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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2010

Sex pheromones and their impact on pest management

Witzgall, Peter; Kirsch, Philipp; Cork, Alan


The idea of using species-specific behavior-modifying chemicals for the management of noxious insects in agriculture, horticulture, forestry, stored products, and for insect vectors of diseases has been a driving ambition through five decades of pheromone research. Hundreds of pheromones and other semiochemicals have been discovered that are used to monitor the presence and abundance of insects and to protect plants and animals against insects. The estimated annual production of lures for monitoring and mass trapping is on the order of tens of millions, covering at least 10 million hectares. Insect populations are controlled by air permeation and attract-and-kill techniques on at least 1 million hectares. Here, we review the most important and widespread practical applications. Pheromones are increasingly efficient at low population densities, they do not adversely affect natural enemies, and they can, therefore, bring about a long-term reduction in insect populations that cannot be accomplished with conventional insecticides. A changing climate with higher growing season temperatures and altered rainfall patterns makes control of native and invasive insects an increasingly urgent challenge. Intensified insecticide use will not provide a solution, but pheromones and other semiochemicals instead can be implemented for sustainable area-wide management and will thus improve food security for a growing population. Given the scale of the challenges we face to mitigate the impacts of climate change, the time is right to intensify goal-oriented interdisciplinary research on semiochemicals, involving chemists, entomologists, and plant protection experts, in order to provide the urgently needed, and cost-effective technical solutions for sustainable insect management worldwide.


Sex pheromone; Attraction; Monitoring; Attracticide; Mating disruption; Insect control; Integrated pest management; Food security

Published in

Journal of Chemical Ecology
2010, volume: 36, number: 1, pages: 80-100

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Plant Protection Biology
Kirsch, Philipp
Cork, Alan

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG13 Climate action
SDG2 Zero hunger

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
Agricultural Science
Food Science

Publication Identifiers


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