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Killing them sweetly
They say you can attract more flies with sugar than vinegar.
If that's the case, maybe you can lure sugarbeet root maggot flies with sugarbeet juice—and lace that juice with an insecticide intended entirely for them.
University of Idaho entomologists hope sugarbeet factory diffuser juice—supplemented with a targeted, environmentally "soft" pesticide—will someday "attract-and-kill" the industry's No. 1 insect pest. The sweet juice is the outcome of flushing hot water through finely sliced beets during processing.
Every year, four out of five Idaho sugarbeet fields are treated for sugarbeet root maggot flies. Despite an estimated $4.9 million in chemicals, 5 to 10 percent of the crop is lost to their root-feeding larvae, or maggots.
Extension sugarbeet specialist John Gallian says finding alternative controls is "very important," since the two classes of pesticides currently in use are facing scrutiny by federal regulators. "If we lose these chemicals, we'll be in serious trouble," Gallian says.
In 1999 in Minidoka County, entomologists Ed Bechinski, Sanford Eigenbrode, and Bob Stoltz found that the beet factory diffuser juice attracted more than twice as many sugarbeet root maggot flies as other experimental baits, including sugar water and beet pulp, roots, or tops.
"I think we're onto something here," says Bechinski, "although this something that we may be onto is probably seven or more years from commercial development."