Thanks to their dedication to the war effort and supported by a number of national competitive grants, Way and Reagan’s work is paying off. By researching the borers and discovering the particulars of their biology, ecology, life cycle, habits and mode of operation, the two entomologists are getting a handle on the best way to fight them.

“It’s not a simple fight,” Way says. “When the moth lays eggs on a plant and they hatch, in some instances there is a window of 24 hours or less before the larvae bore into the stalk and become protected from chemical treatment, so a much broader strategy had to be developed to be effective.”

That strategy involves knowing precisely when a field becomes a breeding ground, which can only be accomplished using a comprehensive pheromone trap assisted program.

“The fight against these borers doesn’t stop here. We have developed a good program involving cultural controls, insecticidal tools, trapping and observation, and development of resistant cultivars, and I think we are on the right road to help minimize the risks of MRB damages in commercial crops,” adds Way.

Another interesting tool the researchers used to fight the pests involved a study to assess the effect predation by the red imported fire ant has on MRB injury to sugarcane. These natural predators are proving very effective in controlling borer populations in the field. Also, novaluron, a chitin synthesis inhibitor, has proven successful in treatment of MRB in sugarcane, and another biorational insecticide, tebufenozide, has provided promising results.

According to Way and Reagan’s site visit report, during ten years of collaboration, the project has been responsible for identifying resistant varieties, developing sampling approaches to monitor infestations and quantify pest populations, and evaluating and helping label environmentally friendly insecticides.

“With colleagues, we have studied numerous plant/insect interactions involving crop and non-crop host preferences, and better defined the role of plant stress impacted by cultural practices, salt, water and nutrients,” the entomologists write in their report.

According to the report, with recently labeled insecticides having four different modes of action -- (Confirm, Diamond, Coragen/ Belt, Besiege), the potential for insecticide resistance is reduced. In rice, a newly developed seed treatment, Dermacor X-100, impacts stem borer management in addition to pyrethroid foliar applications.

“What started as a reactive approach to a developing problem has become a better planned fight against what we now know is a growing problem,” adds Reagan, and this, he says, is what has given the entomological warriors an advantage in their war on boring insects of the Gulf Coast region.