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Chemical ecology of Carpophilus sap beetles (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae) and development of an environmentally friendly method of crop protection

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Nitidulid beetles of the genus Carpophilus are significant pests of a wide variety of fruits and grains and are also vectors of harmful microorganisms. The beetles are difficult to control with conventional insecticides because the beetle damage typically occurs just before harvest, when toxic residues must be avoided. These insects are generally attracted to scents such as from overripe or decomposing fruit. Starting in the 1960's, research was done to develop fermenting fruit and similar materials as trap baits, initially with the intent of achieving beetle control. These studies provided much new information about the ecology and chemistry of host location, but they did not prove successful in protecting crops from beetle damage. Beginning in the late 1980's, pheromones were discovered in Carpophilus beetles. These were potent, male-produced aggregation pheromones, and over the next 20 years much new information was gained about their ecological properties, physiology, and novel chemistry. Importantly, the pheromones were strongly synergistic with fermenting host odors, and the combination was far more attractive than fruit-related baits or pheromones alone, which greatly improved the ability to attract these pests to traps. A practical attract-and-kill method using the pheromones and host volatiles has been developed in Australia and shown to be at least as effective as insecticides for protecting stone fruit crops.


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