Environmental Chemistry Letters

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 325–347 | Cite as

Insecticidal and antifungal chemicals produced by plants: a review

  • Isabelle BoulogneEmail author
  • Philippe Petit
  • Harry Ozier-Lafontaine
  • Lucienne Desfontaines
  • Gladys Loranger-Merciris


Leaf-cutting ants of the Attini tribe are a major pest of agricultural and forestry productions in the New World. Economic losses caused by these ants were estimated at several million dollars per year. These ants need to live in symbiosis with a basidiomycete fungus. Due to their mutualistic interaction with the symbiotic fungus, management of Attini ants can be done with insecticides or fungicides or both. So far, synthetic pesticides were the main control means, albeit with negative effects on the environment. Very few studies describe alternative methods for the control of leaf-cutting ants such as the use of insecticidal and fungicidal plant extracts. There is therefore a need of knowledge on phytochemicals and plants that could be used as insecticides and fungicides. Here, we review chemicals of plant origin and species with insecticidal and fungicidal activities. We establish a list of plants and phytochemicals that could manage leaf-cutting ants and also other insects, notably insects that use fungus-based agriculture. An exhaustive literature search of 1965 references from 1923 to 2010 was conducted using scientific databases, chemical databases, botanical databases, and books to identify published papers related to insecticidal and fungicidal chemical compounds stemmed from plant species. The major points are the following: (1) 119 and 284 chemicals have been cited in the literature for their insecticidal and fungicidal activities, respectively; (2) 656 and 1,064 plant species have significant insecticidal and fungicidal activities, respectively; (3) 3 main chemical classes were most cited for these activities: alkaloids, phenolics, and terpenoids; (4) 20 interesting chemicals with the both insecticidal and fungicidal activities were found; and (5) 305 plant species containing these chemicals were cited. To conclude, 20 chemicals: caryophyllene oxide, cinnamaldehyde, eugenol, helenalin, linalool, menthone, myristicin, pulegone, thymol, anethole, anisaldehyde, elemicin, isopimpinellin, plumbagin, podophyllotoxin, psoralen, xanthotoxin, anonaine, solamargine, and tomatine; two main plant families, Lamiaceae and Apiaceae; and 17 species of these families were particularly interesting for the management of leaf-cutting ants.


Insecticide Fungicide Plants phytochemicals Natural pesticides Attini ants Integrated pest management Environmental chemistry Green chemistry 



The authors thank CEREGMIA and its director Fred Celimène for the financial support to I. Boulogne. Special thanks to Patrice Champoiseau for his suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Isabelle Boulogne
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Philippe Petit
    • 3
  • Harry Ozier-Lafontaine
    • 2
  • Lucienne Desfontaines
    • 2
  • Gladys Loranger-Merciris
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Université des Antilles et de la Guyane, UFR Sciences Exactes et NaturellesPointe-à-Pitre CedexFrance
  2. 2.INRA, UR1321, ASTRO Agrosystèmes TropicauxPetit-BourgFrance
  3. 3.UMR QUALITROP, Université des Antilles et de la Guyane, UFR Sciences Exactes et NaturellesPointe-à-Pitre CedexFrance

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