AVA Chemicals Ventures of Portsmouth, NH, and the Agriculture Research Service have recently applied for a patent for a sugar ester that has proved lethal to soft-bodied insects.
These sugar esters tested by the ARS and extension entomologists around the country, kill whiteflies, aphids, thrips and pear psylla-almost instantly on contact.
AVA hopes to have the first of these compounds on the market by the end of the year, pending registration with the EPA.
The sugar esters can kill up to 100 percent of the soft-bodied insects and mites they contact. Insects are not expected to develop resistance any time soon because of the way the esters work, according to ARS entomologist Gary Puterka at the agency's Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, WV.
Puterka coordinated nationwide studies and is co-inventor of the new patent. The concept of using sugar esters as environmentally friendly insect control started about 10 years ago with ARS scientists at Beltsville, MD. They found that the leaf hairs of wild tobacco plants exuded a sugar ester to defend itself against insects and other arthropods.
The drawbacks: the esters must come into contact with the insect to be effective, and they don't kill insect eggs. Like insecticidal soaps, sugar esters kill by either suffocating insects or dissolving the waxy coating that protects them from drying environments.