Tomato whiteflies are not confused by plant odours

The glasshouse whitefly Trialeurodes vaporariorum is major worldwide pest of glasshouse crops. It does its damage by excreting plant sap which then grows black sooty mold fungus which spoils the appearance of the product. Tosh et al. reasoned that since plant volatiles – the odour of a plant – are usually harmless to humans but often harmful to insects, and since the glasshouse is an enclosed space, plant volatiles could be used to control whiteflies. The authors attempted to apply the well know ‘confusion effect’ – confusing animals with too much information – by bombarding the whiteflies with a super-abundance of host plant volatiles while they are feeding on tomato plants. Unfortunately the confusion effect does not have a strong impact on the whitefly. The confusion effect may be used in combination with other odour-based control methods for the glasshouse whitefly, but it is unlikely to be sufficient as a stand-alone control method.


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