Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 255–262 | Cite as

The chemical basis of attraction of ithomiine butterflies to plants containing pyrrolizidine alkaloids

  • Thomas E. Pliske
  • John A. Edgar
  • Claude C. J. Culvenor


The plantHeliotropium indicum L. (Boraginaceae) contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids. When dried, it is a powerful attractant for male ithomiine and danaine butterflies, which congregate and feed at its dead shoots. The butterflies use alkaloids derived from the plants for the formation of chemicals with pheromone/allomone activity. Baiting with alkaloids and “esterifying acids,” which form a part of the alkaloid molecules, indicates that a volatile product derived from the esterifying acids attracts males to the plants, where intact alkaloids then act as phagostimulants.

Key words

pheromones Lepidoptera pyrrolizidines Ithomiinae Danainae alkaloids 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas E. Pliske
    • 1
  • John A. Edgar
    • 2
  • Claude C. J. Culvenor
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of MiamiCoral Gables
  2. 2.Division of Animal Health, Animal Health Research LaboratoryCSIROMelbourneAustralia

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