Developing Attract and Reward Strategy to Control Thrips and Whiteflies in Florida Tomato

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2018: $10,316.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2021
Grant Recipient: University of Florida
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Dr. Xavier Martini
University of Florida


  • Vegetables: peppers, tomatoes


  • Natural Resources/Environment: hedgerows
  • Pest Management: biological control, chemical control, cultural control, integrated pest management


    Flower thrips and whiteflies are major economic pests of tomato and pose considerable threats as vectors of viruses that can result in major crop losses. Growers are faced with increasing challenges as these pests have developed resistance to nearly all classes of insecticides due to overuse. In an effort to develop a sustainable integrated pest management program, studies have focused on conservation biological control for generalist predators of these pests, specifically the minute pirate bug, Orius insidiosus Say.

    The addition of non-crop habitat to large, monoculture crops has been shown to aid in the attraction of natural enemies by providing key resources including refuge and alternative food sources such as nectar and pollen. More recently, the biological control concept of "attract and reward" by combining floral resources with herbivore-induced plant volatiles to potentially increase immigration of natural enemies into crops has gained interest. The effects of HIPVs in combination with habitat manipulation on flower thrips and O. insidiosus, however, have not yet been studied in Florida fruiting vegetables.

    This study will highlight the potential for implementing "attract and reward" as part of an integrated pest management program for fruiting vegetables and can provide understanding of the complex relationships among flowering plants, insect pests, and their natural enemies. By improving these systems and emphasizing the use of conservation biological control, insecticides and their associated negative impacts on environmental and human health can be reduced while increasing benefits for growers.

    Results from the study show that companion plant such as Spanish needles and coreopsis decreased significantly the number of thrips, including western flower thrips. In the absence of sex pheromone, the diminution of thrips is mostly located to the row nearby the companion plant. With the sex pheromone, the decrease of thrips was also observed at the 3rd and 6th row. We also tested Methyl salicylate as a potential attractant for natural enemy, but it did not translate to a reduction in thrips density.

    Project objectives:

    Objective 1: Determine if O. insidiosus recruitment and dispersal is increased in pepper fields with "attract and reward" approach combining wildflower hedgerows and semiochemical lures.

    Objective 2: Determine if "attract and reward" can reduce populations of flower thrips in the field.

    Objective 3: Determine effects of "attract and reward" on pepper yield and quality in the field.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.