Using generic pheromone lures to expedite identification of aggregation pheromones for the cerambycid beetles Xylotrechus nauticus, Phymatodes lecontei, and Neoclytus modestus modestus

Lawrence M. Hanks, Jocelyn G. Millar, Jardel A. Moreira, James D. Barbour, Emerson S. Lacey, J. Steven McElfresh, F. Ray Reuter, Ann M. Ray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Males of several species of longhorned beetles in the subfamily Cerambycinae produce sex or aggregation pheromones consisting of 2,3-hexanediols and/or hydroxyhexanones. We tested the hypothesis that this diol/hydroxyketone pheromone motif is highly conserved within the subfamily, and the resulting prediction that multiple cerambycine species will be attracted to compounds of this type. We also tested the concept that live traps baited with generic blends of these compounds could be used as a source of live insects from which pheromones could be collected and identified. Traps placed in a mature oak woodland and baited with generic blends of racemic 2-hydroxyhexan-3-one and 3-hydroxyhexan-2-one captured adults of both sexes of three cerambycine species: Xylotrechus nauticus (Mannerheim), Phymatodes lecontei Linsley, and Phymatodes decussatus decussatus (LeConte). Odors collected from male X. nauticus contained a 9:1 ratio of two male-specific compounds, (R)- and (S)-3-hydroxyhexan-2-one. Field trials with synthetic compounds determined that traps baited with (R)-3-hydroxyhexan-2-one (94% ee), alone or in blends with other isomers, attracted similar numbers of X. nauticus of both sexes, whereas (S)-3-hydroxyhexan-2-one (94% ee) attracted significantly fewer beetles. Phymatodes lecontei and P. d. decussatus also were caught in traps baited with hydroxyhexanones, as well as a few specimens of two other cerambycine species, Neoclytus modestus modestus Fall (both sexes) and Brothylus gemmulatus LeConte (only females). Male N. m. modestus produced (R)-3-hydroxyhexan-2-one, which was not present in extracts from females. Neoclytus m. modestus of both sexes also responded to lures that included (R)-3-hydroxyhexan-2-one as one of the components. The only male-specific compound found in extracts from P. lecontei was (R)-2-methylbutan-1-ol, and adults of both sexes were attracted to racemic 2-methylbutan-1-ol in field bioassays. Surprisingly, P. lecontei of both sexes also were attracted to (R)- and (S)-3-hydroxyhexan-2-ones, although neither compound was detected in extracts from this species. Males of all five beetle species had gland pores on their prothoraces that were similar in structure to those that have been associated with volatile pheromone production in other cerambycine species. The attraction of multiple cerambycine species of two tribes to (R)-3-hydroxyhexan-2-one in this study, and in earlier studies with other cerambycine species, suggests that this compound is a widespread aggregation pheromone component in this large and diverse subfamily. Overall, the attraction of multiple species from different cerambycine tribes to this compound at a single field site supports the hypothesis that the hydroxyketone pheromone structural motif is highly conserved within this subfamily.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)889-907
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2007


  • (R)-3-Hydroxyhexan-2-one
  • Aggregation pheromone
  • Cerambycidae
  • Insect communities
  • Sex pheromone
  • Woodborer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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