Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 42, Issue 9, pp 869–876 | Cite as

Sex Attractant Pheromone of the Luna Moth, Actias luna (Linnaeus)

  • Jocelyn G. Millar
  • Kenneth F. Haynes
  • Aaron T. Dossey
  • J. Steven McElfresh
  • Jeremy D. Allison


Giant silk moths (Lepidoptera: Saturniidae) typically are not well represented as larvae or adults in community level inventories of Lepidoptera, and as a result, little is known about their population dynamics. Furthermore, in recent years, many species of silk moths appear to have experienced population declines. Volatile sex pheromones are powerful sampling tools that can be used in operational conservation and monitoring programs for insects. Here, we describe the identification of the sex attractant pheromone of a giant silk moth, the luna moth Actias luna. Coupled gas chromatography-electroantennographic detection and gas chromatography-mass spectrometric analyses of extracts from pheromone glands of female luna moths supported the identification of (6E,11Z)-6,11-octadecadienal (E6,Z11–18:Ald), (6E)-6-octadecenal (E6–18:Ald), and (11Z)-11-octadecenal (Z11–18:Ald) as the compounds in extracts that elicited responses from antennae of male moths. These identifications were confirmed by synthesis, followed by testing of blends of the synthetic compounds in field trials in Ontario, Canada, and Kentucky, USA. Male moths were attracted to synthetic E6,Z11–18:Ald as a single component. Attraction appeared to be enhanced by addition of E6–18:Ald but not Z11–18:Ald, suggesting that the luna moth pheromone consists of a blend of E6,Z11–18:Ald and E6–18:Ald.


Actias luna Saturniidae (6E,11Z)-6,11-octadecadienal (6E)-6-octadecenal (11Z)-11-octadecenal Sex pheromone Population monitoring, conservation 



Nick Boyonoski and Scott Bessin provided technical assistance, Dr. Martha Lutz reared the first generation of luna moths in Kentucky, and Dr. Eric Chapman helped find suitable field locations in Kentucky. Clint Patterson, Berea College Forester, provided us with access to the Berea College Forest. The experiments conducted in Kentucky were supported by the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station (National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Hatch Project KY008066 1003549), the experiments in Ontario were supported by Natural Resources Canada, and JGM acknowledges support from Hatch Project CA-R*ENT-5181-H.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jocelyn G. Millar
    • 1
  • Kenneth F. Haynes
    • 2
  • Aaron T. Dossey
    • 3
  • J. Steven McElfresh
    • 1
  • Jeremy D. Allison
    • 4
  1. 1.Departments of Entomology and ChemistryUniversity of CaliforniaRiversideUSA
  2. 2.Department of EntomologyUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA
  3. 3.All Things Bugs LLCAthensUSA
  4. 4.Natural Resources Canada - Canadian Forest Service, Great Lakes Forestry CentreSault Ste. MarieCanada

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