Pheromones and Pheromone Traps – Facts for Fancy Fruit

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.

There are a number of fruit pests that can be monitored with pheromone traps. For growers who have not used traps before, I suggest starting out by trapping for codling moth, spotted tentiform leafminer, or peachtree borers. As you gain experience with the traps and learn how they can improve your pest management practices, you may want to begin trapping for additional pests.

The proper timing for setting out pheromone traps for fruit pests are:

Pest                                         Start Trapping

Redbanded leafroller                 Green tip

Spotted tentiform leafminer    Green tip

Oriental fruit moth                     Pink (in peaches)

Codling moth                               Pink

Fruit tree leafroller                     Pink

Lesser peachtree borer              Late April

Obliquebanded leafroller         Mid-May

Peachtree borer                          Late May

Monitoring with pheromone traps lets you know when the insect is active. This allows you to better time control practices or, in some cases, to determine if control is even necessary. If you choose to control spotted tentiform leafminers with sprays targeted at the adults, having pheromone traps will help you know when the moths are flying in large numbers. For codling moth control, we can use a combination of pheromone trap catches and degree day accumulations to better time sprays. This will be covered in more detail in the next issue of Facts for Fancy Fruit.

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

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

Great Lakes IPM; 10220 Church Rd., NE; Vestaburg, MI 48891-9746; 989-268-5693;

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

Trece Incorporated; P.O. Box 129. 1031 Industrial St.; Adair, OK; 866-785-1313;


Just a few notes about using pheromones. 1. It is preferable to use more than one trap for each insect pest for which you are trapping. Sometimes, for reasons we don’t entirely understand, a trap placed at a particular location may not catch many moths, which could give you misleading information. If you have two or three traps, you can be a lot more confident in the results. 2. Pay attention to how frequently the lures need to be replaced. When you replace a lure, don’t throw the old lure on the ground. If you do, it may compete with the lure in the trap and lower your trap catch. 3. If you are trapping for more than one insect, don’t handle more than one type of lure with your bare hands. You can contaminate the lure with the other pheromone and it will lose effectiveness. 4. When monitoring for the clearwinged moths such as the peachtree borers, remember that these pheromones are not as species specific as most pheromones. Therefore, you may catch some moths that are not pests of fruit. So, you will need to identify the moths in the trap to make sure they are peachtree borers.

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