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Sex pheromones and semiochemicals offer an elegant future for pest management and biosecurity

Sucklling, D. M.
Acta horticulturae 2015 no.1105 pp. 375-382
Cydia pomonella, Formicidae, biosecurity, developing countries, ecosystems, fruit flies, insect behavior, markets, mating disruption, monitoring, moths, portable equipment, rearing, receptors, sex pheromones, spraying, trail pheromones, trapping, traps, urban areas, vineyards, New Zealand
Thousands of insect sex pheromones have been identified and like other insect-behaviour modifying compounds (semiochemicals) they have been found to be active at astoundingly low rates. Pheromones are benign as most organisms lack receptors and miss the conversation. They offer opportunities for pest control, starting with activity at parts per quadrillion where surveillance trapping is conducted and there is innovation in smart traps, through to mating disruption where atmospheric concentrations reach parts per billion from boom spraying or hand held devices. These simple molecules are exploited for a diverse range of tasks in an increasing number of production ecosystems worldwide. The recent group standard for Straight Chain Lepidoptera Pheromones in New Zealand highlights one approach that significantly reduces the regulatory requirements for such products. The capacity for synthesis at factory scale has enabled global growth for codling moth and other major targets but synthesis can be a limitation for more obscure molecules, literally the valley of death. For moth pheromones, repetition of use in nature can lead to critical market size being achieved, but cost can remain a barrier for developing countries. Technical standards must be raised in developing countries to enable domestic supply from local synthesis where possible. Exciting new ways of using pheromones for control are emerging and the examples of trail pheromone disruption for Argentine ants in vineyards and mobile mating disruption with mass reared sterile fruit flies to vector moth pheromone for behavioural control of invasive moths in urban areas will be discussed, together with initiatives on other species.