The sensory mechanism involved in searching for food, oviposition sites, and mates is stimulated and controlled by chemicals. Those chemicals that deliver behavioral messages or induce a response are termed semiochemicals, and pheromones are the semiochemicals used for intraspecific communication between individuals of the same species. There are several different types ofpheromones, such as alarm, dispersal, and aggregation pheromone, but it is the group ofsex pheromones that is most widely used in pest management programs. The principal uses of pheromones in control and management programs are: male trapping, which reduces the reproductive potential ofa pest population; mating disruption, which disrupts the mating search of males; and in the detection and monitoring of adults to determine population abundance and location ofinfested material.

The function of pheromones in the biology of many stored-product and fabric pests follows two general patterns. These are sex pheromones for the species that have short-lived adults, and aggregation pheromones for the species that have long-lived adults. The short-lived adults usually do not feed, and mating and oviposition are the chief activities of the adults. Soon after emergence, females of these species usually produce a strong sex pheromone to lure males for mating. The long-lived adult males and females feed, and males generally produce an aggregation pheromone to attract other males or both males and females. Females of these species often produce sex pheromones.

Polyene hydrocarbons and epoxides are used as pheromone components and sex attractants by the microlepidopteran families, Geometridae, Noctuidae, Arctiidae, and Lymantriidae. They are different from the io-18-carbon acetates, aldehydes, and alcohols commonly produced in other species, and constitute a second major class of lepidopteran pheromones. These are biosynthesized and characterized by 17-23-carbon straight chain, and are used in pheromone blends and converted to many of the known pheromone compounds. Another group of semiochemicals are parapheromones, which are synthesized compounds structurally related to natural pheromone components. Parapheromones show a large variety of effects, and have been used as agonists and inhibitors. They can replace pheromones when these are costly to prepare or unstable in field conditions.

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