The Lindbergh Foundation Believes that Innovative Science and Technology Hold the Key to Addressing Humanity’s Environmental and Productivity Challenges

Melanie Hart, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby BC, Canada

Controlling the Peach Twig Borer Moth with Sound Signals

Category: Agriculture: 2008

Global exports of almonds and stone fruits, (plums, peaches, apricots, cherries, etc.), totaled more than $1 billion in 2004, according to the USDA. Peaches, nectarines and apricots represent more than $400 million alone. However, each year, part of each crop is destroyed due to the peach twig borer moth. The peach twig borer is found in all the major continents in which stone fruits are grown. Insecticides and pheromone-based mating disruption programs have both proven ineffective. Newly hatched larva immediately burrows into the fruit, avoiding consumption of lethal doses of insecticide. Mating disruption with pheromones fails because moths rely on sound signals to find each other at close range, ignoring the pheromones placed to confuse them. Recording moth in flight

The "Moth Whisperer," Ms. Hart, hopes to reduce or eliminate the use of insecticides for controlling the peach twig borer by combining the moths' sounds, at levels imperceptible to humans, with their non-toxic pheromones. This approach would prevent males and females from hearing, smelling, and responding to each other, thereby interrupting their reproduction. During this study, Ms. Hart will run trapping trials to determine which sound signals are the best at controlling the moths. Then, the sounds will be digitally recreated, deployed through sound-emitting microchips and placed within the orchard to work in conjunction with pheromone signals to control the peach twig borer. This groundbreaking project will provide an environmentally safe, technologically advanced, and cost-effective way to control insect pests. Fruit Larva Lineatella Flight

This agriculture grant is sponsored by Doug and Jennifer Moreland.

From the Final Report

Ms. Hart's final report supports her hypothesis that the peach twig borer uses both sound and pheromones to locate each other for mating purposes and that using a combination of these tools can be effective in controlling the pests.  This also means that a more advanced trap must be developed than those currently in use.  In her report, Ms. Hart wrote, "The sound signals are simple sounds, more basic than the songs emitted by microchips in 'singing' greeting cards, or in sound-emitting plush toys.  By incorporating the female sound and pheromone signals into one trap to control males, and male sounds alone in a trap to control females, growers should be able to use this combination of new and old technology to effectively and safely rid their crops of this pest moth."

Dowload the full final report here. (PDF)

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