, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 171–174 | Cite as

Cantharidin production in a blister beetle

  • J. E. Carrel
  • M. H. McCairel
  • A. J. Slagle
  • J. P. Doom
  • J. Brill
  • J. P. McCormick
Research Articles


Cantharidin, a potent defensive chemical, is present in all ten life stages of the blister beetleEpicauta funebris. The first five larval stages accumulate cantharidin as they feed and grow in size. When disturbed, they exude cantharidin in a milky oral fluid, not in hemolymph which adult beetles reflexively discharge from leg joints. Two subsequent larval stages and the pupa do not feed, grow, regurgitate, or change in their defensive reserves (110 μg cantharidin/insect, regardless of sex). Adult beetles kept in isolation for 60–90 d exhibit a pronounced sexual dimorphism in cantharidin production: the male biosynthesizes about 17 mg of the toxin, representing 10% of his live weight, whereas the female actually loses most of her defensive reserves. But in the wild a female beetle repeatedly acquires cantharidin as copulatory gifts from her mates.

Key words

Coleoptera Meloidae Epicauta funebris chemical defense biosynthesis terpenoid 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    McCormick, J. P., and Carrel, J. E., in: Pheromone Biochemistry, p. 307. Eds G. D. Prestwich and G. J. Blomquist. Academic Press, Orlando 1987.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    McCormick, J. P., and Carrel, J. E., in: Biosynthesis and Metabolism of Secondary-Metabolite Natural Products, in press. Ed. R. Petroski, Plenum Press, New York 1992.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Schlatter, C. Waldner, E. E., and Schmid, H., Experientia24 (1968) 994; Meyer, D., Schlatter, C., Schlatter-Lang, I., Schmid, H., and Bovey, P., Experientia24 (1968) 955; Sierra, J. R., Woggon, W.-D., and Schmid, H., Experientia32 (1976) 142; Peter, M. G., Thesis, University Zürich 1973.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Pinto, J. D., Univ. Calif. Publs Ent.110 (1991) 186.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Berrios-Ortiz, A., Selander, R. B., J. Kans. ent. Soc.45 (1972) 377; McCairel, M. H., Thesis, University Missouri-Columbia 1988.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Carrel, J. E., Doom, J. P., and McCormick, J. P., J. Chromat. biomed. Appl.343 (1985) 411. Sensitivity was better than 0.25 μg cantharidin per sample.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Chippendale, G. M., and Cassatt, K., in: Handbook of Insect Rearing. p. 257. Eds P. Singh and R. F. Moore. Elsevier, Amsterdam 1985.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Carrel, J. E., Wood, J. M., Yang, Z., McCairel, M. H., and Hindman, E. E., Envir. Ent.19 (1990) 1283.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Carrel, J. E., and Eisner, T., Science183 (1974) 755; Carrel, J. E., Thesis, Cornell University 1971.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    Eisner, T., Johnessee, J. S., Carrel, J. E., Hendry, L. B., and Meinwald, J., Science184 (1974) 996; Morrow, P. A., Bellas, T. E., and Eisner, T., Oecologia24 (1976) 193.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    Blodgett, S. L., Carrel, J. E., and Higgins, R. A., Envir. Ent.20 (1991) 776.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Carrel, J. E., Eisner, T., and McCormick, J. P., in preparation (1992).Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    Gulmon, S. L., and Mooney, H. A., in: On the Economy of Plant Form and Function, p. 681. Ed. T. J. Givnish. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1986; Fagerström, T., Larsson, S., and Tenow, O., Funct. Ecol.1 (1987) 73, Fagerström, T., Am. Nat.133 (1989) 281.Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    Duffey, S. S., A. Rev. Ent.25 (1980) 447; Cohen, J. A., J. chem. Ecol.11 (1985) 85; Rowell-Rahier, M., and Pasteels, J. M., J. chem. Ecol.12 (1986) 1189; Scudder, G. G. E., Moore, L. V., and Isman, M. B., J. chem. Ecol.12 (1986) 1171; Bowers, M. D., and Collinge, S. K., J. chem. Ecol.18 (1992) 817.Google Scholar
  15. 16.
    McLain, D. K., Am. Midl. Nat.107 (1982) 396; Snead, J. S., and Alcock, J., Evolution39 (1985) 1123; Pinto, J. D. and Mayor, A. J., Ann. ent. Soc. Am.79 (1986) 597; Alcock, J., and Hadley, N. F., J. Kans. ent. Soc.60 (1987) 41; Brown, W. L., Anim. Behav.40 (1990) 901.Google Scholar
  16. 17.
    Carrel, J. E., Breden, F., Carson, S., and Briesacher, S. L., in preparation (1992).Google Scholar
  17. 18.
    SAS Institute Inc., SAS User's Guide: Basics, 3rd Edn., p. 55. SAS Institute Inc., Cary, N. C. USA 1985; SAS Institute Inc., SAS User's Guide: Statistics, Version 5 Edition, p. 117. SAS Institute Inc., Cary, N. C. USA 1988.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. E. Carrel
    • 1
  • M. H. McCairel
    • 1
  • A. J. Slagle
    • 1
  • J. P. Doom
    • 1
  • J. Brill
    • 1
  • J. P. McCormick
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Biological Sciences and Department of ChemistryUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

Personalised recommendations