Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 533–546

Mutual Reproductive Benefits Between a Wild Orchid, Bulbophyllum patens, and Bactrocera Fruit Flies via a Floral Synomone

  • Keng-hong Tan
  • Ritsuo Nishida

DOI: 10.1023/A:1005477926244

Cite this article as:
Tan, K. & Nishida, R. J Chem Ecol (2000) 26: 533. doi:10.1023/A:1005477926244


The solitary flower of Bulbophyllum patens selectively attracts male fruit flies of several Bactrocera species with a specific fragrance in the rain forest of Malaysia. It temporarily traps flies between its hinged see-saw lip and column for pollination. The attractant component is zingerone [4-(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-2-butanone], a pungent essence of ginger. Zingerone has a structure resembling two major fruit fly attractants (methyl eugenol and raspberry ketone) and shows potency to attract a wide range of fruit fly species (B. carambolae, B. caudata, B. cucurbitae, B. tau, and B. umbrosa). A fruit fly visitor is rewarded by feeding on zingerone, and in return it removes the pollinarium and then transfers it to another flower. Males of the melon fly acquire the floral essence and selectively store it in the pheromone gland to attract conspecific females. Males of B. papayae, however, convert zingerone to zingerol in the crop. The latter compound is stored in the rectal gland and subsequently released to attract females. This provides a rare example of a mutualistic interaction between insects and plants via a floral synomone, in which both organisms obtain advantages directly benefiting their reproductive systems.

Bulbophyllum patens Orchidaceae fruit flies Bactrocera zingerone attractant pollination pheromone synomone coevolution 

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Keng-hong Tan
    • 1
  • Ritsuo Nishida
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversiti Sains MalaysiaPenangMalaysia
  2. 2.Laboratory of Chemical Ecology, Graduate School of AgricultureKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan