The Combined Use of an Attractive and a Repellent Sex Pheromonal Component by a Gregarious Parasitoid

  • Hao Xu
  • Guoxin Zhou
  • Stefan Dötterl
  • Irmgard Schäffler
  • Martin von Arx
  • Gregory Röder
  • Thomas Degen
  • Li Chen
  • Ted C. J. TurlingsEmail author


Gregarious parasitoids usually clump their cocoons together and the adults emerge in a synchronized fashion. This makes it easy for them to find mating partners and most copulations indeed take place at the natal patch. Yet, males should leave such sites when females are no longer receptive. As yet, this decision-making process and the possible involvement of pheromones were poorly understood. Here we report on a remarkable use of attractive and repellent pheromones of the well-studied gregarious parasitoid species Cotesia glomerata (L.) (Hymenoptera: Braconidae). Virgin C. glomerata females were found to release an attractive as well as a repellent compound, which in combination arrest males on the natal patch, but after mating the females stop the production of the attractant and the males are repelled. The repellent compound was identified as heptanal, which was also released by males, probably reducing male-male competition on the natal patch. We also confirmed that the sex ratio of the emerging wasps can vary considerably among patches, depending on the relative quality of hosts and the number of females that parasitize a host. The newly revealed use of attractive and repellent pheromone compounds by C. glomerata possibly helps maximize mating success under these variable conditions.


Sex pheromones Parasitoids Mate location Sex allocation Cotesia glomerata 



We would like to thank Prof. Joachim Ruther from University of Regensburg, Germany, who provided valuable comments on an early version of manuscript. We thank Radu Slobodeanu from Institute of Mathematics, University of Neuchâtel, for the help with the statistics. Gaylord Desurmont, Huijuan Guo, Apostolos Kapranas and Armelle Vallat gave suggestions for the experimental designs or chemical analyses. The research was funded by China Scholarship Council, No: 201206300090 (HX), the Outstanding Young Scholars Fund of ZAFU, No: 2034070001 (GZ) and National Natural Science Foundation of China, No: 31572020 (GZ).

Author Contributions

H.X., G.Z., S.D., T.D. and T.T. designed experiments; and H.X. and G.Z. performed bioassays. I.S., S.D., M.V.A., G.Z., L.C., and H.X. performed the electrophysiological analyses. H.X., G.Z., L.C. and G.R. did fractionation and chemical analyses. H.X. analysed data and made the Figs. H.X., T.D. and T.T. wrote an early version of manuscript. All authors commented on the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 Statistical results of all figures. (PDF 53 kb)
10886_2019_1066_MOESM2_ESM.docx (361 kb)
ESM 2 (DOCX 361 kb)
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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Fundamental and Applied Research in Chemical Ecology (FARCE), Institute of BiologyUniversity of NeuchâtelNeuchâtelSwitzerland
  2. 2.Key Laboratory for Quality Improvement of Agriculture Products of Zhejiang Province, Department of Plant ProtectionZhejiang Agriculture & Forestry UniversityLin’anChina
  3. 3.Department of Bioscience, Plant EcologyUniversity of SalzburgSalzburgAustria
  4. 4.Institute of Systematic BotanyUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  5. 5.State Key Laboratory of Integrated Management of Pest Insects and Rodents, Institute of ZoologyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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