Sex pheromones are powerful chemical attractants emitted by female insects to attract males for mating. Pheromones of many species have been identified and are synthetically produced for use in insect pest management programs. Some pheromones attract only one type of insect, while others attract several related species. They can be used to monitor the arrival of pest populations, as a mass-trapping control method, and for mating disruption.
Note that not all lures contain pheromones. Some include floral or food analogues that attract females as well as males (e.g. Magnet).
Monitoring with pheromone traps
Pheromones are generally used in traps intended for monitoring pest populations, and are useful for indicating pest presence, or the arrival of migratory populations.
- Affordable, easy to install and manage
- If used properly can detect low numbers of insects
- Collect only species of interest
- Non toxic
- Can be used all season long
- Can be used to monitor for specific exotic pests
- May be cumbersome to handle
- Not suitable for all weather conditions
- Unreliable indicators of pest abundance at a paddock level; regular monitoring is still required
- Do not directly correlate to plant injury levels
Pheromones can also be used in conjunction with an insecticide as an effective, environmentally friendly and relatively inexpensive means of controlling insect pests. Trapping may be successful for suppressing populations of some highly mobile insect pests in that it can remove a large proportion of the population over time.
Advantages of mass trapping with pheromones include no secondary pest flaring, and no impact on beneficial insects.
Pheromones can be used to suppress the male ability to locate females for mating, potentially reducing the amount of offspring. This technique works best on an area wide management basis, and is less effective in small areas. Mating disruption requires an up-front investment – the pheromones must be in place before the first adult flights occur (i.e. before you know if there will even be a pest problem); they cannot be used curatively like insecticides.
- Pheromone traps (the Beatsheet)
- Pheromones in insects (Smithsonian)
- Sex pheromones cut pesticide use (ABC Science)
- Using pheromones to control insects in your garden (Gardener’s Path)