Understanding How Certain Beetles Use Scent to Find Each Other

Greg Howard
7th June, 2024

Understanding How Certain Beetles Use Scent to Find Each Other

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study focused on the burnt pine longhorn beetle, Arhopalus ferus, in New Zealand
  • Researchers identified that male A. ferus emit (E)-fuscumol and geranylacetone, which are key pheromones
  • Traps baited with geranylacetone and fuscumol captured significantly more female beetles than unbaited traps
Cerambycid beetles, particularly those in the Spondylidinae subfamily, are known for their ability to infest conifers and cause significant ecological and economic damage. New Zealand faces a particular threat from Arhopalus ferus, commonly known as the burnt pine longhorn beetle. This invasive species necessitates meticulous monitoring, especially in high-risk areas such as ports, airports, and sawmills, to comply with pine log export standards set by the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI)[1]. Traditional surveillance methods have relied on traps baited with host volatiles like ethanol and α-pinene, but recent research from Scion has sought to improve these methods by identifying specific pheromones emitted by A. ferus and their effects on beetle behavior. The study employed a combination of volatile collections from adult beetles, electroantennograms (which measure the electrical response of an insect's antennae to odorants), and field trapping bioassays to identify the pheromones emitted by A. ferus. The researchers discovered that male A. ferus primarily emit (E)-fuscumol and geranylacetone, with minor components including α-terpinene and p-mentha-1,3,8-triene. All four compounds elicited a dose-dependent response in the antennae of both sexes, indicating their potential role in beetle communication and behavior. Field experiments revealed that traps baited with a combination of geranylacetone and fuscumol captured significantly more female A. ferus than unbaited traps in two out of three trials. This suggests that these compounds could be effectively used to enhance the monitoring and management of A. ferus populations in New Zealand and potentially other regions. This study builds on previous research into pheromones and trapping methods for cerambycid beetles. For instance, earlier studies have shown that treating traps with aerosol lubricants such as Teflon and silicone can increase capture efficiency for various forest insects, including large woodborers like Monochamus spp. and bark beetles[2]. The findings from the Scion study could potentially be enhanced by incorporating these lubricants to further improve trap efficacy for A. ferus. Additionally, the identification of specific pheromones aligns with previous work on other cerambycid species. For example, monochamol has been identified as a male-produced pheromone for several Monochamus species, and it has been shown to attract both males and females in field assays[3]. Similarly, p-mentha-1,3-dien-8-ol has been identified as an aggregation-sex pheromone for Paranoplium gracile, attracting both sexes in field experiments[4]. These studies highlight the importance of identifying and utilizing specific pheromones to improve pest management strategies. The Scion study's identification of (E)-fuscumol and geranylacetone as key pheromones for A. ferus not only provides a more targeted approach for monitoring this invasive species but also contributes to the broader understanding of pheromone use in cerambycid beetle management. By deploying traps baited with these specific compounds, it may be possible to more effectively monitor and control A. ferus populations, thereby mitigating their impact on New Zealand's coniferous forests and related industries. In conclusion, the research conducted by Scion offers a promising advancement in the surveillance and management of the burnt pine longhorn beetle. By identifying and utilizing specific pheromones, this study provides a more efficient and targeted approach to monitoring A. ferus, potentially improving the efficacy of pest management practices in New Zealand and beyond. The integration of these findings with previous research on pheromones and trap enhancements could further optimize control strategies for this and other invasive cerambycid species.

EnvironmentBiochemAnimal Science


Main Study

1) Exploring the Nature of Arhopalus ferus (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae: Spondylidinae) Pheromone Attraction

Published 6th June, 2024


Related Studies

2) Effect of aerosol surface lubricants on the abundance and richness of selected forest insects captured in multiple-funnel and panel traps.

Journal: Journal of economic entomology, Issue: Vol 104, Issue 4, Aug 2011

3) Response of the woodborers Monochamus carolinensis and Monochamus titillator (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae) to known cerambycid pheromones in the presence and absence of the host plant volatile α-pinene.


4) An Unstable Monoterpene Alcohol as a Pheromone Component of the Longhorned Beetle Paranoplium gracile (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae).


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