A group of University of California, Riverside, researchers have identified several odor molecules that attract Asian citrus psyllids.
A group of University of California, Riverside, researchers have identified several odor molecules that attract Asian citrus psyllids.

University of California, Riverside, researchers have identified several odors emitted by citrus plants that potentially could be harnessed to attract or repel Asian citrus psyllids.

Anandasankar Ray, an associate entomology professor, led the work that identified a group of odor molecules detected by the psyllid eolfactory system, according to a news release.

Unlike humans, who use their noses, citrus psyllids have odor-detecting sensors on their antennae.

The researchers analyzed numerous citrus odors and identified those that strongly activate citrus odor-sensitive neurons on the insect antennae.

Then, using a blend of odorants, the researchers developed an attractant that could lure citrus psyllids to yellow sticky traps. The three odors are found in nature.

Having effective traps has been one of the shortcomings in effective citrus psyllid surveillance.

The researchers tested the blend in field trials in backyard trees in El Monte, Calif., over 10 weeks. Sticky traps with the odor attractants caught nearly 230 percent more citrus psyllids than conventional yellow sticky traps placed in the same trees.

“What’s particularly encouraging is that these three chemicals are affordable, useful in small quantities and safe for human handling,” Ray said in the release. “They could be developed into monitoring and surveillance tools. Similar approaches can be taken to develop control strategies using odors for other insect pests of crops as well. Our study also reports identification of odors that block the ACP olfactory system from detecting citrus odors and have potential for development into repellents.”

The researchers published their work on the lures in the Oct. 27 issue of Plus One and their work on identifying odors in the 29th issue of Chemical Senses.

The university's Office of Technology Commercialization has filed a patent on the technology and has licensed it to ISCA Techologies, Riverside.