2017-08-19

Mating Disruption

Mating disruption (MD) is a pest management technique designed to control certain insect infestations and involves the use of synthesized sex pheromones. The goal is to disrupt the mating cycle of the targeted insect.

Mechanism

In many insect species that are of importance to agriculture and forestry, the females emit an airborne trail of a specific chemical blend constituting that species' sex pheromone, which is referred to as the pheromone plume. The males of the species then use the information contained in the pheromone plume to locate the emitting female – also called the “calling” female.

Mating disruption exploits the male insects' natural response to follow the plume by introducing a synthetic pheromone into the insects’ habitat. This synthetic pheromone is a volatile organic chemical designed to mimic the species-specific sex pheromone produced by the female insect. By masking the natural pheromone plumes through saturation with the synthesized pheromone the male insects are being confused, causing the males to follow “false pheromone trails” at the expense of finding mates, therefore affecting the males’ ability to respond to “calling" females. Thus, the male population experiences a reduced probability of successfully locating and mating with females therefore reducing the reproduction of this insect and eventually this will lead to the collapse of the population. This method is considered to be among the most environmentally friendly treatments in pest management and control. Mating disruption works best if large areas are treated with pheromones.


PHOTO CREDIT: CHRIS RILEY

Advantages of mating disruption

Pest management programs that use pheromones are generally thought to be most effective when controlling low to moderate pest population densities. So far, insect pheromone has been successfully used as an effective tool to slow the spread and to eradicate pests from very large areas in the US for the control of the Gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar), a devastating pest of forests and the urban environment. Mating disruption, due to the specificity of the sex pheromone of the insect species, has the benefit of only affecting the males of that species, while leaving other non-target species unaffected, which allows for a much targeted pest management strategy. While suppressing a single pest species it leaves the populations of beneficial insects (pollinators and natural enemies) intact. Mating disruption, like most pest management strategies, is a useful technique, but should not be considered a stand-alone treatment program for it targets only a single species in plant production systems that usually have several pests of concern. Mating disruption is a valuable tool that should be used in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs.

Methods of dispersal

Microencapsulated pheromones

Microencapsulated pheromones (MECs) are small particles of pheromone enclosed within polymer capsules, which control the release rate of the pheromone into the surrounding environment. The effective field longevity of our microencapsulated pheromone formulations exhibit controlled release 

PHOTO CREDIT: CHRIS RILEY