preferred by males of the same species to safeguard the survival of the species. The gene, expressed in the brain of the male and connected to its antennae, produces a protein which enables him to smell the females’ pheromones, chemical signals used to attract mates.

The researchers were able to determine anatomical differences in the male and link them to their attraction to E or Z females. These included the reach of olfactory sensory neurons into different parts of the moth brain. An analysis showed females can vary their signals. The gene, named bab, changes the male’s preference for a particular cocktail.

The European corn borer is the primary target for “Bt corn,” one of the most successful genetically modified crops in the U.S. This crop expresses insecticidal proteins derived from the bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis. It is an effective control of the moth in the U.S., however, corn borers in Canada are now evolving resistance to another variety.

“Our results can help to predict whether Bt resistance could spread from Nova Scotia to the Corn Belt of the U.S., or whether assortative mating could prevent or delay it. Bt corn has enabled a huge reduction in the use of chemical insecticides, and it should be a high priority to preserve its ecological benefits as long as possible,” adds co-author Dr. David Heckel, of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Germany.

Findings are published in the Journal Nature Communications.


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Sam Jones with IPS:

“Alternative tools to manage insect pest outbreaks have never been more important”

Crop protection is vital for every grower; you do not put all that effort into growing your crops just for them to get eaten or get ill. One method to fight pests is pheromones. International Pheromone Systems (IPS) develops, produces, and supplies insect semiochemical-based products and trapping systems for its customers, which “are used to monitor and control insect pests in a wide range of settings, including agriculture, horticulture, forestry, storage facilities, and in the home and garden,” Dr. Sam Jones from IPS says.

Right: Dr. Sam Jones with IPS

The importance of pheromones
“As fewer pesticides become available to growers, the availability of alternative tools such as pheromones to manage insect pest outbreaks has never been more important. Pheromone based products such as pheromone lures help growers manage pests in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner. Although most biopesticides are not as efficient as traditional pesticides, they are far more ecofriendly and species specific, enabling growers to harness the benefits of natural predators which are often able to maintain pest populations below a harmful level. “

This is where IPS comes in. With the help of pheromones – chemical signals insects use to, for instance, find a mate – growers can fight pests and ensure healthier crops. With the aid of such pheromones, the insects are lured into a trap and can no longer hurt the crops or the pollinators buzzing around in the greenhouse. 

Trap Color Trials in aubergine – monitoring for whitefly

Sam explains in detail how two ways of using pheromones work: “Mass trapping and Mating Disruption are two strategies used by many growers to control pests. Mass trapping involves using a greater density of pheromone traps to control a pest population, whereas mating disruption uses pheromone dispensers to saturate the air with a sex pheromone. Usually, it is the male sex that uses the pheromone to locate females, which then quickly become confused by the large number of dense pheromone plumes. This results in them failing to locate a mate.”

Beneficial attractant testing in raspberry crops 

When pheromones do not work
Although pests like thrips, moths, beetles, mealy bugs, and scale insects can be fought with pheromones, not all insects are susceptible to them, Sam says. “Aphids and whitefly, for example, do not use sex or aggregation pheromones (pheromones that attract the opposite sex or both sexes respectively) and therefore monitoring of these pests predominantly relies upon the use of yellow sticky boards or rolls. Visual attraction alone is significantly less effective than a combination of olfactory (e.g. a pheromone) and visual, and yellow boards in particular are non-discriminatory, often catching high numbers of beneficial insects.”

Luckily, there seems to be an alternative: kairomones, another form of semiochemical. Unlike pheromones, which are used among individuals of the same species, kairomones are chemical signals used between different species. As Sam states, “kairomones have been successfully used to enhance attraction of many insect pests, and at IPS we are investigating whether specific chemicals can be used for pests such as aphids and whitefly.”

The pheromones can be applied in polytunnels and glasshouses, in low-tech and high-tech environments alike. Moreover, the pheromones are not only relevant for vegetable and fruit cultivators; flower growers, too, can benefit from this method as IPM produces lures for many moth pests of floral cultivation as well.

