Pheromone Monitoring

4/12/2023 April Issue 

by Steven Granzow

Pheromone monitoring, when executed with great intent and preparation, is a very crucial component to monitoring and preventing pests within a successful IPM program. Pheromones are defined as a chemical secreted by an organism to elicit a reaction from another organism of the same species. When we speak about pheromone monitoring, we are usually but not always referring to a replicant attractant created in a lab to mimic what has been secreted by a specific species and elicit the desired result of attracting the target insect into a trap designed to hold the insect until it can be reviewed for identification and reaction. These Pheromone “lures” have the ability to incite immediate behavioral changes in pests, or sometimes aid in a greater long-term change in behavior, and which you chose would be determined by whether you were attempting to monitor activity or create a level of control. Pheromones can create attraction to a trap by replicating the chemical communication between insects through the representation of sexual attractants, food attractants, or aggregation attractants. It is important to note that Pheromone traps will not resolve a pest presence issue all by themselves, but they will give you the best information when applied correctly, to build and design the response that best suits the facility.

Starting with the insect first, knowledge of the biology of specific pests will help you to decide where to monitor in advance of findings, insects that are most likely to an create issue within a facility. Consider first what material or product is in production or storage at the facility, and what might be attracted to it. Then, where are products or materials of the highest concern stored, or processed within the facility? Finally, what are the environmental conditions of the facility where these materials and products are stored or processed? This is not all that must be considered in the practical application of insect pheromones however, they are a great starting point in a new setup or annual review of a facility using IPM services. Determining what insects are likely to be found, where within the facility they will likely be, and what style of trap is best suited for the environment will help to find issues quickly, and resolve them before they go beyond environmental controls, and must resort to chemical control. A pest that creates concern is likely to get into a facility, replicate, and create damage, not only to products but to brands, in the eyes of their customers.

Considering environmental conditions will affect pheromone trap performance. Temperature deserves consideration. Products in temperature-controlled warehouses that maintain below 50˚F, will not need pheromone traps targeting flying insects, and depending on how cool they average maybe no insect pheromones at all. As insects’ metabolism and energy levels are affected by temperature when temperatures cool, some insects that typically do fly, often won’t, and insects that are typically attracted to sex pheromones will slow down or all together stop their pursuit. This is why areas of varying temperatures or spaces reliant on ambient temperatures need pheromone lures in both flying and crawling style traps, or may benefit from a seasonal program, whereas controlled spaces designed to keep things cool, or even cold, will only need crawling pheromones, or none at all. Cleanliness and quality of air are other components to consider. If the environment is dusty from the production of a product this creates a two-handed issue with pheromone trapping. High levels of dust from a food product often render a glue trap useless very quickly, this is the more obvious issue. Also consider what is often referred to as food source competition, if you are using a food attractant, that is not significantly more or differently attractive than the food dust in the air, it will be very difficult for the target insect to locate the trap, yielding a less than the effective result.

In summation, Insect Pheromone trapping can be a crucial component of a highly successful IPM program if utilized correctly. Consider the pest, and the environment before deciding placement, style of trap, and type of attractant before deployment. These practices are not set in stone, facilities are ever-changing, and through so many variables, test against your instincts when you can. There may be the occasional change in an environment that prevents the success of a tried-and-true method at a particular facility, or even a location within a facility.  The use of pheromones within a facility to monitor and identify insect infestations is a great tool in the identification of insects, trending population size and spread, and to aid in designing control methods as a result of found activity, when executed with great intent and proper preparation.