Horticultural farmers fight voracious pest with sex trap

Vegetable and flower farmers are wiping out voracious pests through a unique sex trap that tricks the destructive male diamond moth pest and traps it, reducing cost on the prohibitive conventional pesticides.

This comes at a time when horticultural farmers are struggling accessing the lucrative European market due to allegations of their produce having pesticides residues and heavy metals.

The pest Attractant trap rides on the pests’ biological breeding behavior to trap the male insects and thus eliminating their chances of breeding in future. The trap is part of a wider campaign of fighting pests biologically initiated in the country by Dr. Nikolai Van Beek an insect researcher and head of Kenya Biologics.

The trap is made of three parts; Seromon or lure, Wing trap and a Sticky paper. The Seromon or lure is a substance that produces the scent produced by mature female diamond back moth when they are ready for mating. The scientists who produced the trap have studied the breeding and mating patterns of the insects hence the its’ production.

Joyce Njoroge a scientist at Kenya Biologics explained, “Naturally, female insects produce this scent to alert the male insects that they are on heat. The male insects automatically follow the scent to fulfill their ‘conjugal duty’. However, in this case when the male insects follow the scent into the Attractant, they end up sticking on the sticky paper which has a special type of glue and eventually die.”

The trap is well covered with the wing paper eliminating any chances of it getting spoilt by the rain. According to Joyce, when the male insects are trapped and eliminated, then there are no chances of the insect multiplying to have a future generation because one gender is already eliminated and no more mating chances available.

The trap can be sold in separate parts or as a complete set going for about Sh920. The sticky paper is replaced after losing the intensity of the glue or when many insects have accumulated on it lasting approximately between one to two weeks. Separately, the sticky paper costs about Sh50. The wing trap which is the main structure retails at about Sh580 and depending on one’s handling, it can last for more than two seasons. The lure or seromon’s strong scent can last for about eight weeks and it separately retails at about Sh290.

Farmers can introduce the trap in their farms after three weeks of planting their crops although the best timing depends on individual farmers’ preferences especially the prevalence of the insects in area. In one hectare, Joyce advised that depending on the prevalence of the insects, one may require about 8 to 12 traps. “This is a much cheaper way of pest control compared to the application of the ‘hard’ chemicals pesticides which in most cases may limit a farmer’s access to lucrative international markets which have stricter chemical rules,” explained Joyce.

Although new in the country, the equipment is receiving massive uptake among farmers mainly due to the ease of use, affordability and effectiveness especially among the commercial flower and vegetable farmers like. “Most of our clients like Finleys have known the effectiveness of the traps and given that most of them are producing for the export markets, they are replacing the hard chemicals for spray with the traps because of their easy nature of using as well as enabling them meet the Maximum residue levels.”

According to her, the traps are a sigh of relief not only to the farmers but also to the economy as a whole due to the fact that it boost foreign exchange at a time when the country’s main foreign currency earner tourism has been dealt with a huge blow with the western travel advisories which has seen tourist numbers tumble to their record lows in decades.