Evidence that Cerambycid Beetles Mimic Vespid Wasps in Odor as well as Appearance

Robert F. Mitchell, Tomislav Curkovic, Judith A. Mongold-Diers, Lara Neuteboom, Hans Martin Galbrecht, Armin Tröger, Jan Bergmann, Wittko Francke, Lawrence M. Hanks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


We present evidence that cerambycid species that are supposed mimics of vespid wasps also mimic their model’s odor by producing spiroacetals, common constituents of vespid alarm pheromones. Adults of the North American cerambycids Megacyllene caryae (Gahan) and Megacyllene robiniae (Forster) are conspicuously patterned yellow and black, and are believed to be mimics of aculeate Hymenoptera, such as species of Vespula and Polistes. Adult males of M. caryae produce an aggregation-sex pheromone, but both sexes produce a pungent odor when handled, which has been assumed to be a defensive response. Headspace aerations of agitated females of M. caryae contained 16 compounds with mass spectra characteristic of spiroacetals of eight distinct chemical structures, with the dominant compound being (7E,2E)-7-ethyl-2-methyl-1,6-dioxaspiro[4.5]decane. Headspace samples of agitated males of M. caryae contained five of the same components, with the same dominant compound. Females of M. robiniae produced six different spiroacetals, one of which was not produced by M. caryae, (2E,7E)-2-ethyl-7-methyl-1,6-dioxaspiro[4.5]decane, and five that were shared with M. caryae, including the dominant (2E,8E)-2,8-dimethyl-1,7-dioxaspiro[5.5]undecane. The latter compound is the sole spiroacetal produced by both males and females of a South American cerambycid species, Callisphyris apicicornis (Fairmaire & Germain), which is also thought to be a wasp mimic. Preliminary work also identified spiroacetals of similar or identical structure released by vespid wasps that co-occur with the Megacyllene species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-83
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Callisphyris apicicornis
  • Cerambycidae
  • Megacyllene caryae
  • Megacyllene robiniae
  • Spiroacetal
  • chemical defense
  • chemical mimicry


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