Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 949–972

Male sex pheromone of a giant danaine butterfly,Idea leuconoe


  • R. Nishida
    • Pesticide Research InstituteKyoto University
  • S. Schulz
    • Institut für Organische ChemieUniversität Hamburg
  • C. S. Kim
    • Department of Bioresources Science, Faculty of AgricultureKochi University
  • H. Fukami
    • Faculty of Sciences and EngineeringRitsumeikan University
  • Y. Kuwahara
    • Pesticide Research InstituteKyoto University
  • K. Honda
    • Faculty of Integrated Arts and SciencesHiroshima University
  • N. Hayashi
    • Faculty of Integrated Arts and SciencesHiroshima University

DOI: 10.1007/BF02029947

Cite this article as:
Nishida, R., Schulz, S., Kim, C.S. et al. J Chem Ecol (1996) 22: 949. doi:10.1007/BF02029947


Males of a giant danaine butterfly,Idea leuconoe, display hairpencils during courtship. The females were visually attracted to and olfactorily arrested by an artificial butterfly model to which male hairpencil extracts were added. The hairpencil extracts contained a complex mixture of volatiles, including pyrrolizidine alkaloid (PA) derivatives (danaidone, viridifloric β-lactone), aromatics (phenol,p-cresol, benzoic acid), terpenoids (geranyl methyl thioether, (E,E)-farnesol), a series of γ-lactones (6-hydroxy-4-undecanolides and its homologs), hydrocarbons [(Z)-9-tricosene, etc.], and several compounds with higher molecular weight. A mixture of the major volatiles applied to a butterfly dummy strongly elicited an abdomen-curling acceptance posture in females. Viridifloric β-lactone and danaidone induced significant electroantennogram responses on the female's antennae, suggesting their principal role together with other hairpencil components as a sex pheromone to seduce females.I. leuconoe males seem to acquire the precursor for both of the PA fragments from the host plant,Parsonsia laevigata (Apocynaceae), during the larval stage; thereby they do not show pharmacophagous behavior towards PA-containing plants during the adult stage. However, males are pharmacophagously attracted to and feed on a number of simple phenolic compounds in a manner similar to other danaine species towards PAs. Wild males sequester one of the phagostimulants, (−)-mellein, in the hairpencils in varying quantities. Phenolic compounds incorporated in the hairpencils may act primarily as warning odors linked with the defensive PAs present in the body tissues.

Key Words

LepidopteraDanainaeIdea leuconoehairpencilpheromoneParsonsia laevigatapyrrolizidine alkaloidmelleindefense
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© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1996