U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers have teamed up with their counterparts in Australia to fight invasive bugs that plague subtropical fruit and nut crops.


Entomologist Jeffrey Aldrich and chemist Ashot Khrimian, both with the Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Md., are evaluating a synthetic pheromone they produced for use in traps.


The researchers had previously identified what they suspect are distinctly different pheromones emitted by the banana spotting bug Amblypelta lutescens and the fruit spotting bug A. nitida to attract mates.


The two are leaf-footed plant bugs, a group known as coreids that scientists have yet to identify any chemical attractants.


Coreids also are an emerging secondary pest because of the proliferation of genetically modified crops, such as corn, soybeans and cotton, according to a news release.


Growers of these crops have reduced their overall use of broad-spectrum insecticides, which used to keep secondary pests in check.


Aldrich and Khrimian are now evaluating a compound that they believe replicates the pheromone released by A. lutescens males to attract females. Scientists also hope to eventually develop a compound to attract A. nitida.


The work is part of a cooperative research project between ARS and the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries.


The Australians are funding the research because the insects are major pests in tropical and semitropical areas, attacking mangoes, pecans, papaws, cashews and avocadoes.


As part of the agreement, Australian scientists capture A. lutescens, put them in glass containers and run air over them and into filters to extract the gases given off. They use solvents to extract the compounds from the filters.