Olive tree scourge that’s been bugging experts could finally be trapped by its own hormones

Thessaloniki – A solution to an insect scourge, well-known in Greek agriculture and affecting olive trees, has been offered by research carried out on the fly’s pheromones, an insectology conference heard on October 9. A pioneering method of measuring pheromones, substances produced by the olive fruit fly (Dacus oleae) in order to reproduce which have preoccupied scientists since 1960, was presented at the seventh Pan-European Conference of Entomology in Thessaloniki. The method allows specialists working on combating the insect some optimism that victory over the harmful insect – using environmentally friendly, low-cost methods – is in sight. The method, to which researchers from Athens University, the Democritos Center for Scientific Research and a private company all contributed, interested American entomologists, since the insect has been rapidly spreading in California over the past four years. The conference was told that Greek scientists, due to their long and intensive research in the olive fruit fly, the olive tree’s greatest enemy, are regarded as pioneers in the field. Chemist Nikos Ragousis explained how pheromone products were given to rabbits, and how the analysis of the resulting antibodies meant that a large number of pheromone samples can be quickly and accurately examined. The results of these tests contributed to the understanding of the behavior and the biology of the insect. Ragousis said the method allowed 100 samples to be analyzed within an hour, compared to two days in the laboratory for 10 pheromone samples in the past. An olive fruit fly insect trap, using pheromones to attract the insects, is currently on the market. Democritos lab researcher V. Mazomenos said the pheromones of insects that attack corn and almond trees have also been studied. Scientists are seeking methods to repel them based on these discoveries.