Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 929–942

Influence of cnicin, a sesquiterpene lactone ofCentaurea maculosa (Asteraceae), on specialist and generalist insect herbivores


  • I. Landau
    • Swiss Federal Research Station
    • Zoological Museum of the University of Zürich
  • H. Müller-Schärer
    • Swiss Federal Research Station
  • P. I. Ward
    • Zoological Museum of the University of Zürich

DOI: 10.1007/BF02059588

Cite this article as:
Landau, I., Müller-Schärer, H. & Ward, P.I. J Chem Ecol (1994) 20: 929. doi:10.1007/BF02059588


The sesquiterpene lactone cnicin was extracted fromCentaurea maculosa andCentaurea vallesiaca. We examined its effects on the ovipositional response and larval development of generalist and specialist insect herbivores associated withC. maculosa. For the oviposition trials, three plant species (C. maculosa, Achillea millefolium, andCichorium intybus), half of which were sprayed with 3% of cnicin, were exposed to the specialist mothsStenodes straminea, Agapeta zoegana, andPterolonche inspersa in field cages. All three species significantly preferredC. maculosa to other plants andP. inspersa significantly preferred cnicin-sprayed plants to untreated plants for oviposition. Tested over all species, cnicin significantly increased the number of eggs laid on a given plant. A larval diet test examined the toxicity of cnicin for larvae of the generalist noctuid mothSpodoptera littoralis. Cnicin concentrations of 3% and 6% were lethal and 1% and 0.5% seriously inhibited growth and development. The larvae of theC. maculosa specialistStenodes straminea survived at 6% cnicin, but none of the pupae hatched.Agapeta zoegana was able to survive at 1% and 3% cnicin. Both specialists had difficulties with the artificial diet, but weight increase and survival was not further reduced when cnicin was present compared with on the control diet. In conclusion, cnicin influenced host recognition by the specialist species, and larvae of the generalist did not survive on natural levels of cnicin. Growth and survival of the specialist were not influenced by cnicin but were considerably hampered on artificial diet.

Key Words

Centaurea maculosa sesquiterpene lactone cnicin host-plant selection oviposition behavior antifeedant attractant Spodoptera littoralis Agapeta zoegana Stenodes straminea Pterolonche inspersa Lepidoptera Noctuidae Cochylidae Pterolonchidae

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1994