Phenylacetaldehyde attracts male and female apple clearwing moths,Synanthedon myopaeformis, to inflorescences of showy milkweed,Asclepias speciosa

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Synanthedon myopaeformis

Borkhausen (Lepidoptera: Sesiidae) is a diurnal clearwing moth native to Eurasia that was recently introduced into British Columbia (BC) and Ontario, Canada, where it has become a serious pest in apple orchards. In BC, these moths commonly feed on nectar of inflorescences, particularly that of showy milkweed, Asclepias speciosa Torrey (Apocynaceae). We investigated the relative importance of visual and olfactory cues, and the key floral semiochemical(s) mediating attraction of S. myopaeformis to A. speciosa. In field experiments, inflorescences left exposed or enclosed in cheesecloth bags dyed green induced similar visitation rates by moths, indicating that olfactory cues are attractive. Among the >10 floral odourants that elicited responses from moth antennae in coupled gas chromatographic-electroantennographic detection analyses, phenylacetaldehyde induced the most frequent proboscis extension reflexes of male and female moths. Among eight floral odourants that were field-tested singly, phenylacetaldehyde attracted 35 times more male and female moths than any other candidate semiochemical. Attractiveness of phenylacetaldehyde could not be enhanced by admixture with other floral odourants at the ratios or concentrations tested indicating that it alone may mediate attraction of S. myopaeformis to the inflorescences of A. speciosa. The potential use of phenylacetaldehyde as bait to monitor or mass-trap populations of male and female S. myopaeformis should be investigated.

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