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PLoS One. 2014 Aug 29;9(8):e106276. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106276. eCollection 2014.

A new approach to quantify semiochemical effects on insects based on energy landscapes.

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  • 1Biosciences, College of Science, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea, Wales, United Kingdom.



Our ability to document insect preference for semiochemicals is pivotal in pest control as these agents can improve monitoring and be deployed within integrated pest management programmes for more efficacious control of pest species. However, methods used to date have drawbacks that limit their utility. We present and test a new concept for determining insect motivation to move towards, or away from, semiochemicals by noting direction and speed of movement as animals work against a defined energy landscape (environmentally dependent variation in the cost of transport) requiring different powers to negotiate. We conducted trials with the pine weevils Hylobius abietis and peach-potato aphids Myzus persicae exposed to various attractants and repellents and placed so that they either moved up defined slopes against gravity or had to travel over variously rough surfaces.


Linear Mixed Models demonstrated clear reductions in travel speed by insects moving along increasingly energetically taxing energy landscapes but also that responses varied according to different semiochemicals, thus highlighting the value of energy landscapes as a new concept to help measure insect motivation to access or avoid different attractants or repellents across individuals.


New sensitive, detailed indicators of insect motivation derived from this approach should prove important in pest control across the world.

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