Leaf extract from Ailanthus altissima negatively impacts life history aspects in Spodoptera frugiperda (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae).
The need for novel pesticides in agriculture continues to increase, and with it, the need to identify novel phytochemicals with inhibitory properties against lepidopteran pest species. The invasive tree species, Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle (Sapindales: Simaroubaceae), has become well established in North America. However, the impact of its secondary metabolites on lepidopteran pests has not been well established. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of water-soluble secondary metabolites from A. altissima on the life-history aspects of the agricultural pest, Spodoptera frugiperda J.E. Smith (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). Laboratory reared S. frugiperda were fed artificial diets with or without water-soluble extract from A. altissima. Extract fed S. frugiperda exhibited delays in time to pupation and emergence in addition to reduced larval and pupal biomass as well as relative growth rates. Reduced food consumption was observed and fewer larvae survived to emergence if fed a diet containing A. altissima extract. Further, these adult moths had reduced biomass and smaller wings compared to larvae fed a control diet. Therefore, we suggest that A. altissima metabolites present in the aqueous extract derived from vegetative tissues have detrimental impacts on life-history aspects of S. frugiperda, and in fact, may represent a source of interesting candidate pesticide metabolites. Further studies will investigate the specific metabolites with feeding deterrent properties present in the water-soluble fraction of A. altissima.