Plant Evolved Crop Protection and Insect Control

Case ID: 01116



    Plants have evolved natural pesticides over millennia. Use of such naturally occurring insecticides provides a safe and cost-effective alternative to synthetics.  The inventor has identified a readily available natural product that is very effective at controlling thrips, a major crop pest.  Insecticide spending on thrips alone is expected to reach $418 million in the US by 2020.  This natural product is also effective at controlling a range of insects and crop pests.



    Plants have developed natural defenses against insect pathogens over millions of years.  Most people have heard of the use of essential oils such as orange oil or citronella as insect repellents.  The principle components

of essential oils are monoterpenes, which include such familiar substances as menthol and camphor.  These are EPA exempt naturally occurring insecticides.

    While the chemical composition and insecticidal properties of many essential oils are known, the effectiveness of individual terpenoids, against specific insect pests, remains very species specific.  Dr. Qing X. Li has been investigating the biological mechanisms responsible for these insecticidal activities and has identified the most potent terpenoids useful for controlling a variety of insects and crop pest such as thrips (order Thysanoptera). 

    Many thrips are pests of commercial crops due to the damage caused by feeding on developing flowers or vegetables.  Thrips also serve as vectors for plant diseases, such as tospoviruses; over 20 plant-infecting viruses are known to be transmitted by thrips.





    Monoterpenoid insecticides are 100% safe, EPA exempt, and are every bit as effective as synthetic chemicals, killing insects fast without any toxins.  Many of these terpenes block octopamine neuroreceptors; octopamine is a key insect neurotransmitter that regulates insect movement, behavior and metabolism.  Blockage of the receptor prevents the transmission of signals and delivers quick knock down, kill, and repellency against a wide variety of insect pathogens.  These terpenes, coming from renewable resources, are inexpensive, readily available, are 100% safe, and kill/repel insects quickly without leaving harmful residues.


Market Description

     Thrips are among the fastest growing group of invasive species in the world. Examples include the Frankliniella occidentalis, Scirtothrips dorsalis, and Thrips palmi.  Thrips develop resistance to pesticides easily and there is constant research on how to control them.  This makes thrips ideal as models for testing the effectiveness of new pesticides and methods.  The global pesticide market is valued at over $7 billion dollars and the estimated US spending on insecticides against thrips alone is expected to reach $418 million by 2020.  Worldwide, crop damage from thrips tospoviruses was estimated to cost over $1 billion in 1994 (


Patent Status
    Patent pending.


Related Publications

    1) Zhang, Z., et al. Industrial Crops and Products 2016, 81, 147-151.

    2) Li, H.Y.; et al. J. Food Protection 2015, 78(10), 1870-1874.

    3) Cannon, R.J., et al. Crop Protection 2007, 26(8), 1089-1098.


 *By Rob Hille - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Patent Information:
Qing Xiao Li
Yongmei Fan
Hao Peng

For information, contact:
Ann Park
Technology Licensing Associate
University of Hawaii
(808) 956-9929

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