Male Heliothis virescens maintain upwind flight in response to experimentally pulsed filaments of their sex pheromone (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)

Neil J. Vickers, Thomas C. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Aspects of the intermittent fine structure of an odor plume were mimicked and experimentally modified in the wind tunnel using an air-pulsing device. Filaments of a behaviorally active blend of six sex-pheromone components created by the device in a temporally regular fashion elicited sustained upwind flight and source location in male Heliothis virescens. Males did not exhibit sustained upwind flight in significant numbers until a frequency of 4 filaments/s was delivered, at a loading of 1 μg of the major component, Z11-16: Ald, with the other components loaded at their appropriate ratios. A loading of 10 μg Z11-16: Ald was found to be optimal at this filament delivery rate. Electroantennogram recordings to different filament delivery rates of the complete blend indicated that a stationary male antenna can respond to the pulse rates used in this study. Importantly, when a main component necessary for upwind flight, Z9-14:Ald, was isolated into its own filaments and pulsed alternately against filaments of the five other components (including the other component essential for upwind flight, Z11-16: Ald), upwind flight to the source was significantly reduced (9%) compared to upwind flight and source location in response to filaments composed of the entire blend (30%), indicating that the complete pheromone blend must arrive on the antenna simultaneously for optimal evocation of sustained upwind progress. Neurophysiological evidence from other studies suggests that higher-order interneurons whose phasic response is enhanced when the entire blend is presented simultaneously may be of importance in explaining this behavioral difference stemming from synchronous vs asynchronous arrival of the components.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)669-687
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Insect Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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