Ever since the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) was first discovered in Allentown, Pennsylvania in the late 1990s, it has spread to more than 40 states and parts of Canada. It has devastated orchards, crops, and fields, and has become a terrible nuisance in gardens, backyards, and homes. It has an appetite for as many as 300 different plants, and it’s been blamed for causing an estimated $37 million in losses in the Mid-Atlantic region for apples alone.
However, researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture have recently deciphered the chemical signals that the brown marmorated stink bug, also known as the BMSB, uses to attract other stink bugs, opening the door to development of traps and technologies that could help keep the invasive pest out of backyards, homes, and agricultural operations.
A study detailing the structure of the BMSB’s aggregation pheromone — a chemical released by the insect to attract others to its location — and how this attractant can be synthesized has been published in the Journal of Natural Products by scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and their partners.
As part of the study, ARS researchers collected airborne extracts released by the BMSB to search for the pheromones the bug uses to attract its fellow stink bugs to feeding sites. They found two attractant chemicals produced exclusively by adult males, synthesized them, and counted the number of stink bugs caught in traps supplied with those attractants as lures. Results showed the compounds were effective throughout the summer at capturing males, females, and nymphs, and they were three times more effective when combined in one trap than when used individually.
The identification and synthesis of the chemicals was led by Ashot Khrimian, and the field trials were overseen by Don Weber, both ARS scientists in the agency’s Invasive Insect Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland.
Weber also led another group that has published a companion paper in the Journal of Economic Entomology on the synergistic attraction of the newly discovered pheromone with another attractant. The combination attracted more stink bugs than either lure on its own, and it could be used in commercial lures and traps throughout the growing season.
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