, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 25–33

Antennal electrophysiological responses of the giant swallowtail butterfly, Papilio cresphontes, to the essential oils of Zanthoxylum clava-herculis and related plants


    • Department of Entomology and Plant PathologyAuburn University
  • Li Chen
    • Department of Entomology and Plant PathologyAuburn University
  • Clement Akotsen-Mensah
    • Department of Entomology and Plant PathologyAuburn University
  • William N. Setzer
    • Department of ChemistryUniversity of Alabama in Huntsville
Research Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00049-009-0039-1

Cite this article as:
Fadamiro, H., Chen, L., Akotsen-Mensah, C. et al. Chemoecology (2010) 20: 25. doi:10.1007/s00049-009-0039-1


We used the electroantennogram (EAG) technique to compare the antennal sensitivity of both sexes of the giant swallowtail butterfly, Papilio cresphontes to four doses (1, 10, 100, and 1,000 μg) of the leaf essential oils of Zanthoxylum clava-herculis and Ptelea trifoliata (key host plants) and Sassafras albidum (a marginal or non-host plant). The main hypothesis tested was that P. cresphontes will show greater olfactory sensitivity to volatiles of the key host plants than to volatiles of the marginal host plant, in particular at low doses. At the lower doses, extract of the key host plant, Z. clava-herculis elicited greater EAG responses in both sexes than extracts of the remaining two plants. At higher doses, however, extracts of P. trifoliata and S. albidum elicited greater EAG responses than extract of Z. clava-herculis. These results partly support our hypothesis and may suggest that Z. clava-herculis is a more preferred host plant of P. cresphontes than P. trifoliata. In general, female butterflies showed greater EAG responses than males to the three plant extracts at the higher doses. Preliminary coupled gas chromatography-electroantennogram (GC-EAD) tests revealed four components each from Z. clava-herculis and P. trifoliata (three peaks common to both extracts) and seven from S. albidum (one shared with Z. clava-herculis) which elicited GC-EAD activity in P. cresphontes females, but the peaks were un-indentified because most were detected in trace amounts. In addition, the chemical composition of the leaf essential oil of Z. clava-herculis was analyzed by GC–MS. The leaf essential oils consisted of 25 components, largely menthane monoterpenoids, dominated by limonene and 1,8-cineole, but neither of the two major components elicited significant GC-EAD response in P. cresphontes. These results are discussed in relation to host-plant selection in P. cresphontes.


Zanthoxylum clava-herculisEssential oil compositionPapilio cresphontesElectroantennogramGC-EADGC–MS

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© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel/Switzerland 2010