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Global change and pine processionary moth: a new challenge for integrated pest management

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Using pheromones to monitor pine pest

The most serious pest affecting the pine forests of the Mediterranean region is the pine procession moth (PPM) Thaumetopoea pityocampa. European scientists working as part of the Promoth project investigated different techniques for keeping the troublesome insect in check.

Climate Change and Environment icon Climate Change and Environment

Recent major outbreaks of the PPM have been reported in central France and the Alps, which are outside the areas traditionally associated with the pest. This expansion beyond the moth's usual range may be due to global warming, which could have an impact on the host plant and the moth's natural predators. The Promoth project developed pest management tools for use in the areas where there are outbreaks. The work included studies into the use of pheromones for monitoring the moths. Field tests showed that the number of males captured in pheromone-baited traps significantly increased with the amount of pityolure used, which is a synthetic female moth sex hormone. A range of different types of traps were used and compared; the most effective were found to be plate sticky traps that were regularly cleaned. Researchers baited the traps with pityolure to determine the relationship between the number of male moths and the density of winter nests. Trials were carried out in France, Italy and Portugal in 33 test sites comprising pine stands of different ages and tree species. The stands were both in the traditional strongholds of the pest and the new areas where it had been discovered only recently. Findings revealed that all areas showed a link between the number of male moths trapped per day and the total number of winter nests in a given area and could provide an effective way of monitoring PPM populations. Researchers concluded that traps baited with pheromones were a useful tool for monitoring PPM populations. The technique developed by the Promoth project has already been applied in France and is now being extended to other countries that have a PPM problem. The results from the Promoth project will help the EU economy by reducing damage to Europe's forests. Furthermore, jobs will be created with the countries' forestry services in the areas of monitoring and biological control.

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