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J Chem Ecol. 2003 Oct;29(10):2359-67.

Hostplant suitability and defensive chemistry of the Catalpa sphinx, Ceratomia catalpae.

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  • Museum and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCB 334 University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA. deane.bowers@colorado.edu


The growth and survival of the Catalpa sphinx, Ceratomia catalpae (Sphingidae), were measured on five different species of Catalpa: C. bignonioides, C. bungeii, C. fargeseii, C. ovata, and C. speciosa. Larval growth varied significantly among these host plant species; however, survival did not differ. Quantification of the iridoid glycoside content of larvae, pupae, adults, larval frass, and leaves of the larval host plant, C. bignonioides, by gas chromatography showed that leaves contained both catalpol and catalposide; larvae, pupae, and frass contained only catalpol; and the adults contained no detectable iridoid glycosides. Amounts were highest in the larvae and declined in the pupal stage. Very small amounts of catalpol were detected in adults of the parasitoid, Cotesia congregata, and in the silken cocoons. The hemolymph in which the parasitoid larvae grew contained over 50% dry weight catalpol. Larvae of C. catalpae often regurgitate when disturbed. This may serve as a defense against predators. A comparison of the growth of larvae pinched with forceps to induce regurgitation with those that were not so treated showed that larvae that were pinched, and usually regurgitated, grew significantly more slowly than those that were not.

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