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Study of the potential of some plant species and natural and synthetic products for the control of leaf-cutter ants


Leaf-cutting ants belonging to the genera atta and acromyrmex are widely distributed in the new world and have been considered to be among the most destructive herbivores in the area, causing damage to the agriculture, cattle-raising and mainly to reforesting programs. The control of leaf-cutting ants had been in the near past by organochloride and organophosphorus insecticides. However, due to the restriction of the use these insecticides, there has been a need for the search of new alternatives in the control of ants. Based on popular information, especially of farmers, who use plants to control leaf-cutting ants we have been working on some selected plants such as sesamum indicum, ricinus communis, canavalia ensiformis, ipomoea batatas and virola sebifera, in order to identify their active compounds against the ants. These compounds may become a potential specific natural insecticide for leaf-cutting ants and/or a fungicide to their symbiotic fungus. The isolation of the active compounds has been carried out by using laboratory bioassays associated with chromatographic methods. Several active compounds have been isolated and identified by spectroscopic analysis. We have also worked in the structural modification of these compounds to get synthetic analogs with stronger activity. The next step on our work will be the field assays to check the results we have obtained in the laboratory. (AU)

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