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, 9 (5), 541-51

Insect Pheromones

  • PMID: 4882034

Insect Pheromones

F E Regnier et al. J Lipid Res.


The evidence for intraspecies chemical communication in insects is reviewed, with emphasis on those studies where known organic compounds have been implicated. These signal-carrying chemicals are known as pheromones. There are two distinct types of pheromones, releasers and primers. Releaser pheromones initiate immediate behavioral responses in insects upon reception, while primer pheromones cause physiological changes in an animal that ultimately result in a behavior response. Chemically identified releaser pheromones are of three basic types: those which cause sexual attraction, alarm behavior, and recruitment. Sex pheromones release the entire repertoire of sexual behavior. Thus a male insect may be attracted to and attempt to copulate with an inanimate object that has sex pheromone on it. It appears that most insects are rather sensitive and selective for the sex pheromone of their species. Insects show far less sensitivity and chemospecificity for alarm pheromones. Alarm selectivity is based more on volatility than on unique structural features. Recruiting pheromones are used primarily in marking trails to food sources. Terrestrial insects lay continuous odor trails, whereas bees and other airborne insects apply the substances at discrete intervals. It appears that a complex pheromone system is used by the queen bee in the control of worker behavior. One well-established component of this system is a fatty acid, 9-ketodecenoic acid, produced by the queen and distributed among the workers. This compound prevents the development of ovaries in the workers and inhibits their queen-rearing activities. In addition, the same compound is used by virgin queen bees as a sex attractant.

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