By Courtney Lepping
The thought of pesticides brings fear to the minds of many. Synthetic or man-made pesticides may impact ecosystems and the environment. Pressure from the general public and journalists has prompted investigation into other possible harms as well. Luckily, there is hope for greener, more efficient pesticides. Balancing economic, farming and environmental concerns is a challenge, but methyl benzoate may be the solution.
This organic compound can be found in food additives, perfume and preservatives. It is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is considered environmentally friendly. Recently, it potentially was shown to be toxic to a variety of insect pests. Researchers from the Invasive Insect Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory in Maryland investigated pest morality and emergence from blueberries treated with methyl benzoate.
When used at a low concentration of 1% on blueberries, methyl benzoate was toxic to the fruit fly D. suzukii after 12 days. Nymphs of the species H. halys, more commonly known as the stink bug, were affected similarly at concentrations of one to three microliters per vial. Arguably the most important function of the study was to provide a comparison to other commercially available pesticides. Methyl benzoate was significantly more toxic than other organic pesticides to the eggs of three species, H. halys, M. sexta (tobacco hornworm) and P. xylostella (diamondback moth).
Methyl benzoate was most effective at a concentration of 1%. This is more dilute than other pesticides such as the bedbug & flea home insect killer, flower, fruit & vegetable insect killer and organic garden insect killer. In fact, some of the commercially available pesticides did not seem to have a desired effect on the pests in this study.
This new data shows methyl benzoate may be a useful and environmentally friendly pesticide. While more studies are needed to investigate its fate in soil commonly used for farming practices and possible impact on human health, this compound may be a preferable alternative to conventional methods