Sex Pheromones – A Pest Solution?

Pheromone trap for insect pests Pheromone trap for insect pests (Photo credit: IITA Image Library)

Pheromones are special chemicals released by animals that induce mating, and are largely responsible for the continuation of every species on the face of the planet. Scientists have uncovered new ways of using insect pheromones in regards to pest control, and are seeking to bring this new, unique form of pest control in the market very soon. By using sex pheromones to lure and kill harmful insects, agricultural scientists are attempting to find new ways of combating insect problems without the use of pesticides. Could pheromone treatment be coming to an insect control service near you?

How Do Pheromones Work?

Pheromones have been used by every living mammal on earth since the beginning of time. Pheromones are hormones that are released to entice and attract mates, helpful in initiating the reproductive process. Natural pheromones, which are emitted by both animals and humans, aid in the continuation of the species. Manufactured pheromones have been popular among individuals for years in hopes of attracting a mate of the opposite sex. Regardless of their use, scientists have discovered that they may be used against insects, stopping them in their tracks before they cause damage to fields and crops.

With the increasing concern over the use of pesticide in the environment, more scientists in the field of agricultural development are seeking non-toxic ways of protecting crops from some of the most harmful pests. With many pests becoming resistant to certain pesticides and insecticides, pheromones have become an interesting and unique way of providing a non-toxic way of destroying insects. Scientists have uncovered pheromones for over 1500 types of insects, and are discovering ways of using these chemicals against certain insects to protect vegetation.

Are Sex Pheromones a Viable Insect Control Method?

The use of pheromones for insect control is still in its early stages of study. Some agricultural scientists have successfully used pheromones to attract specific insects in traps, temporarily deviating their attention from their intended targets, i.e., plants. This has been used successfully against pine bark beetles, insects that are capable of causing irreparable damage to pine trees. In fact, millions of pine bark beetles have been successfully trapped and destroyed using a pheromone trapping technique.

Trapping techniques may be helpful in reducing damage to trees, vegetables, and fruits around the world. The only limitation that may become a barrier for certain types of insects is the lack of information regarding their specific pheromone chemical profile. Without this knowledge, pheromones can’t be reproduced and used against their species.

Using synthetically produced pheromones to distract male insects away from mating has also been successfully used against insects, thus reducing the amount of reproductions each season. When synthetic pheromones are dispersed in the environment, often strategically landing on nearby plants, the males gravitate toward the scent and are, for a time, drawn away from females waiting to mate. However unfair this may seem to the females, it has been shown to decrease the number of certain harmful insects in crop fields.

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