Chemical basis of courtship in a beetle (Neopyrochroa flabellata): Cantharidin as "nuptial gift"

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Jun 25;93(13):6499-503. doi: 10.1073/pnas.93.13.6499.


The amount of cantharidin (Spanish fly) that the Neopyrochroa flabellata male presents to the female as a glandular offering during courtship represents only a small fraction of the total cantharidin the male accumulates systemically following ingestion of the compound. A major fraction of the acquired cantharidin is stored by the male in the large accessory glands of the reproductive system. At mating, the male transfers this supply, presumably as part of the sperm package, to the spermatheca of the female. The female in turn allocates the gift to the eggs. Eggs endowed with cantharidin proved relatively invulnerable to attack by a predaceous beetle larva (Coleomegilla maculata).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cantharidin / chemistry
  • Cantharidin / metabolism*
  • Coleoptera / physiology*
  • Copulation
  • Female
  • Male
  • Ovum
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal*


  • Cantharidin