Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 65, Issue 1, pp 95–101 | Cite as

Heptyl butyrate, a putative pheromone involved in social communication of Vespula germanica wasps

  • Micaela Buteler
  • Patricia Fernandez
  • Teodoro Stadler
  • David K. Weaver
  • Belen Yossen
  • Mariana Lozada
Research Article


Greater knowledge on the social communication of invasive Vespula germanica wasps is needed to fully understand their foraging behavior. This is particularly valuable considering that poison baiting is currently the only effective way of reducing wasp density. Heptyl butyrate is an attractant for many wasp species, but attempts to determine effects on V. germanica have yielded mixed results. We studied the behavior elicited by heptyl butyrate on V. germanica wasps in field experiments with foraging wasps. We also analyzed headspace volatiles of live V. germanica workers, to determine if heptyl butyrate is emitted. Heptyl butyrate was present in the headspace of live workers. Amounts of heptyl butyrate averaged 1.4 ± 0.2 ng per sample per hour, where each sample included six workers. Wasps approaching filter papers treated with different concentrations of heptyl butyrate hovered over it, but only a small percentage landed on it. Pure heptyl butyrate elicited the greatest response although all the concentrations tested were attractive. When heptyl butyrate was applied to protein baits, a greater number landed on the treated baits than on untreated ones, demonstrating this compound enhances attractiveness of baits. Results from our study suggest that heptyl butyrate is a pheromonal compound involved in attracting conspecifics to food resources, but other cues are needed to trigger landing.


Attractant Recruitment Semiochemical Social insects Yellowjackets Heptyl butanoate 



We thank Dr. Rikard Unelius for valuable comments that enriched the manuscript.


