The Nose Knows: Bugs’ Sense of Smell Turned Against Them

John DavisFruit, USDA

noseknows1Odors that certain bugs can sense and are attracted to are being used to control the pests. This article from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says the blend of odors that attracts spotted wing drosophila flies (SWD) has been developed into a new lure product for improved monitoring and control of these tree-fruit and berry pests.

The blend is a combination of four different chemicals found in the aromas of both wine and vinegar. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist Peter Landolt and research associate Dong Cha, along with their Oregon Department of Agriculture colleagues, isolated the chemicals and evaluated them extensively in laboratory and field trials.

Based on those findings, Trece, Inc., in Adair, Oklahoma, commercially formulated the compounds into a novel blend and controlled-release lure, which is marketed under the trademark “PHERO-CON SWD,” along with a related trap.

According to Landolt, with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Wapato, Washington, farmers and pest managers need improved methods of attracting, monitoring and managing the flies to prevent potential losses of cherries, berries, grapes and other fruit crops. The lure’s availability should provide growers with better information to use in making pest-management decisions, such as where, when or whether to spray.

SWD flies can be awfully tough on a fruit crop, as the female SWD flies deposit their eggs beneath the surface of host fruit, where subsequent larval feeding causes it to soften, bruise and wrinkle. While lures with wine and vinegar isn’t a new way to try to control the pests, this is the first time there’s been a top-down examination of which chemical constituents in the liquids’ aromas attract specifically these flies.