Pheromones and Pheromone Traps – Vegetable Crops Hotline

Pheromones and Pheromone Traps

One way insects communicate with individuals of the same species is with pheromones. Pheromones are volatile chemicals released by an insect that usually can be detected only by individuals of the same species. There are a number of different types of pheromones, but the most common type is the sex pheromone. Usually the females will emit a tiny amount of a chemical that attracts the male to her and increases the likelihood of mating. Because the chemical is volatile, air currents carry it. The male detects the pheromone in the air with receptors on his antennae. He then flies upwind to find the source of the pheromone, a prospective mate. The chemical compositions of pheromones for a number of pest species have been identified and synthetic copies can be produced in the laboratory. Synthetic pheromones can be used in conjunction with traps to catch male insects.

Listed below are some, but certainly not all, of the suppliers of pheromones and traps.

Alpha Scents, Inc.; 1089 Willamette Falls Drive, West Linn, OR 97068; 503-342-8611;

Gempler’s; P. O. Box 270, 100 Countryside Dr., Belleville, WI 53508; 800-382-8473;

Great Lakes IPM; 10220 Church Rd. NE, Vestaburg, MI 48891; 517-268-5693;

Insects Limited Inc.; 16950 Westfield Park Rd., Westfield IN 46074-9374; 317-896-9300; www.insectslimited. com

Pacific Biocontrol Corporation; 620 E. Bird Lane, Litchfield Park, AZ 85340; 623-935-0512 or 800-999-8805;

Scentry Biologicals Inc.; 610 Central Ave., Billings MT 59102; 800-735-5323;

Trece Incorporated; P. O. Box 129, Adair, OK 74330; 866-785-1313;

You can buy most pheromone traps from these suppliers, but for corn earworm/tomato fruitworm, I recommend that you use the wire mesh trap which is available from:

Bob Poppe’s Service; 25738 N. 3200 Road, Lexington, IL 61753; 309-723-3201.

The wire traps catch more moths and last longer than the nylon traps.

To get the most from your pheromone traps, they must be used properly:

  • Place the traps and the pheromones out before you would normally expect the insect pest to be active. That way you can monitor the adult activity, which will warn you that damage from the larvae may be coming soon. Corn earworm pheromone traps should go out about June 1.
  • Be careful how you store pheromones. Ideally, they should be frozen until ready for use. At the very least, they should be refrigerated. If you keep them on the dashboard of your truck, they won’t work well when you place them in the trap.
  • When handling pheromone lures, do not touch them with your hands. Use a pair of forceps or wear latex gloves. This is especially important when you are using pheromones for more than one pest. Contamination of a lure with another pheromone will likely reduce the effectiveness.
  • Lures usually should be changed every 3-4 weeks, although this will vary for individual lures.
  • Check traps regularly, at least weekly. Daily would be better.
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