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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Sustainable Pest Management Strategies for Arid-land Crops

Location: Pest Management and Biocontrol Research

Title: Female attractiveness modulated by a male-derived antiaphrodisiac pheromone in a plant bug

Authors
item Brent, Colin
item Byers, John

Submitted to: Animal Behaviour
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: July 21, 2011
Publication Date: August 27, 2011
Repository URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003347211003514
Citation: Brent, C.S., Byers, J.A. (2011). Female attractiveness modulated by a male-derived antiaphrodisiac pheromone in a plant bug. Animal Behaviour, 82:937-943.

Interpretive Summary: Males of the plant bug Lygus hesperus, a major crop pest, prefer to court virgins over recently mated females. Because males provide females with more than just sperm in their seminal fluids, we investigated whether they transferred an odorant that rendered females less attractive. We found that external application of male seminal products made virgin females less acceptable as potential mates. Further analysis indicated that the males were producing and transferring the fatty molecule myristyl acetate. We hypothesized that myristyl acetate has a repellent effect on L. hesperus males seeking an appropriate mate. Using a synthetic version of this compound, we found that it was as effective as the male seminal fluid reducing the attractiveness of virgin females. We also found that myristyl acetate was also being used in the sister species L. elisus and L. lineolaris, which are also major pests. Collectively these results indicate that Lygus males use myristyl acetate as an antiaphrodisiac to prevent females from mating with other males and that usage of the compound may be widespread among Lygus bug species. This finding will facilitate the development of new approaches to controlling the growth of Lygus populations.

Technical Abstract: Males of the plant bug Lygus hesperus, a major crop pest, prefer to court virgins over recently mated females. Because males deliver a large spermatophore mass to the females during copulation that contains more than just sperm, we investigated whether they transferred an odorant molecule rendering females less attractive. We found that topical application of homogenates of the spermatophore or the male accessory glands (AG) from which this mass is derived, both made virgin females less acceptable as potential mates. Additionally, we found that the fatty molecule myristyl acetate occurs in male accessory glands, is absent in virgin females, but is present in the seminal receptacles of mated females. The same distribution of myristyl acetate was also found in L. elisus and L. lineolaris. We hypothesized that myristyl acetate has a repellent effect on L. hesperus males seeking an appropriate mate. Using topically applied synthetic myristyl acetate at biological concentrations, we found that it was as effective as the AG homogenate at reducing the attractiveness of virgin females. Collectively these results indicate that males use myristyl acetate as a seminally transferred antiaphrodisiac for passive mate guarding, and usage of the compound may be widespread among Lygus bug species.

Last Modified: 7/28/2014
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