Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 339–353 | Cite as

Larval Diet Affects Male Pheromone Blend in a Laboratory Strain of the Medfly, Ceratitis capitata (Diptera: Tephritidae)

  • Daniele Merli
  • Barbara Mannucci
  • Federico Bassetti
  • Federica Corana
  • Marco Falchetto
  • Anna R. Malacrida
  • Giuliano Gasperi
  • Francesca Scolari


The Mediterranean fruit fly (medfly) Ceratitis capitata is a polyphagous pest of fruits and crops with a worldwide distribution. Its ability to use different larval hosts may have multiple effects, including impacts on adult reproductive biology. The male sex pheromone, which plays a key role in attracting both other males to lekking arenas and females for mating, is a mixture of chemical compounds including esters, acids, alkanes and terpenes known to differ between laboratory strains and wild-type populations. The relationship between larval diet and adult pheromone composition remains unexplored. Here, we investigated the effect of larval diet, including laboratory media and fresh fruits, on the composition of the male pheromone mixture. Using Headspace Solid Phase Microextraction we collected the pheromone emitted by males reared as larvae on different substrates and found both qualitative and quantitative differences. A number of alkanes appeared to be typical of the pheromone of males reared on wheat bran-based larval medium, and these may be cuticular hydrocarbons involved in chemical communication. We also detected differences in pheromone composition related to adult male age, suggesting that variations in hormonal levels and/or adult diet could also play a role in determining the chemical profile emitted. Our findings highlight the plasticity of dietary responses of C. capitata, which may be important in determining the interactions of this pest with the environment and with conspecifics. These results also have applied relevance to increase the mating competitiveness of mass-reared C. capitata used in Sterile Insect Technique programs.


Medfly Polyphagy Larval diet Pheromone Solid Phase Microextraction 



We thank Lorenzo Ghiringhelli for technical support, Dr. Lucie Vaníčková for providing (E,E)-α-farnesene and (Z,E)-α-farnesene, Dr. Royah Vaezi, Dr. Nicholas C. Manoukis and two anonymous reviewers for the help provided in improving the manuscript.


This study received support from Cariplo-Regione Lombardia “IMPROVE” (FS).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ChemistryUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly
  2. 2.Centro Grandi StrumentiUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly
  3. 3.Department of MathematicsUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly
  4. 4.Department of Biology and BiotechnologyUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly

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