Trap/Lure testing in cucumber crops – using a pheromone lure for the Western Flower Thrip, Frankliniella occidentalis

Pesticides fall, pheromones rise
The interest in pesticide-free crops has grown considerably with consumers preferring produce that is grown in the absence of harmful pesticides. Pheromone lures and trapping systems support growers in achieving this. “Recently”, Sam explains, “the EU has banned a wide variety of different pesticides that were deemed to be hazardous to humans and the environment leaving growers with fewer options. Growers are adapting to these changes by adopting Integrated Pest Management plans with a reliance on strategies that do not use synthetic pesticides. There has been considerable growth in the biological pesticide sector in recent years as these are adopted as alternatives. While most are not as effective as conventional pesticides, the efficacy of newer products continues to improve and their increased selectivity ensures that they are better for the glasshouse ecosystem. ”

“As pesticides continue to become phased out, there will undoubtedly be considerable challenges to maintain profitable yields that are sufficient to feed a growing population. It will likely require intelligent use of all available strategies, including biological, physical, and traditional methods. Pheromones will continue to have an important role to play in achieving these goals.”

For more information:
International Pheromone Systems

Publication date: Wed 20 Oct 2021
Author: Arlette Sijmonsma
© HortiDaily.com

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Why I’m testing what invasive insects can see and the smells they like

August 18, 2021 10.59am EDT


  1. Quentin GuignardPhD Candidate, Chemical & Visual Ecology, University of Pretoria

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Quentin Guignard does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


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_Sirex noctilio_ is an invasive woodwasp.
Sirex noctilio is an invasive woodwasp that causes huge damage. Understanding what attracts it can help repel it. Ludwig Eksteen

Dr Emmett Brown, Dr Victor Frankenstein and Dr Henry Jekyll are just three of the “crazy” scientists who populate fiction. Their methods were controversial and revolutionary – and I have always been especially drawn to the character of Dr Frankenstein, who was created by the English novelist Mary Shelley in 1818. I am fascinated by how he used electricity to study and understand the living. Every movement, feeling or thought is the result of electrical current in our body.

As an electrophysiologist, I see myself as a modern, real version of Dr Frankenstein: I use electrodes to study and understand living organisms. Given the tragedy at the heart of Frankenstein, this may sound evil. But in fact, using ethical practices to insert electrodes into living creatures can help research in human health, agriculture and forestry and create the path to greener ecology and conservation.

This sort of work also has enormous economic value because it can help reduce the damage done by invasive insects. A recent study estimated the losses and negative effects of invasive insects at US$70 billion annually. Other research suggests that insects destroy one fifth of crops produced annually worldwide. The figure can be higher in developing countries.

How does inserting electrodes into insects tackle these problems? Simply, it helps scientists to understand, in the first instance, what attracts insects to different crops. It’s then possible to design ways to trap them. This is what I’m doing in my PhD research, focused on an invasive woodwasp, Sirex noctilio. It kills pine trees and does major damage in the forestry sector worldwide. But by testing what colours and smells attract the insect, I have developed compounds I hope will trap and divert the wasps from pine trees.

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What attracts insects

Pheromones are odours released by an insect which have a strong attractive effect on another insect’s behaviour. For example, male insects can smell a female willing to mate and are strongly attracted.

Insects are also attracted to what they perceive as a “beautiful” colour. As humans, we possess three pigments that absorb light, in the red, green and blue part of the visible spectrum. Colour blind people usually have a defective red pigment and struggle to differentiate colours such as green, orange and red. Most insects in the Hymenoptera order – like wasps, bees and hornets – possess three photoreceptors (for detecting green, blue and ultraviolet) in their eyes. This means they are less good at distinguishing warm colours than us, but they are able to see ultraviolets.

So, to trap these insects and prevent them from targeting crops or forestry plantations, scientists copy the insects’ natural pheromones. From this, and sometimes also synthesising colours that are pleasing to the insects, lures can be created to draw them away from particular crops or plant species.

By putting electrodes in the Sirex noctilio’s antennae, I am able to record the electric current from those antennae to the brain and to visualise on a computer when the insect can smell a specific pheromone. This means I can see what the insect can smell. I can also insert very small electrodes into the insects’ eyes, testing which colours they can see.

The electro-retinography set-up used to examine the wasps. Author supplied

Armed with this information, we can now craft a selective “trap” – lures that keep the wasps away from the pine trees they usually target. These lures are a blend of a few pheromone compounds and the colours that are visible to the woodwasp. Once attracted in the trap, the invasive pest is killed and won’t do further damages to the area that needs to be protected.

Huge benefits

The next step will be to start field trials that put the compounds’ viability to the test.

Global research has already shown that pheromone traps of this nature, used in the field, can have tremendous positive effects. One study followed the efficiency of such traps in citrus plantations in Brazil for 12 years. The authors estimated that up to 50% crop loss was prevented. This represented a benefit of between $2,655 and $6,548 for each dollar spent on the pheromone research.

