Will Scent Solve CPB Problem?

Published online: Feb 08, 2000
Scientists at the Beltsville, MD, ARS laboratories have found a synthetic scent that can fool Colorado potato beetles.

Entomologist Joseph C. Dickens made the find while exposing the insects to different potato leaf aromas and allowing them to choose the scents they preferred.

Dickens attached tiny electrodes to the tips of beetles' antennae so they could monitor the pests' sensitivity to the scent of potatoes. When Dickens offered the beetles a choice between one of the scents and potato foliage, the beetles were confused and could not tell the difference between the two attractive scents.

Dickens then monitored the insects' responses to both "real" and synthetic scents.

CPB, the most destructive potato pest, costs growers millions of dollars a year. For 73 years, scientists have been searching for the scent that attracts this yellow and black multi-colored bug to solanaceous plants.

Scientists have identified at least five different synthetic blends that are attractive to the insects in laboratory tests-and that may be attractive in the field as well. From this research, naturally occurring chemical signals could be used to monitor and control pest populations.

Dickens is also investigating how chemical scents, which are emitted when the beetles chew on plants, might help attract potato beetle predators.