Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 1235-1243

First online:

Aggressive Chemical Mimicry by the Bolas Spider Mastophora hutchinsoni: Identification and Quantification of a Major Prey's Sex Pheromone Components in the Spider's Volatile Emissions

  • César GemenoAffiliated withDepartment of Entomology, University of Kentucky
  • , Kenneth V. YearganAffiliated withDepartment of Entomology, University of Kentucky
  • , Kenneth F. HaynesAffiliated withDepartment of Entomology, University of Kentucky

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The adult female bolas spider Mastophora hutchinsoni feeds exclusively on attracted males of a few moth species. This exclusivity and the behavior of the approaching moths suggest that the spider aggressively mimics the sex pheromones of its prey species. Males of the bristly cutworm, Lacinipolia renigera, are a major prey of this spider, accounting for about two thirds of the biomass of prey consumed. Female bristly cutworms produce a pheromone blend consisting of (Z)-9-tetradecenyl acetate (Z9–14 : Ac) and (Z,E)-9,12-tetradecenyl acetate (ZE-9,12–14 : Ac). To determine if M. hutchinsoni females mimic the sex pheromone components and blend ratio of L. renigera, we collected volatiles from hunting adult female spiders and analyzed them with gas chromatography–electroantennographic detection (GC-EAD) and gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS). GC-EAD analysis of volatile collections, using a male bristly cutworm antenna as the detector and two capillary columns of different polarities, revealed the presence of peaks with retention times (R ts) identical to Z9–14 : Ac and ZE-9,12– 14 : Ac. The mass spectrum of a peak with R t of Z9–14 : Ac was identical to the mass spectrum of the synthetic equivalent. There was an insufficient quantity of the compound with R t of ZE-9,12–14 : Ac to get a full spectrum, but selective detection of ions at m/z 61 and 192 at the correct R t supported the identification. On average, the blend collected from spiders contained 54.8 ± 20.8 (SE) pg/min of Z9–14 : Ac and 2.5 ± 1.7 (SE) pg/min of ZE-9,12–14 : Ac. The latter, on average, comprised 2.6 ± 0.7% of the total, which is similar to the blend ratio emitted by bristly cutworm females. Our results indicate that the adult female M. hutchinsoni produces an allomone blend that mimics not only the composition, but also the blend ratio, of the sex pheromone of a major prey species.

Insect pheromones pheromone emission aggressive chemical mimicry predation allomone Araneae Araneidae Lepidoptera Noctuidae