Of course, my research is just one piece of a large puzzle. Scientists are trying a number of approaches to save crops and plantations around the world from invasive insects. These range from transgenic crops to sterile insects; from introducing a new species as a biological control agent to creating new types of pesticides.

What’s especially promising about creating pheromone and colour traps, however, is that they can be extremely targeted. More traditional methods of pest control, like spraying pesticide, can harm other, non-invasive species. But if we find that our traps are negatively affecting such species, we’ll remove them and try a more specific blend of compounds that we hope will only eradicate the wasps from pine plantations.

This article won the Science Communication Award in a competition hosted by The Conversation Africa and the DST-NRF Centre Of Excellence In Tree Health Biotechnology.

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Online resources available from BCPC:




·        GM / BIOTECH CROPS MANUAL (Free Access)

·        IDENTIPEST (Free Access)

·        ·      


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Science News

This praying mantis inflates a strange pheromone gland to lure mates

Such an organ may be crucial for reproduction in a vast, dense rainforest

a mantis hanging from a leaf
A female Stenophylla lobivertex mantis hangs from a leaf, extending her forked pheromone gland.CHRISTIAN J. SCHWARZ (CC-BY 4.0)

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By Jake Buehler

APRIL 26, 2021 AT 6:00 AM

Praying mantises — with their angular features, huge eyes and centaur posture — often seem a bit alien. But researchers have recently found one mantis species that takes this otherworldly quality to the next level: Females of this species have an inflatable pheromone gland that protrudes from the back of the abdomen like a green, Y-shaped balloon. 

This odd organ is unlike anything seen in mantises before, researchers report online April 21 in the Journal of Orthoptera Research.

In October 2017, herpetologist Frank Glaw was moving through the nighttime rainforest in Amazonian Peru at the Panguana research station, searching for amphibians and reptiles. His flashlight passed over a brown, leaf-mimicking mantis (Stenophylla lobivertex) in the tangle of vegetation, and he saw “maggotlike” structures protruding from its back. Those structures were quickly sucked back inside the insect after the light hit it, says Glaw, of the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology in Munich, Germany.

Glaw was reminded of “parasites that eat the animal from the inside,” having seen such fatally parasitized insects before. With the help of Christian Schwarz, an entomologist at Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany, and observations of some female specimens in captivity, the team figured out that the mantis was no parasite-riddled vessel. 

close-up of a y-shaped gland on a mantis
The inflatable pheromone gland of Stenophylla lobivertex (shown) may be highly efficient at spreading chemical signals throughout the rainforest.CHRISTIAN J. SCHWARZ (CC-BY 4.0)

When left undisturbed in total darkness, the female mantises extrude a pronged structure inflated with body fluids, roughly the hue and luster of polished jade. It appears to be a highly modified gland for producing pheromones — chemical signals that help female insects attract mates (SN: 5/13/15). 

Other mantises have simple, noninflatable glands that are located in the same section of abdomen as S. lobivertex’s bifurcated contraption.

This mantis species is rarely encountered by researchers and might be thinly spread throughout the rainforest, so locating receptive mates could be particularly challenging. The researchers think a large, protrusible pheromone gland with lots of surface area could be a workaround, more efficiently dispersing pheromones to be detected by the antennae of would-be suitors.

“It is a kind of chemical ‘dating app’ in the jungle,” says Glaw, noting that the observations “emphasize the importance of pheromones in [the mantises’] reproduction in a vivid manner.”

Females in some other mantis species are known to expose a pink, patchlike gland when doing their chemical call for mates, says Henrique Rodrigues, an entomologist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History who was not involved with this research. 

“I can easily see something like that being the precursor of the protrusible gland,” says Rodrigues. He notes that since males have thin, hairlike antennae, “the other way to increase the odds of mate finding would be for females to increase the amount of pheromone released.”

Glaw thinks it’s likely that similar glands might exist in the other two species of Stenophylla, and possibly other mantises. “If this organ is really an important tool to improve the finding of mates,” he says, “it would be an advantage for many other mantis species as well and might be more widespread.”

Questions or comments on this article? E-mail us at feedback@sciencenews.org


C.J. Schwarz and F. Glaw. The luring mantid: protrusible pheromone glands in Stenophylla lobivertex (Mantodea: Acanthopidae)Journal of Orthoptera Research. Vol. 30, April 21, 2021, p. 39. doi: 10.3897/jor.30.55274.

