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What Are Proinsecticides?

Raymond A. Cloyd
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Pesticides—in this case, insecticides and miticides—are commonly used in greenhouse production systems to manage insect and mite pest populations below plant damaging levels. However, a number of pesticides aren’t active on the target insect or mite pest unless they’re activated by metabolic enzymes or converted into active forms.

These pesticides are called proinsecticides. A proinsecticide is a compound that’s inactive in the original form, but is converted into an active form by a plant or target insect or mite pest. Proinsecticides are metabolically activated or converted into active forms by two processes: oxidation by the enzyme cytochrome P450 or hydrolysis by enzymes such as esterases or amidases.

Pictured: Examples of pesticide products that are considered proinsecticides.

Proinsecticides may not reduce insect or mite pest populations immediately because the time required to activate a proinsecticide may result in a delay in killing insect or mite pests. (Table 1 lists the proinsecticides used in greenhouse production systems.)

Some insecticides can be converted from a compound with minimal systemic activity into a compound that has a high level of systemic activity. For example, spirotetramat is converted into spirotetramat-enol, which is more systemically active, moving both upward (in the xylem or water-conducting tissues) and downward (in the phloem or food-
conducting tissues) in the plant.

So, in conclusion, greenhouse producers should be aware of those pesticides that are proinsecticides to better understand their activity on insect and mite pests. GT 

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Raymond A. Cloyd is a Professor and Extension Specialist in Horticultural Entomology/Plant Protection at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. He can be reached at (785) 532-4750 or

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