Anti-aphrodisiac compounds of male butterflies increase the risk of egg parasitoid attack by inducing plant synomone production

N.E. Fatouros, F.G. Pashalidou, W.V. Aponte Cordero, J.J.A. van Loon, R. Mumm, M. Dicke, M. Hilker, M.E. Huigens

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37 Citations (Scopus)


During mating in many butterfly species, males transfer spermatophores that contain anti-aphrodisiacs to females that repel conspecific males. For example, males of the large cabbage white, Pieris brassicae (Lepidoptera: Pieridae), transfer the anti-aphrodisiac, benzyl cyanide (BC) to females. Accessory reproductive gland (ARG) secretion of a mated female P. brassicae that is deposited with an egg clutch contains traces of BC, inducing Brussels sprouts plants (Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera) to arrest certain Trichogramma egg parasitoids. Here, we assessed whether deposition of one egg at a time by the closely related small cabbage white, Pieris rapae, induced B. oleracea var. gemmifera to arrest Trichogramma wasps, and whether this plant synomone is triggered by substances originating from male P. rapae seminal fluid. We showed that plants induced by singly laid eggs of P. rapae arrest T. brassicae wasps three days after butterfly egg deposition. Elicitor activity was present in ARG secretion of mated female butterflies, whereas the secretion of virgin females was inactive. Pieris rapae used a mixture of methyl salicylate (MeSA) and indole as an anti-aphrodisiac. We detected traces of both anti-aphrodisiacal compounds in the ARG secretion of mated female P. rapae, whereas indole was lacking in the secretion of virgin female P. rapae. When applied onto the leaf, indole induced changes in the foliar chemistry that arrested T. brassicae wasps. This study shows that compounds of male seminal fluid incur possible fitness costs for Pieris butterflies by indirectly promoting egg parasitoid attack
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1373-1381
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • pieris-rapae
  • methyl salicylate
  • predatory mite
  • defense responses
  • pinus-sylvestris
  • cabbage white
  • host location
  • insect
  • volatiles
  • oviposition


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