An acoustic trap that lures and captures male Asian citrus psyllids may help protect citrus trees from Huanglongbing disease, which is transmitted by the pest.
An acoustic trap that lures and captures male Asian citrus psyllids may help protect citrus trees from Huanglongbing disease, which is transmitted by the pest.

Citrus growers continue to battle against the citrus psyllid, which transmits the citrus disease Huanlongbing, also known as "citrus greening." With the help of Agricultural Research Service scientists, a new experimental trap could offer a new, environmentally friendly way to control the psyllid.

U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists have developed an acoustic trap.

Richard Mankin, an entomologist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Gainesville, Fla., designed an acoustic trap based on his experience investigating how insect pests use their sense of smell, sight or hearing to locate food and mates. Together with University of Florida graduate students, Mankin decoded the psyllid’s signaling patterns and recreated them with electronics including a buzzer and a microphone.

Many of the traps now used to control crop-damaging insects use chemical attractants, or “pheromones.” Low doses of pheromones can lure pests into traps; high doses can saturate the air so thickly that pests fail to meet and mate. The acoustic trap is different: It mimics the wing-buzzing vibrations male and female psyllids use instead of pheromones to locate and court one another in citrus trees.

In citrus trees, a male psyllid normally crawls to the female after the female responds to the male’s wing-buzzing vibrations. In laboratory studies, however, the trap is also listening to this vibration, and it responds a tenth of a second or two before the female with a fake signal, luring the males into a nearby sticky trap.

Mankin’s team is refining the trap for outdoor testing this summer.