About Jake Buehler

Jake Buehler is a freelance science writer, covering natural history, wildlife conservation and Earth’s splendid biodiversity, from salamanders to sequoias. He has a master’s degree in zoology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

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How Moths Find Their Flame – Genetics of Mate Attraction Discovered

Biologists have discovered the gene controlling the mating preference of male European corn borer moths for the female sex pheromone
Tufts University

14-May-2021 5:00 AM EDT, by Tufts Universityfavorite_border

Newswise: How Moths Find Their Flame - Genetics of Mate Attraction Discovered

Callie Musto, Charles Linn

A male European corn borer moth (Ostrinia nubilalis) sexually courts a rubber septum doused with the sex pheromone of a female European corn borer moth

Newswise — The mysteries of sexual attraction just became a little less mysterious – at least for moths. A team of six American and European research groups including Tufts University has discovered which gene expressed in the brain of the male European corn borer moth controls his preference for the sex pheromone produced by females.  This complements a previous study on the gene expressed in the female pheromone gland that dictates the type of blend she emits to attract males. The study was reported today in Nature Communications.

The implications go beyond making a better dating app for bugs. Now scientists can begin to ask why mating signals and mating preferences change in the first place, which is a long-standing paradox since any change could reduce the ability of an organism to successfully mate. Knowledge of these two genes will provide a better understanding of how the pheromones of the 160,000 moth species have evolved.

Of course, one important role for mating preferences is to make sure you are not matching up with a completely different species. The signal sent by females must be preferred by males of the same species to ensure that like mates with like–a mechanism called assortative mating.  The European corn borer is interesting because there are two types, called E and Z, with assortative mating within each type.  Even though the two types can be mated to each other in captivity, E mostly mates with E, and Z with Z in the field.  For this reason, the European corn borer has been used as a model for how one species can split into two, ever since the two pheromone types were first discovered 50 years ago. 

 “That means we now know – at the molecular level – how chemical matchmaking aids in the formation of new species. Similar genetic changes to pheromone preference could help explain how tens of thousands of other moth species remain separate,” said Erik Dopman, professor of biology in the School of Arts and Sciences at Tufts and corresponding author of the study.

Different aspects of the research were conducted by the three co-first authors Fotini Koutroumpa of University of Amsterdam, Melanie Unbehend of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, and Genevieve Kozak, a former post-doctoral scholar at Tufts University and now assistant professor at University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.  “Our study’s success can be attributed to a team with a common vision and strong sense of humor that helped make the science worthwhile and fun,” said Dopman.

One of the surprise discoveries made by the team was that while females may vary their signals in the blend of pheromones they produce, preference in the male is driven by a protein that changes their brain’s neuronal circuitry underlying detection rather than affecting the receptors responsible for picking up the pheromones.

Preference for a particular cocktail of pheromones is determined by any of hundreds of variants found within the bab gene of the male. The relevant variants of bab are not in parts of the gene that code for a protein, but in parts that likely determine how much of the protein is produced, which in turn affects the neuronal circuits running from the antennae to the brain. The researchers were able to determine anatomical differences in the male, including the reach of olfactory sensory neurons into different parts of the moth brain, and link them to their attraction to E or Z females.

“This is the first moth species out of 160,000 in which female signalling and male preference genes have both been identified,” said Astrid Groot of the University of Amsterdam, who also helped identify the gene controlling the pheromone difference in E and Z females. “That provides us with complete information on the evolution of mate choice and a way to measure how closely these choices are linked to evolving traits and populations.”

The ability to predict mating could also help control reproduction in pest insects. The European corn borer is a significant pest for many agricultural crops in addition to corn. In the U.S., it costs nearly $2 billion each year to monitor and control. It is also the primary pest target for genetically modified “Bt corn” which expresses insecticidal proteins derived from the bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis. While Bt corn remains an effective control of the corn borer moth in the U.S., corn borers in Nova Scotia are now evolving resistance to another variety of Bt corn.

“Our results can help to predict whether Bt resistance could spread from Nova Scotia to the Corn Belt of the U.S., or whether assortative mating could prevent or delay it”, said co-author David Heckel at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, who also studies how insects evolve resistance to Bt.  “Bt corn has enabled a huge reduction in the use of chemical insecticides, and it should be a high priority to preserve its ecological benefits as long as possible.”REQUEST AN EXPERT




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Sustainable IPM efforts target insect pheromone use

TAGS: CROPSTodd Fitchettewfp-todd-fitchette-desert-broccoli-71.jpg

A biologically safe attractant using pheromones to entice honeybee visits to broccoli for seed is one of several new ag tech ideas promoting sustainable agriculture practices.A company is using a transgenic plant to create low-cost pheromones that could revolutionize pest control.

