Synthetic insecticides applied to control Spodoptera frugiperda (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) can have negative impacts on environment and human health. Botanical essential oils can be sources of organic molecules with biocontrol potential and advantages, such as minor impacts on the selection of resistant pest insects and low toxicity to humans. The aim of this study was to investigate the biocontrol action of essential oils from Brazilian species and methyl chavicol compounds on the development and metabolism of S. frugiperda. Essential oils of Eremanthus erythropappus (Asteraceae), Ocimum selloi, Hyptis suaveolens, and Hyptis marrubioides (Lamiaceae) were distilled by the steam distillation method and analyzed by gas chromatograph techniques. The essential oils were incorporated into an artificial diet (at 1, 2, and 4 mg mL-1) and offered to S. frugiperda caterpillars. Larvae of S. frugiperda at 48 h of age were fed an artificial diet containing the major constituent of O. selloi (methyl chavicol). The major compounds of the essential oils were methyl chavicol for O. selloi, α-bisabolol for E. erythropappus, bicyclogermacrene for H. suaveolens, and β-thujone for H. marrubioides. O. selloi caused 100% mortality in S. frugiperda larvae at a concentration of 1 mg mL-1 after 48 h. H. marrubioides essential oil caused 100% mortality in larvae at a concentration of 4 mg mL-1 after 48 h. O. selloi and H. marrubioides inhibited acetylcholinesterase (AchE) activity in 72.87% and 81.69% of larvae, respectively. O. selloi presented the highest toxicity to S. frugiperda and the lowest inhibition of AchE. Methyl chavicol was lethal to all larvae within 24 h at a concentration of 0.92 mg mL-1 of diet. Methyl chavicol showed the best insecticidal activity and potential to be used as a natural insecticide to control S. frugiperda.
Keywords: Acetylcholinesterase inhibition; Aromatic plants; Caterpillar; Essential oil; Natural insecticide; Zea mays.