Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 161–165 | Cite as

Pheromone Communication in Nasonia vitripennis: Abdominal Sex Attractant Mediates Site Fidelity of Releasing Males

  • Joachim RutherEmail author
  • Kathleen Thal
  • Sven Steiner


Males of the parasitic wasp Nasonia vitripennis (Hymenoptera: Pteromalidae) use a substrate-borne sex pheromone to attract virgin females. The pheromone is synthesized in the rectal vesicle and deposited via the anus by dabbing movements of the abdominal tip. The chemicals attracting the females are composed of a mixture (4R,5R- and (4R,5 S)-5-hydroxy-4-decanolides (HDL) being synergized by the trace component 4-methylquinazoline (4-MeQ) which is not attractive for females when offered alone. Here we show that male pheromone deposits are not only attractive to virgin females but also for the releasing males themselves. In an olfactometer bioassay, males were strongly attracted by their own pheromone markings but were unable to discriminate between their own markings and those deposited by other males. Polar fractions of pheromone gland extracts containing the HDLs and 4-MeQ were also highly attractive for males. Bioassays using synthetic pheromones in natural doses revealed that combinations of HDL/4-MeQ and 4-MeQ alone attracted males whereas the HDLs alone were behaviorally inactive. Furthermore, males did not discriminate between HDL/4-MeQ and 4-MeQ alone. We conclude that the trace component 4-MeQ mediates site fidelity of N. vitripennis males at sites previously marked with the abdominal sex pheromone. The use of 4-MeQ to stay at and to return to scent-marked patches rather than marking new ones might be a strategy to economize semiochemical use in N. vitripennis males.

Key Words

Sex pheromone Abdomen dipping Site fidelity Mate finding Pteromalidae Parasitic wasp 



This research was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, grant Ru 717/10-1). The authors thank Birgit Blaul for her help in producing the supplementary online material and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments.

Supplementary material

Supplementary online material

The video shows a Nasonia vitripennis male depositing the abdominal sex pheromone by dabbing movements of the abdominal tip. (MP4 1287 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Zoology, Chemical Ecology GroupUniversity of RegensburgRegensburgGermany
  2. 2.Institute of BiologyFree University of BerlinBerlinGermany

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