Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 22948829
Link to DOI – 10.1038/ncomms2050
Nat Commun 2012 ; 3(): 1047
Sex pheromones are released by adults of a species to elicit a sexual interaction with the other sex of the same species. Here we report an unexpected effect of a moth sex pheromone on the caterpillars of the same species. We demonstrate that larvae of the cotton leafworm Spodoptera littoralis are attracted by the moth sex pheromone and that this phenomenon is independent of sex determination. In addition, we show that the olfactory sensilla carried by the caterpillar antennae are sensitive to the pheromone and that the caterpillar sensilla express pheromone-binding proteins that are used by adult antennae to bind pheromone components. Finally, we demonstrate that the larvae are preferentially attracted to a food source when it contains the sex pheromone main component. A possible interpretation of these results is that the sex pheromone is used to promote food search in caterpillars, opening potential new routes for insect pest management.