The first stored-product insect phero-mone was chemically identified in 1966 from the black carpet beetle, Attagenus unicolor. Since that time, pheromones have been identified from over 40 species of stored product insects. They fall into two distinct major classes: Sex and aggregation pheromones, and in most cases, are highly species-specific.
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Pheromones for Monitoring
For some years, synthetic pheromones have taken a strong-hold in pest monitoring, as opposed to eradication, for some years. Monitoring and detection are the most common uses of pheromones in managing stored-product insect pests in food plants and warehouses. As such, numerous traps and lures have been developed for use in such programs and their use has increased greatly in the last decade.
A recent survey, conducted by the USDA in cooperation with the American Institute of Baking, assessed the level of adoption and usage of pheromone traps by various components of the food industry (Mullen 2000). Of the respondents (3,000), 38.6 percent were food processors; 27.2 percent were managing warehouses; 19.3 percent were food-packaging facilities; 12.6 percent were engaged in bulk storage; and only 2.3 percent were retail food outlets. More than 90 percent of respondents felt that traps provided useful information, confirming that these tools have experienced widespread adoption in the pest monitoring side of food storage.
From Monitoring to Mating
Based on research by Professor Philip Howse during his 30 years at Southampton University’s School of Biological Sciences, Exosect has developed a unique method of managing pest populations in food storage, by breaking down their mating cycle. It centers on a pheromone-based system, which employs an electrostatic powder that coats the moth with small electrostatic charges developed by the moth in flight.
The process involves a synthetic female sexual pheromone is used to attract male moths into a dispenser. Once in the dispenser, this pheromone adheres to the moth via the charged powder, which is triggered by this electrostatic charge. It coats them and their antennae. With the moth’s sensors overwhelmed, they cannot detect virgin females desirous of mating. Furthermore, they act as a false lure for other males and, through attempted mating, spread the powder to these other males. As a result the mating cycle breaks down and the moth population crashes.
David Cary is technical manager at Exosect Limited (Southampton, U.K). He can be reached at +44 (0)23 8076 3838.