College of Natural & Agricultural Sciences

Researchers have been looking into the development of an effective pheromone lure for leaffooted bugs. The effort has been part of a research project funded by the Almond Board of California. Cooperative Extension Specialist based out of the Kearney Agricultural Research and Education Center, Kent Daane said there have been some breakthroughs. A pheromone compound has been identified that shows some promise.

“We have looked at and found a pheromone that both female and male Leptoglossus zonatus react to,” said Daane, who is also one of the collaborators on the project. “We’re not exactly sure if this is an aggregation pheromone or if this is a sex pheromone. But it attracts more females than males.”

leaffooted bug ucanr
Adult leaffooted bug, Leptoglossus occidentalis, by Larry L. Strand.

The pheromone compound is proving effective on another Leptoglossus species in Europe. Daane said they are getting hundreds to thousands per trap with the compound. Numbers are still between four and 12 with the leaffooted bugs the California team is working on. However, the research is heading in the right direction. “We are finding more leaffooted bugs in traps when we’ve got this pheromone. The goal now is to optimize it. To play around with the blend a little bit because it could just be a tiny change in the blend that really changes the attraction,” said Daane.

The research project has been led by UC Riverside Entomology Professor Jocelyn Millar and included Houston Wilson, assistant cooperative extension specialist in the Department of Entomology at UC Riverside. The hope is to develop a pheromone lure that can be deployed as a more effective trap for monitoring. Once that can be established, it sets the table for more effective management approaches to be developed.

“If it really is optimized, then maybe you do something like an attract and kill program,” Daane noted. “You put out this lure. You’ve got a kill strip in the bottom. They go there because that lure’s more attractive to them than the almond tree and boom, you kill off a portion of the population.”

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