Mating disruption works by inhibiting communication between reproductively viable male and female pests. When many female insects are sexually mature, they produce a unique chemical signal called a pheromone that allows males to find them and mate with them. Mating disruption products replicate this signal and come in several unique platforms, including aerosols, hang type dispensers, and sprayable options. This allows growers to pick a platform that suits their IPM approach and disperse the pheromone throughout their orchards, vineyards, or fields.

When enough of the pheromone is present in the air, male pests are essentially ‘blinded’ to the presence of females in the area and live out their short adult lives without having the opportunity to reproduce.

Mating disruption can be extremely beneficial to growers who use it as part of an IPM program. For one, the chemical signal produced by each species of pest is unique, so mating disruption products are species-specific. As a result, beneficial insect species such as native pollinators, beneficial natural enemies, and biocontrol approaches are not affected. In addition, mating disruption is non-toxic, has a superior safety profile, and leaves no pesticide residue on crops. Using mating disruption for population reduction may help limit the number of insecticide sprays needed, minimizing the development of insecticide resistance which is a major threat facing growers for several key pests.

While mating disruption may feel like a new technology to some, growers have now been effectively using pheromone products targeting a variety of agricultural pests for several decades. Mating disruption products exist for several key pests in California, including but not limited to vine mealybug, California red scale, and a variety of Lepidopteran pests like codling moth, oriental fruit moth, navel orangeworm, and others. The pheromone industry is also constantly looking into new and improved technologies to expand its range of options, offering products across a wide range of crops and locations around the world.

As insecticide regulations tighten and pest infestations become more difficult to control, growers are increasingly looking to find effective, alternative solutions to safely and sustainably manage pests. Mating disruption is a science-backed, well-established technology that is rapidly becoming widely adopted in agriculture. Don’t fall behind the curve; consider adding mating disruption to your arsenal against agricultural pests. If you have questions about mating disruption or monitoring with pheromone lures, contact your GAR Bennett Pest Control Advisor (PCA).