Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 1853–1865 | Cite as

Importance of quinolizidine alkaloids in the relationship between larvae ofUresiphita reversalis (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) and a host plant,Genista monspessulana

  • C. B. Montllor
  • E. A. Bernays
  • R. V. Barbehenn


Larvae ofUresiphita reversalis feed almost exclusively on legumes in the tribe Genisteae, which characteristically contain a variety of quinolizidine alkaloids. The larvae are aposematic, and onGenista monspessulana, a major host in California, they feed on the youngest leaves, at the periphery of the plant. These leaves, which were preferred over older foliage in choice tests, contained four to five times the level of alkaloid found in older leaves. The major alkaloids detected in these plants were dehydroaphylline andN-methylcytisine, together accounting for 74% of the total. Preliminary analyses showed the alkaloid profile of exuviae from larvae feeding on these plants was very similar to that of the plants. Two alkaloids, sparteine and cytisine, which are known components of some hosts ofU. reversalis, were phagostimulants for fifth-instar larvae when added to sucrose-impregnated glass-fiber disks. In addition, when sparteine was added to foliage ofG. monspessulana, effectively doubling the percent dry weight of alkaloid, the growth rate of late-instar larvae was positively affected. Cytisine added to plants had no discernible effect on growth of larvae. Alkaloid levels in larvae and in their frass were proportional to levels in the plants on which they fed. Although the majority of alkaloid was excreted, that which was sequestered by the insect was found entirely in the integument, possibly confering some protection from predators.

Key words

Uresiphita reversalis Lepidoptera Pyralidae Genista French broom quinolizidine alkaloids sequestration aposematism 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. B. Montllor
    • 1
  • E. A. Bernays
    • 1
  • R. V. Barbehenn
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Biological ControlUniversity of CaliforniaAlbany

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