  1. Akre RD (1982) Social wasps. In: Hermann HR (ed) Social insects. Academic Press, New York, pp 1–105Google Scholar
  2. Bacandritsos N, Papanastasiou I, Saitanis C, Roinioti E (2006) Three non-toxic insect traps useful in trapping wasps enemies of honey bees. B Insectol 59:135–145Google Scholar
  3. Bachmann GE, Segura DF, Devescovi F, Juarez ML, Ruiz MJ, Vera MT, Cladera JL, Teal PEA, Fernandez PC (2015) Male sexual behavior and pheromone emission is enhanced by exposure to guava fruit volatiles in Anastrepha fraterculus. PLoS ONE 10:1–17Google Scholar
  4. Beggs JR, Brockerhoff EG, Corley JC, Kenis M, Masciocchi M, Muller F, Rome Q, Villemant C (2011) Ecological effects and management of invasive alien Vespidae. Biocontrol 56:505–526CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beggs JR, Toft RJ, Malham JP, Rees JS, Tilley JA V, Moller H, Alspach P (1998) The difficulty of reducing introduced wasp (Vespula vulgaris) populations for conservation gains. New Zealand J Ecol 22:56–63Google Scholar
  6. Brown RL, El-Sayed AM, Unelius CR, Suckling DM (2014) Attraction of the invasive social wasp, Vespula vulgaris, by volatiles from fermented brown sugar. Entomol Exp Appl 151:182–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brown RL, El-Sayed AM, Unelius CR, Beggs J, Suckling DM (2015) Invasive Vespula wasps utilize kairomones to exploit honeydew produced by sooty scale insects, Ultracoelostoma. J Chem Ecology 41:1018–1027CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Buteler M, Lozada M, D’Adamo P, Melo RAL, Stadler T (2016) Behavioural responses of Vespula germanica (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) wasps exposed to essential oils. Aust Entomol 55:308–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Clapperton BK, Alspach P, Moller H, Matheson AG (1989) The impact of common and german wasps (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) on the New Zealand beekeeping industry. New Zealand J Zool 16:325–332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. D’Adamo P, Lozada M (2005) Conspecific and food attraction in the wasp Vespula germanica (Hymenoptera: Vespidae), and their possible contributions to control. Ann Entomol Soc Am 98:236–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. D’Adamo P, Corley J, Sackmann P, Lozada M (2000) Local enhancement in the wasp Vespula germanica Are visual cues all that matter? Insect Soc 47:289–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. D’adamo P, Lozada M (2007) Foraging behavior related to habitat characteristics in the invasive wasp Vespula germanica. Insect Sci 14:383–388CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. D’Adamo P, Lozada M, Corley JC (2003) Conspecifics enhance attraction of Vespula germanica (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) foragers to food baits. Ann Entomol Soc Amer 96:685–688CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. D’Adamo P, Lozada M, Corley JC (2004) An attraction pheromone from heads of worker Vespula germanica wasps. J Insect Behav 17:809–821CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Davis HG, Eddy GW, McGovern TP, Beroza M (1967) 2,4-Hexadienyl Butyrate and related compounds highly attractive to yellowjackets (Vespula spp.). J Med Entomol 4:275–280CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Davis HG, Eddy GW, Mcgovern TP, Beroza M (1969) Heptyl Butyrate, a new synthetic attractant for yellowjackets. J Econ Entomol 1:459Google Scholar
  17. Dörre MI (2015) Trapping social wasps, in apple orchards and vineyards with synthetic volatiles and live yeast cultures in Scania. In: Second cycle, A1E. Alnarp: SLU, Department of Biosystems and Technology, Scandinavia (from 130101).Google Scholar
  18. El-Sayed AM, Manning LA, Unelius CR, Park KC, Stringer LD, White N, Bunn B, Twidle A, Suckling DM (2009) Attraction and antennal response of the common wasp, Vespula vulgaris (L.), to selected synthetic chemicals in New Zealand beech forests. Pest Man Sci 65:975–981CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. EPA (2008) Office of pesticide programs environmental protection agency heptyl butyrate (100247) fact sheetGoogle Scholar
  20. Francke W, Hindorf G, Reif W (1979) Mass-spectrometric fragmentation of alkyl-1,6-dioxaspiro[4.5]decanes. Naturwissenschaften 66:619–620CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Francke W, Hindorf G, Reith W (1978) Methyl-l,6-dioxaspiro[4.5]decanes as odors of Paravespula vulgaris (L). Angew Chem Int Ed 11:862CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hanna C, Foote D, Kremen C (2012) Short- and long-term control of Vespula pensylvanica in Hawaii by fipronil baiting. Pest Man Sci 68:1026–1033CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Harris RJ, Moller H, Tilley JAV (1991) Weather-related differences in attractiveness of protein foods to Vespula wasps. New Zealand J Ecol 15:167–170Google Scholar
  24. Heath RR, Manukian A (1992) Development and evaluation of systems to collect volatile semiochemicals from insects and plants using a charcoal-infused medium for air purification. J Chem Ecol 18:1209–1226CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Landolt P, Zhang Q-H (2016) Discovery and development of chemical attractants used to trap pestiferous social wasps (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). J Chem Ecol 42:655–665CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Landolt P, Reed H, Aldrich J (1999) Social wasps (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) trapped with acetic acid and isobutanol. Fl Entom 82:609–614CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Landolt PJ (1998) Chemical attractants for trapping yellowjackets Vespula germanica and Vespula pensylvanica (Hymenoptera : Vespidae). Env Entomol 27:1229–1234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Landolt PJ, Reed HC, Ellis DJ (2003) Trapping yellowjackets (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) with heptyl butyrate emitted from controlled-release dispensers. Fl Entomol 86:323–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Landolt PJ, Toth M, Josvai J (2007a) First European report of social wasps trapped in response to acetic acid, isobutanol, 2-methyl-2-propanol and heptyl butyrate in tests conducted in Hungary. B Insectol 60:7–11Google Scholar
  30. Landolt PJ, Toth M, Jósvai J (2007b) First European report of social wasps trapped in response to acetic acid, isobutanol, 2-methyl-2-propanol and heptyl butyrate in tests conducted in Hungary. B Insectol 60:7–11Google Scholar
  31. Lozada M, D’Adamo P, Buteler M, Kuperman MN (2016) Social learning in Vespula germanica wasps: Do they use collective foraging strategies? PLoS ONE 11:1–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Macdonald JF, Akre RD, Hill W (1973) Attraction of yellowjackets (Vespula spp.) to heptyl butyrate in Washington State (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Environ Entomol 2:375–379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Reid BL, MacDonald JF (1986) Influence of meat texture and toxicants upon bait collection by the German yellowjacket (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). J Econ Entomol 79:50–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Richter MR (2000) Social wasp (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) foraging behavior. Ann Rev Entomol 45:121–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sackmann P, D’Adamo P, Rabinovich M, Corley JC (2000) Arthropod prey foraged by the German wasp (Vespula germanica) in NW Patagonia, Argentina. New Zealand Entomol 23:55–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sackmann P, Corley JC (2007) Control of Vespula germanica (Hym. Vespidae) populations using toxic baits: Bait attractiveness and pesticide efficacy. J Appl Entomol 131:630–636CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Santoro D, Hartley S, Suckling DM, Lester PJ (2015) Nest-based information transfer and foraging activation in the common wasp (Vespula vulgaris). Insect Soc 62:207–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. SAS Institute (2011) SAS/STAT 9.3 user’s guide. CaryGoogle Scholar
  39. Spradbery P, Dvorak L (2010) Datasheet on vespula germanica. Invasive species compendium (, CABI Wallingford, pp 21. Accessed 19 Nov 2017
  40. Spurr EB (1995) Protein bait preferences of wasps (Vespula vulgaris and V. germanica) at Mt Thomas, Canterbury, New Zealand. New Zealand J Ecol 22:281–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Unelius CR, El-Sayed AM, Twidle A, Stringer LD, L.-Manning A, Sullivan TE, Brown RL, Noble ADL (2014) Volatiles from green-lipped mussel as a lead to Vespid wasp attractants. J Appl Entomol 138:87–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Unelius CR, Suckling DM, Brown RL, Jósvai JK, El-Sayed AM (2016) Combining odours isolated from phylogenetically diverse sources yields a better lure for yellow jackets. Pest Man Sci 72:760–769CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ward D, Honan P, Lefoe G (2002) Colony structure and nest characteristics of european wasps, Vespula germanica (F.) (Hymenoptera:Vespidae), in Victoria, Australia. Austral J Entomol 41:306–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wilson-Rankin EE (2014) Social context influences cue-mediated recruitment in an invasive social wasp. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 68:1151–1161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wood GM, Hopkins DC, Schellhorn NA (2006) Preference by Vespula germanica (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) for processed meats: implications for toxic baiting. J Econ Entomol 99:263–267CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de Investigaciones en Biodiversidad y Medio Ambiente (INIBIOMA) CONICETUniversidad Nacional del ComahueBarilocheArgentina
  2. 2.INTA, Estación Experimental Agropecuaria Delta del Paraná. Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y TecnológicasCampanaArgentina
  3. 3.CONICET Godoy Cruz 2290 (C1425FQB) CABABuenos AiresArgentina
  4. 4.Instituto de Medicina y Biología Experimental (IMBECU), CCT Mendoza, CONICET, Parque GralMendozaArgentina
  5. 5.Department of Land Resources and Environment SciencesMontana State UniversityBozemanUSA

Personalised recommendations