Tarsi of Male Heliothine Moths Contain Aldehydes and Butyrate Esters as Potential Pheromone Components

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Choi, Man-Yeon
Ahn, Seung-Joon
Park, Kye-Chung
Vander Meer, Robert
Cardé, Ring
Jurenka, Russell
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The Noctuidae are one of the most speciose moth families and include the genera Helicoverpa and Heliothis. Females use (Z)-11-hexadecenal as the major component of their sex pheromones except for Helicoverpa assulta and Helicoverpa gelotopoeon, both of which utilize (Z)-9-hexadecenal. The minor compounds found in heliothine sex pheromone glands vary with species, but hexadecanal has been found in the pheromone gland of almost all heliothine females so far investigated. In this study, we found a large amount (0.5–1.5 μg) of hexadecanal and octadecanal on the legs of males of four heliothine species, Helicoverpa zea, Helicoverpa armigera, H. assulta, and Heliothis virescens. The hexadecanal was found on and released from the tarsi, and was in much lower levels or not detected on the remaining parts of the leg (tibia, femur, trochanter, and coxa). Lower amounts (0.05–0.5 μg) of hexadecanal were found on female tarsi. This is the first known sex pheromone compound to be identified from the legs of nocturnal moths. Large amounts of butyrate esters (about 16 μg) also were found on tarsi of males with lower amounts on female tarsi. Males deposited the butyrate esters while walking on a glass surface. Decapitation did not reduce the levels of hexadecanal on the tarsi of H. zea males, indicating that hexadecanal production is not under the same neuroendocrine regulation system as the production of female sex pheromone. Based on electroantennogram studies, female antennae had a relatively high response to hexadecanal compared to male antennae. We consider the possible role of aldehydes and butyrate esters as courtship signals in heliothine moths.


This article is published as Choi, Man-Yeon, Seung-Joon Ahn, Kye-Chung Park, Robert Vander Meer, Ring T. Cardé, and Russell Jurenka. "Tarsi of male Heliothine moths contain aldehydes and butyrate esters as potential pheromone components." Journal of chemical ecology 42, no. 5 (2016): 425-432. doi: 10.1007/s10886-016-0701-3.