Todd Fitchette | Apr 21, 2021

Attracting bees to broccoli is just one of many ways a California ag tech company has its mind set on sustainable agriculture with global implications.

Scientists at the Riverside-based ISCA are using a transgenic plant to create low-cost pheromones that could revolutionize pest control and integrated pest management (IPM) efforts in agriculture and beyond.https://7456b58e549c0abcddebe4cfdc5b0937.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

The example of bees and broccoli was demonstrated earlier this year near Yuma, Ariz. By placing a safe pheromone attractant on broccoli grown for seed production, colonies of managed honeybees were attracted to the plants, even during high wind events common during the winter months in the desert region of southwest Arizona.

The use of an attractant to entice honeybees to visit plants needing pollination is just one of several projects, according to ICSA Chief Executive Officer Agenor Mafra-Neto. Moreover, the bee attractant, which looks like a dollop of toothpaste applied to the top of the broccoli plants, could have implications other crops needing pollination by honeybee colonies. Studies in almonds suggest a 5-15% boost in fruit set. Those studies are ongoing.

Mating disruption – the art of fooling male insects into thinking female insects are in an area they are not by means of filling the air with the sex pheromone scent they emit – is yet another sustainable way to improve IPM efforts in agricultural systems. In this case ISCA scientists are using genetically modified strains of camelina plants to create the insect sex pheromones.

These efforts have shown themselves successful in protecting vineyards in Argentina against the European grapevine moth.

USDA funding

According to a company statement, the camelina plant efforts received U.S. Department of Agriculture funding to develop pheromones from natural resources over the use of standard chemical synthesis techniques. A $650,000 grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) came after a $100,000 NIFA grant that kickstarted the project.

“Pheromone and other semiochemical controls are the future of crop protection, and ISCA’s breakthrough biological pheromone synthesis will propel agriculture into a more lucrative and sustainable enterprise,” Mafra-Neto said in a prepared statement.

Pheromone use is growing in popularity, particularly for mating disruption efforts that are proving themselves successful in agricultural systems. Almond growers are using pheromone attractants in mating disruption efforts against the Navel orangeworm. Unlike with pesticides, insects do not develop resistance against pheromone products.

Mafra-Neto points to the use of the camelina plant, a cousin of broccoli and canola, as a lower-cost method to create pheromones. Biosynthesis in plants eliminates the need to use petroleum-based chemicals as feedstock and bypasses most of the complex organic chemistry steps now required in pheromone production, he said.


Moreover, ISCA studies are also looking at attract-and-kill products that entice targeted insects to a specific location that includes an insecticide capable of killing that insect. Rather than broadcast a chemical insecticide across large swaths of land or to rows of trees, the attract-and-kill method draws insects to a specific location through pheromones. The inclusion of pesticide materials capable of killing the pest when it feeds on or touches the formulation, allows this method to be targeted and safer for the environment.

The attract-and-kill method can greatly reduce the number of chemical pesticides applied on crops for insect control. It also protects non-targeted pests, including pollinators and beneficial insects, because the pheromones used to attract target pests are specific to those species.

Current attract-and-kill studies are ongoing in cotton, corn, and soybeans.

Another topic of study includes the idea of repellants, or semiochemicals that can cause insects to avoid specific plants. As studies in California avocados are ongoing on this front, Mafra-Neto believes forestry systems can use such technology to repel the bark beetle, which is responsible for widespread forest damage and explosive forest fires because of all the dead trees.

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Improved signaling and monitoring of thrips with Pherothrip 2.0

The problems with various species of thrips have occupied the minds of many cultivations in recent years. Reason for HortiPro to invest in signaling and monitoring techniques using pheromones in the near future and to further develop the techniques.

Growers try to start a new crop as cleanly as possible and with the aid of various, preferably green solutions, they have already come a long way. For example, thrips can be controlled with insect parasitic fungi and nematodes. Strategies with different beneficial insects are also being drawn up. It is important here that the possible solutions are deployed at the right time.

But when is the right time? Good signaling and monitoring is of crucial importance here, according to the HortiPro specialists. With the help of sticky traps, growers and advisers can keep an eye on whether thrips are already present and how a thrips population that may be present is developing in the crop.

