Mealybugs, which include several agricultural pests, are small sap feeders covered with a powdery wax. They exhibit clear sexual dimorphism; males are winged but fragile and short lived, whereas females are windless and less mobile. Thus, sex pheromones emitted by females facilitate copulation and reproduction by serving as a key navigation tool for males. Although the structures of the hitherto known mealybug pheromones vary among species, they have a common structural motif; they are carboxylic esters of monoterpene alcohols with irregular non-head-to-tail linkages. However, in the present study, we isolated from the Matsumoto mealybug, Crisicoccus matsumotoi (Siraiwa), a pheromone with a completely different structure. Using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, we identified the pheromone as 3-methyl-3-butenyl 5-methylhexanoate. Its attractiveness to males was confirmed in a series of field trapping experiments involving comparison between the isolated natural product and a synthetic sample. This is the first report of a hemiterpene mealybug pheromone. In addition, the acid moiety (5-methylhexanoate) appears to be rare in insect pheromones.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics