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Concocting the ultimate beetle-juice.

Concocting the Ultimate Beetle-Juice

As alluring as the scents of fermenting fruits may be to dried fruit beetles, even more attractive are such scents when mixed with chemical attractants recently synthesized and patented by Agricultural Research Service scientists.

The "perfume" put into a custom-designed beetle trap could help farmers and warehouse managers gather the information they need to make decisions on pesticide applications.

Called aggregation pheromones, the chemical attractants synthesized by the research team are similar to those produced by a male beetle when he's found a food source. Coming from afar, many female and male beetles, sensing the pheromones, join into one big party to dine and mate, says entomologist Robert J. Bartelt of the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Peoria, Illinois.

Besides synthesizing mimic pheromones of the dried fruit beetle, Carpophilus hemipterus, Bartelt and entomologist Patrick F. Dowd patented ways to make similar attractants for two other insects that feed on a wide range of food commodities, the Freeman sap beetle, C. freemani, and the dusky sap beetle, C. lugubris.

Dowd says the pheromones are most effective when mixed with host plant volatiles such as odors of rotting fruit or similar volatiles from commercial sources.

The new inventions are being tested by scientists of the University of California, Riverside. Dried fruit beetles feed on many commodities, causing about $2.5 million damage to the California fig crop alone.

Besides damaging fruit through feeding and egg laying, the beetles may carry such crop-destroying diseases as smut, mold, and rot.

In some recent years, California fig growers have spent as much as $100,000 to control the beetles, which are an intermittent problem. If any company licenses the synthetic pheromone, fruit growers could better decide when or whether to spray their crops, says Bartelt.

Besides furnishing synthetic pheromones to California for testing, Bartelt has sent part of the "world's supply" from Peoria to entomologist Roger N. Williams of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), Wooster.

OARDC scientists are cooperating in experiments around the world. For example, sap beetle numbers are being monitored in stored cocoa in Brazil. If all goes well, cocoa warehouse managers may sometimes be able to cut down on their use of the pesticide aluminum phosphide.

Although the traps seem most promising as a monitoring tool, says Bartelt, the pheromones may someday be combined with pesticides. The scientists have applied for a patent on making organophosphorus insecticides more effective for sap beetle control by mixing them with Carpophilus pheromones.

PHOTO : Entomologist Robert Bartelt watches the Nitidulid beetle, Carpophilus freemani, respond to synthetic pheromone. Filter paper on right is a control which was not treated with pheromone. (K-4209-1)
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Title Annotation:using scents to trap beetles
Author:Hardin, Ben
Publication:Agricultural Research
Date:Nov 1, 1991
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