Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 497–507 | Cite as

Synomone Or Kairomone? – Bulbophyllum Apertum Flower Releases Raspberry Ketone To Attract Bactrocera Fruit Flies

  • Tan Keng-HongEmail author
  • Ritsuo Nishida


Bulbophyllum apertum flower (Orchidaceae) releases raspberry ketone (RK) in its fragrance, which attracts males of several fruit fly species belonging to the genus Bactrocera. Besides RK as a major component, the flower contains smaller amounts of 4-(4-hydroxylphenyl)-2-butanol, plus two minor volatile components, veratryl alcohol and vanillyl alcohol. Within the flower, the lip (labellum) had the highest concentration of RK with much smaller quantities present in petals; other flower parts had no detectable RK. Male fruit flies attracted to the flower belong to RK-sensitive species – such as Bactrocera albistragata, B. caudatus, B. cucurbitae (melon fly), and B. tau. Removal and attachment of the pollinarium to a fly’s thoracic dorsum occurred when a male of B. albistragata was toppled into the floral column cavity, due to an imbalance caused by it shifting its body weight while feeding on the see-saw lip, and then freeing itself after being momentarily trapped between the lip and column. During this process, the stiff hamulus (the pollinia stalk protruding prominently towards the lip) acted as a crowbar when it was brushed downwards by the toppled fly and lifted the pollinia out of the anther. If the fly was big or long for the small triangular lip, it would not be toppled into the column cavity and would just walk across the column, during which time the pollinarium could be accidentally removed by the fly’s leg, resulting in a failed transport of the pollinarium. This suggests an unstable situation, where the orchid relies only on a particular pollinator species in the complex ecosystem where many RK-sensitive species inhabit.Wild males of B. caudatus (most common visitors) captured on Bulbophyllum apertum flowers were found to sequester RK in their bodies as a potential pheromonal and allomonal ingredient. Thus, RK can act either as a floral synomone (pollinarium transported) or kairomone (accidental removal of pollinarium leading to total pollen wastage), depending on the body size of the male fruit flies visiting the flowers.


Bulbophyllum apertum (synonym Bu. ecornutumOrchidaceae fruit flies Bactrocera species Tephritidae floral fragrance raspberry ketone synomone kairomone pheromone pollination coevolution 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tan Hak Heng Co.20, Jalan Tan Jit SengTanjong BungahMalaysia
  2. 2.Laboratory of Chemical EcologyGraduate School of Agriculture Kyoto UniversityKyotoJapan

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