Chemical Signals from Host Plant and Sexual Behavior in a Moth

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  31 Jan 1992:
Vol. 255, Issue 5044, pp. 592-594
DOI: 10.1126/science.255.5044.592


In the phytophagous corn earworm, Helicoverpa (Heliothis) zea, females delay their reproductive behaviors until they find a suitable host on which to deposit their eggs. Perception of volatile chemical signals from corn silk triggers the production of sex pheromone followed by its release, which leads to mating. Several natural corn silk volatiles, including the plant hormone ethylene, induced pheromone production in H. zea females. Because H. zea larvae feed on the fruiting parts of a wide variety of hosts, ethylene, which is associated with fruit ripening, could act as a common cue.