Pheromone Production by an Invasive Bark Beetle Varies with Monoterpene Composition of its Naïve Host

Spencer Taft, Ahmed Najar, Nadir Erbilgin
Journal of Chemical Ecology 2015, 41 (6): 540-9
The secondary chemistry of host plants can have cascading impacts on the establishment of new insect herbivore populations, their long-term population dynamics, and their invasion potential in novel habitats. Mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) has recently expanded its range into forests of jack pine, Pinus banksiana Lamb., in western Canada. We investigated whether variations in jack pine monoterpenes affect beetle pheromone production, as the primary components of the beetle's aggregation pheromone, (-)-trans-verbenol and anti-aggregation pheromone (-)-verbenone, are biosynthesized from the host monoterpene α-pinene. Jack pine bolts were collected from five Canadian provinces east of the beetle's current range, live D. ponderosae were introduced into them, and their monoterpene compositions were characterized. Production of (-)-trans-verbenol and (-)-verbenone emitted by beetles was measured to determine whether pheromone production varies with monoterpene composition of jack pines. Depending on particular ratios of major monoterpenes in host phloem, jack pine could be classified into three monoterpenoid groups characterized by high amounts of (+)-α-pinene, 3-carene, or a more moderate blend of monoterpenes, and beetle pheromone production varied among these groups. Specifically, beetles reared in trees characterized by high (+)-α-pinene produced the most (-)-trans-verbenol and (-)-verbenone, while beetles in trees characterized by high 3-carene produced the least. Our results indicate that pheromone production by D. ponderosae will remain a significant aspect and important predictor of its survival and persistence in the boreal forest.

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