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Nature. 2003 Aug 7;424(6949):637-8.

Insect signalling: components of giant hornet alarm pheromone.

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Centre of Excellence Integrative Human Science Program, Research Institute and Graduate School of Agriculture, Machida, Tokyo 194-8610, Japan.


Up to 74 people die each year in Japan after being stung by Hymenopteran insects, with hornets (Vespa spp.) being among the worst offenders. Here we identify a volatile, multi-component alarm pheromone in the venom of the world's largest hornet, V. mandarinia, and use field bioassays to show that 2-pentanol is its principal active component, and that 3-methyl-1-butanol and 1-methylbutyl 3-methylbutanoate act synergistically with it. The compound 1-methylbutyl 3-methylbutanoate, which may also be a foraging-site-marking pheromone, elicits a strong defensive reaction in the sympatric prey hornet V. simillima xanthoptera. As these chemicals are sometimes used in food flavourings and as fragrances in cosmetics, it is possible that they might provoke a seemingly unwarranted hornet attack on humans.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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