The greater wax moth, Galleria mellonella (L.), is a serious and widespread pest of the honeybee, Apis mellifera L. In contrast to most moths, for which long-range mate finding is mediated by female-produced sex pheromones, G. mellonella males attract conspecific females over long distances by emitting large amounts of a characteristic scent in combination with bursts of ultrasonic calls. The male scent for this species was previously identified as a blend of nonanal and undecanal. When these compounds were bioassayed, characteristic short-range sexual behavior, including wing fanning, was triggered in conspecific females, but the aldehyde blend failed to elicit attraction over longer distances. We identified, via analysis and synthesis, a third male-specific compound, 5,11-dimethylpentacosane. We show that it acts as a behavioral synergist to the aldehydes. In wind tunnel experiments, very few female moths responded to the aldehyde blend or to 5,11-dimethylpentacosane tested separately, but consistently showed orientation and source contact when a combination of all three compounds was applied. The level of attraction to the three-component mixture was still lower than that to male extract, indicating that the composition of compounds in the synthetic blend is suboptimal, or that additional pheromone components of G. mellonella are yet to be identified. The identification of 5,11-dimethylpentacosane is an important step for the development of an efficient long-range attractant that will be integrated with other environmentally safe strategies to reduce damage to beehives caused by wax moths.
Galleria mellonellaMale pheromone 5,11-dimethylpentacosane Electrophysiology Behavior Synthesis Honeybee pest Lepidoptera
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We thank Hany Dweck for sending moth larvae, Dr Palle Breistein for part of the syntheses of pentacosanes, and Dr Joakim Bång for purification of moth extracts and some initial GC/MS analyses. Jon Loman provided wax cakes for the last instar larvae. This study was supported by a joint research grant under the Middle East and North Africa – Swedish Research Links Program to EAG and OA, and from grants by The Swedish Research Council (VR) and Birgit and Sven Håkan Ohlsson foundation to CL. NS and EH are grateful for the financial support from the European Union European Regional Development Fund and the County Administrative Board of Västernorrland.
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