To further optimise signaling and monitoring, HortiPro has launched the PheroThrip 2.0 on the market. PheroThrip 2.0 is a non-selective thrips pheromone in an evaporative spike. This evaporation spike can be placed in a hole in a yellow or blue sticky plate (see photo) and will increase the number of thrips caught on these sticky plates considerably. Various trials and demos, which have been carried out in collaboration with distributors and growers, have shown that the number of thrips caught on a sticky trap fitted with a PheroThrip 2.0 evaporation spike can be up to 40% higher.

Including Japanese flower thrips
These tests and demos also showed that the PheroThrip 2.0 pheromone attracts multiple thrips species. For example, Californian, pepper, tobacco, zebra, Echino, as well as Japanese flower thrips (Setosus thrips) were caught. The latter is usually particularly difficult to catch on sticky traps.

With the help of PheroThrip 2.0, Japanese flower thrips, among other things, can therefore be detected earlier. The necessary measures can then be taken against this in good time. In addition, both male and female thrips were caught on the sticky traps. This significantly reduces the reproduction speed.

Extensive experience has now been gained in, among other things: paprika, cucumber, chrysanthemum, gerbera, rose, hydrangea and strawberry.

Keep the cap closed
It is very important not to touch the evaporation spikes with bare hands. So place the spike in the catching plate with a plastic or latex glove or tweezers, the HortiPro specialists advise. The cap on the evaporation spike should remain closed.

The duration of action of the PheroThrip 2.0 is 6 to 8 weeks. They are available per 10 pieces in a resealable packaging and can be stored in the freezer (-18⁰C) for up to 2 years.

 For more information:

Publication date: Wed 31 Mar 2021

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By Charlotte Tucker -March 9, 2021Share on FacebookTweet on Twitter

Prof. Irina Borodina, founder of BioPhero

Today BioPhero, the insect pheromone company, today announced it has raised around €14.2 million in Series A funding led by DCVC Bio with participation from new investor FMC Ventures, as well as existing investors Syngenta Group Ventures and Novo Holdings. The startup, which has a mission to replace many chemical insecticides with sustainable biological insect pheromones, will use this funding to ramp up production of several products and to produce pheromones at the quantity, quality, and price required to allow farmers to control major pests in a variety of row crops.

Pheromones, being non-toxic, can be a powerful tool to achieve the objective of insect pest control, while avoiding the negative impacts on environment and biodiversity associated with overuse of synthetic chemicals. Pheromones are naturally produced by insects, but they can also be used very effectively to control the buildup of pest populations in farmers’ fields by disrupting their mating process. They are highly sustainable as they are insect-specific and non- toxic. Not only can they replace insecticide use but they can also reduce over-application by helping to prevent the buildup of resistance against both chemical insecticides and GM seeds.

Following its seed round in 2018, BioPhero developed – and scaled up – new and efficient production methods for insect pheromones using microbial fermentation. The production processes use renewable raw materials, produce less waste than the traditional chemical synthesis, and – crucially – are able to deliver insect pheromones at the cost, quality, and volume required for row crops such as wheat, maize, rice, and soybeans. BioPhero has successfully demonstrated that it can produce pheromones at tonne-scale, and the company is now ready to start production of its first product and to make it available to customers and development partners around the world.

Kristian Ebbensgaard, CEO of BioPhero, explained: “We aim to give farmers a new option: To protect their crops using biological insect pheromones rather than having to rely on insecticides. In row crops this has not been possible until now because of the high cost of pheromones. At BioPhero, we have shown we can break this cost barrier. We are delighted to continue to attract such high-quality investors and see this as a testament to the success we have had in developing and scaling biological pheromone production and delivering new options for growers”.

Unlike with insecticides, insects do not develop resistance to insect pheromones because they are produced by females to attract males for mating and do not present a single target that can easily be overcome by evolution. Insect pheromones are highly effective, have an exemplary safety record and do not harm pollinators or other non-target insects.

“We have been examining the use of insect pheromones in agriculture and new startups in this area for many years. Until now, no company has succeeded in manufacturing pheromones at a cost and scale suitable for worldwide use,” said John Hamer co-Managing Partner of DCVC Bio. “BioPhero’s patented breakthrough platform is the only one that is delivering the cost structure, manufacturing flexibility and quality that allow pheromones to be deployed on major row crops.”

BioPhero was founded in 2016 by Prof. Irina Borodina as a technology spin-out from the Technical University of Denmark. Borodina has assembled a dedicated world-class team with competencies within metabolic engineering, fermentation, chemistry, and process development, also participating as a consortium member in the EU-funded Projects OLEFINE and PHERA. 

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