A Tetraene Aldehyde as the Major Sex Pheromone Component of the Promethea Moth (Callosamia promethea (Drury))

Rafael Gago, Jeremy D. Allison, J. Steven McElfresh, Kenneth F. Haynes, Jessica McKenney, Angel Guerrero, Jocelyn G. Millar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The promethea moth Callosamia promethea is one of three species of silkmoths from the genus Callosamia that occur in North America. Cross attraction of males to heterospecific calling females has been observed in the field, and hybrid progeny have been produced by pairing heterospecifics in captivity. These observations suggest that all three species share or have considerable overlap in the sex attractant pheromones produced by females, so that other prezygotic isolating mechanisms, such as diel differences in reproductive activity, limit hybridization in the field. Coupled gas chromatography-electroantennogram detection and gas chromatography- mass-spectrometry analyses of extracts of volatiles collected from female promethea moths supported the identification of (4E,6E,11Z,13Z)-hexadeca-4,6,11,13-tetraenal [(4E,6E,11Z,13Z)-16:Ald] as the compound in extracts that elicited the largest responses from antennae of males. The identification was confirmed by non-selective synthesis of several isomers as analytical standards, and stereoselective synthesis of (4E,6E,11Z,13Z)-16:Ald for testing in field trials. Male moths were strongly attracted to synthetic (4E,6E,11Z,13Z)-16:Ald, suggesting that this compound is the major and possibly the only component of the sex pheromone of these large saturniid moths. Based on the cross-attraction of heterospecifics, it is likely that this is also a major pheromone component of the other two North American Callosamia species as well.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1263-1272
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments We are indebted to the Ministry of Science and Innovation for a FPI fellowship to RG. We also thank Shelby Stamper for assistance with the field trials at the UK Arboretum and North Farm.


  • (4E,6E,11Z,13Z)-hexadeca-4,6,11,13-tetraenal
  • Callosamia promethea
  • Saturniidae
  • Sex pheromone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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