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Insect Pheromones

  1. Jack R. Plimmer1,
  2. Derek Gammon2

Published Online: 15 APR 2003

DOI: 10.1002/047126363X.agr366

Encyclopedia of Agrochemicals

Encyclopedia of Agrochemicals

How to Cite

Plimmer, J. R. and Gammon, D. 2003. Insect Pheromones. Encyclopedia of Agrochemicals. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    Tampa, Florida

  2. 2

    Sacramento, California

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2003


Insect pheromones are classified as “semiochemicals” and affect the behavior of other insects. Semiochemicals include pheromones, kairomones, feeding stimulants, synthetic attractants, and so on, and they are useful components of pest management systems. Sex attractant pheromones released by female Lepidoptera to attract the male for mating purposes have been identified from several hundred insect species. A major practical application is the use of attractant pheromones in traps as baits to monitor and detect the presence of a pest species or to reduce its population. Also, to reduce insect population, mating may be disrupted by permeating the air with pheromones during infestations. Lepidopteran sex attractant pheromones are mainly mono- or di-unsaturated esters, aldehydes, or alcohols derived from unbranched long chain alkanes ranging from C8 to C16. Although the amount of pheromone present in the female moths is only a few nanograms per insect, the structures of pheromones of more than 1600 species have now been identified.

Major forest pests, including the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar), the eastern spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana), the western pine shoot borer moth (Eucosma sonomana), and the Douglas-fir tussock moth (Orygia pseudotsugata), have been the target of large-scale pest management programs involving pheromones. Pheromone formulations have been registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a number of agriculturally important pests, including the boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis Boheman), the pink bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella Saunders), the artichoke plume moth (Platypilia carduidactyla), the tomato pinworm (Keiferia lycopersicella Walsingham), and the tobacco budworm (Helicoverpa virescens). Pheromone blends are produced by species of bark beetles, and these complex aggregation pheromones have been used extensively in mass trapping programs, capturing millions of bark beetles and protecting valuable forest resources.

Experience showed that successful application depends on understanding insect behavior, particularly in the field, where competing stimuli exist. Formulation and deployment of pheromones are critical factors. Release rates of pheromones from controlled-release formulations should correspond to biologically effective rates.


  • insect pheromones;
  • semiochemicals;
  • kairomones;
  • attractants;
  • mating disruption;
  • formulation;
  • allelochemicals;
  • allomones;
  • insect pest management;
  • insect traps;
  • regulation;
  • Lepidoptera;
  • bark beetles;
  • gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar);
  • controlled-release formulations;
  • mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata);
  • residues;
  • boll weevil (Anthonomus grandi Boheman);
  • pink bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella Saunders);
  • aggregation pheromones