Sex Attractant Pheromone of the Luna Moth, Actias luna (Linnaeus)

Jocelyn G. Millar, Kenneth F. Haynes, Aaron T. Dossey, J. Steven McElfresh, Jeremy D. Allison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Giant silk moths (Lepidoptera: Saturniidae) typically are not well represented as larvae or adults in community level inventories of Lepidoptera, and as a result, little is known about their population dynamics. Furthermore, in recent years, many species of silk moths appear to have experienced population declines. Volatile sex pheromones are powerful sampling tools that can be used in operational conservation and monitoring programs for insects. Here, we describe the identification of the sex attractant pheromone of a giant silk moth, the luna moth Actias luna. Coupled gas chromatography-electroantennographic detection and gas chromatography-mass spectrometric analyses of extracts from pheromone glands of female luna moths supported the identification of (6E,11Z)-6,11-octadecadienal (E6,Z11–18:Ald), (6E)-6-octadecenal (E6–18:Ald), and (11Z)-11-octadecenal (Z11–18:Ald) as the compounds in extracts that elicited responses from antennae of male moths. These identifications were confirmed by synthesis, followed by testing of blends of the synthetic compounds in field trials in Ontario, Canada, and Kentucky, USA. Male moths were attracted to synthetic E6,Z11–18:Ald as a single component. Attraction appeared to be enhanced by addition of E6–18:Ald but not Z11–18:Ald, suggesting that the luna moth pheromone consists of a blend of E6,Z11–18:Ald and E6–18:Ald.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)869-876
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Nick Boyonoski and Scott Bessin provided technical assistance, Dr. Martha Lutz reared the first generation of luna moths in Kentucky, and Dr. Eric Chapman helped find suitable field locations in Kentucky. Clint Patterson, Berea College Forester, provided us with access to the Berea College Forest. The experiments conducted in Kentucky were supported by the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station (National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Hatch Project KY008066 1003549), the experiments in Ontario were supported by Natural Resources Canada, and JGM acknowledges support from Hatch Project CA-R*ENT-5181-H.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • (11Z)-11-octadecenal
  • (6E)-6-octadecenal
  • (6E,11Z)-6,11-octadecadienal
  • Actias luna
  • Population monitoring, conservation
  • Saturniidae
  • Sex pheromone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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