Experimental Trap Interferes with Asian Psyllid’s Mating Habits


PsyllidU.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists developed an acoustic trap to help control the Asian citrus psyllid, the pest that transmits the Huanglongbing disease or “citrus greening.”

Richard Mankin, an entomologist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Gainesville, has designed an acoustic trap based on his experience studying how the Asian citrus psyllid smells, sees and hears other mates or food.

With the help of UF graduate students, Mankin decoded the psyllid’s signaling patterns and recreated them with electronics such as a buzzer and microphone.

Many of the traps now used to control crop-damaging insects use chemical attractants, or “pheromones.” Low doses of pheromones lure pests into traps while high doses tend to saturate the air so thickly that pests fail to meet and mate. The acoustic trap is different: It mimics the wing-buzzing vibrations male and female psyllids use instead of pheromones to locate one another in citrus trees.

In citrus trees, a male psyllid normally crawls to the female after the female responds to the male’s wing-buzzing vibrations. Laboratory studies show the trap is listening to this vibration, and it responds one or two tenths of a second before the female with a fake signal, luring the males into a nearby sticky trap.

Mankin and his team are refining the trap for outdoor testing this summer. Read more about this research in the May 2016 issue of AgResearch magazine.