Using Ant Pheromones to Catch Crop Pests & Reduce Insecticide Spraying

Leaf Cutter Ants Atta cephalotes

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Atta cephalotes (Leaf-cutter ants), Wilhelma Zoo, Stuttgart, Germany. Credit: Pjt56 / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

Scientists at the Universities of Bath and Sussex have actually established a brand-new system that gradually launches ant scents to draw in bugs to an insecticide bait. This indicates that rather of spraying the entire crop with pesticides, traps can be positioned in particular locations for more targeted security.

Leaf-cutting ants are significant bug types of farming and forestry in lots of locations of the tropics triggering an approximated $8 billion damage each year to eucalyptus forestry in Brazil alone.

Traditional pesticides typically break down rapidly and are not particular to specific bugs, leading to significant waste of bug control items, ecological contamination, and damaging results on other bugs.

The group of chemists and chemical engineers at Bath utilized molecular sponges called metal-organic structures (MOFs), to absorb the alarm scents of leaf cutter ants and after that gradually launch them to draw in the bugs to a trap.

In addition to experiments, they utilized computational modeling to imitate the motion of the scent particle inside the pores of the MOFs to anticipate which structures would provide the maximum capability and speed of release.

They discovered that by modifying the chemical groups within the standard framework structure, they might change the speed of release of the scents so that the chemicals might be launched over a duration of numerous months instead of days.

Field trials of the system by University of Sussex scientists in a eucalyptus plantation in Brazil revealed that the pheromone-loaded MOFs had actually the wanted impact in drawing in the ants to a trap.

Professor Andrew Burrows, Head of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Bath and Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at the University’s Centre for Sustainable and Circular Technologies, led the research study that is released in the journal Dalton Transactions.

He stated: “Insect scents have actually been utilized formerly for drawing in bugs, however the difficulty is they are rather unstable, so their results don’t last long.

“Our metal-organic structures serve as a sort of sponge where the scents can be encapsulated in the pores and after that launched gradually in time. Our proof-of-principle research study reveals that these products work in providing the scent which the bugs react generally to it.

“This system could reduce the amount of pesticides sprayed on a crop and could be particularly useful for high value crops in small areas. We’re currently looking at a range of other insect messenger chemicals including those that can be used to control moth pest species in UK fruit orchards.”

The task was moneyed by The Leverhulme Trust, the University of Bath, and University of Sussex.

Reference: “Inclusion and release of ant alarm pheromones from metal–organic frameworks” by Harina Amer Hamzah, Daniel Rixson, Joseph Paul-Taylor, Huan V. Doan, Christopher Dadswell, Gavin W. Roffe, Arun Sridhar, Claire L. Hobday, Charlie Wedd, Tina Düren, William O. H. Hughes, John Spencer and Andrew D. Burrows, 21 July 2020, Dalton Transactions.
DOI: 10.1039/D0DT02047H