Purdue University Graduate School
Rachel Youngblood thesis (FINAL).pdf (2.04 MB)

Developing Selective Lures to Optimize Striped Cucumber Beetle (Acalymma vittatum) Management by Combining Pheromone and Plant Volatiles

Download (2.04 MB)
posted on 2024-04-30, 16:43 authored by Rachel A YoungbloodRachel A Youngblood, Ian Kaplan, Donald C. Weber, Matthew Ginzel

The striped cucumber beetle (Acalymma vittatum) is a leading pest across a variety of cucurbit crops in eastern North America. These beetles can rapidly infest and damage a field, leading to frequent insecticide applications to manage them. Chemical control is effective at reducing beetle populations, but it also causes detrimental non-target effects on pollinators, which are essential for cucurbit yield. Developing a holistic IPM (integrated pest management) approach is necessary to manage pests while avoiding non-target effects in cucurbit production systems.

A unique and well-characterized behavior of striped cucumber beetles is their olfactory attraction to both plant volatiles and their species-specific aggregation pheromone, vittatalactone. The interacting effects of combining these olfactory stimuli for cucumber beetle attraction have not previously been tested. I expected when presented with plant volatiles and pheromone together, the striped cucumber beetles will show synergistic attraction, resulting in enhanced attraction stronger than the sums of the separate effects. Along with targeting striped cucumber beetles, I expected to elicit cross-attraction of related cucurbit pests (e.g., spotted cucumber beetle) to these same signals based on previous findings indicating cross-attraction. The expected cross attraction may be due to the reliance on olfactory cues to inform the related insects on preferrable host plants and nutrition.

Cucurbit systems are also highly reliant on pollination services for high-quality fruit; thus, the feasibility of these semiochemical tools depends on their influence on pollinator behavior. I expect pollinators to be attracted to floral volatiles but not vittatalactone or individual plant volatiles without the full complement of floral scent (e.g., indole, leaf volatiles). Altogether, this research aims to develop a targeted management tool for striped cucumber beetles and other cucurbit pests, while avoiding pollinator distraction or other detrimental effects.

To measure the efficacy of using olfactory signals as attractants, clear sticky cards were deployed in the field with combinations of pheromone paired with volatiles (floral and/or leaf), as well as the individual components, to quantify pest responses. Simultaneously, a pan trap sampling method was implemented to measure pollinator responses to the same semiochemical combinations. The results of the study demonstrate that striped cucumber beetles are strongly attracted to volatile lures containing pheromones, floral volatiles, and combinations of the two, although the combined pheromone and floral volatile treatments did not synergize beetle attraction.

Though combined lures did not synergize attraction, this data demonstrates additive effects on beetle behavior. The findings also highlight the importance of understanding seasonal disparities between the behavior of early and late generations of striped cucumber beetles. Temporal variation in attraction demonstrated by the pests is crucial to understand when to implement lure-based management strategies. Two years of testing floral volatile and herbivory-induced plant volatile (HIPV) lure treatments on key cucurbit pollinators showed varying levels of attraction. There was no attraction of focal cucurbit bees to the striped cucumber beetle pheromone, but there were differences in the response of pollinators to plant volatile components.

Cucurbits require high pollination activity for successful fruit, though the most important bees in pollinating this system are bees belonging to the genera, Apis and Eucera. Along with these bee groups, other bees such as those belonging to Melissodes, Lasioglossum, and Bombus are also known important pollinators. Lasioglossum bees showed a strong attraction to the full-floral blend, TIC (1,2,4-trimethoxybenzene, indole, (E)-cinnamaldehyde), but no preference for indole or HIPVs. Melissodes bees were most attracted to methyl salicylate and TIC, whereas Eucera bees exhibited strong attraction to ocimene and TIC. These findings suggest that different pollinator taxa have unique preferences for plant volatiles, highlighting the importance of optimizing lure combinations to avoid disrupting pollination activities in cucurbit production.

Additionally, this study revealed that other key cucurbit pests, such as spotted cucumber beetles and western corn rootworms, also showed strong attraction to the tested volatile components. These findings suggest that the selected volatiles may have broader implications for pest management beyond striped cucumber beetles. Further research is needed to fully understand the efficacy and refine formulations of these volatile lures to implement in IPM.


Turning the table on a key vegetable pest: Exploiting plant- and insect-derived volatile aggregation cues to improve cucumber beetle IPM

National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Find out more...


Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Entomology

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Ian Kaplan

Additional Committee Member 2

Matthew Ginzel

Additional Committee Member 3

Donald Weber