ARS develops lure to attract female worms

A new lure should one day help fruit and vegetables growers better control destructive cutworms, armyworms and fruitworms. The lure, developed by Agricultural Research Service scientists, is the first to attract females of these pests.

The bertha armyworm, spotted cutworm, Lacanobia fruitworm, and true armyworm attack potato, corn, flax, canola, apples and numerous vegetables. Recent losses from the fruitworm have been as high as 25 percent in some apple orchards.

In the past, widespread pesticide application was the only means to effectively control the "worms," actually moth larvae or caterpillars. To reduce pesticide use, researchers developed strategies for monitoring adult moth behavior. Ideally, that allows growers to apply pesticide at specific times before the moths reproduce and lay eggs. Or growers flood the area with sex attractants, called pheromones, produced by the females to attract male moths.

ARS entomologist Peter Landolt in Wapato, Wash., developed the new lure, comprising the first known chemical attractants for females of these species. By attracting females, growers will be able to more accurately predict when to use pesticides or other control measures and can directly eliminate the egg-laying females.

The lure consists of acetic acid and one or more alcohols. When mixed, the compound produces a vapor attractive to the moths. Landolt is working with Scenturion, Inc., of Clinton, Wash., to develop dispensers for the lure under a cooperative research and development agreement. They will also develop insecticide-loaded traps that attract the moths using Landolt's lure and then kill trapped females so they cannot reproduce.

The team hopes to have the first commercial product available within two years. ARS has applied for a patent on the lure.

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