Extracts from three species of the plant family Piperaceae, Piper nigrum [L.], Piper guineense [Schum & Thonn], and Piper tuberculatum [Jacq.], were tested for efficacy against insects from five orders. All three species contain isobutyl amides, plant secondary compounds that act as neurotoxins in insects. These materials are considered safe to mammals because Piper spp. were used for centuries for spice and medicinal purposes. When 24-h P. nigrum LC50 values were compared between common insect pests from eastern Canada and the northeastern United States, the most sensitive species in order of increasing lethal concentration were eastern tent caterpillar, Malacosoma americanum (F.) < European pine sawfly larvae, Neodiprion sertifer (Geoffroy) < spindle ermine moth larvae, Yponomeuta cagnagella [Hübner] < viburnum leaf beetle larvae, Pyrrhalta viburni [Paykull] < stripped cucumber beetle adults, Acalymma vittatum (F.) < Colorado potato beetle adults, Leptinotarsa decemlineata (Say) < Japanese beetle adults, Popillia japonica [Newman] < hairy chinch bug, Blissus leucopterus hirtis [Montandon]. The life stage tested was the point at which each species causes the greatest amount of damage to the host plant and the point at which most gardeners would likely choose to treat with a conventional synthetic insecticide. Greenhouse trials revealed that the pepper formulations also had a repellent activity, thus protecting plant leaves from 1) herbivory (lily leaf beetle, Lilioceris lilii [Scopoli], adults and larvae and stripped cucumber beetle adults) and 2) oviposition [European corn borer, Ostrinia nubilalis (Hübner)]. Combinations with other botanical extracts were additive at best in toxicity and repellent trials. Nontarget toxicity to beneficial invertebrates is a possibility because the P. nigrum LC50 for beneficial ladybird beetles was 0.2%. P. nigrum extracts can provide a reasonable level of control against lepidopteran and European pine sawfly larvae and also will work as a short-term repellent and feeding deterrent. It is recommended that the use of Piper extracts be restricted to small-scale spot treatments in residential areas where insect pest outbreaks have occurred.
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Vol. 97 • No. 4