Identification of the putative aggregation pheromone components emitted by the European earwig, Forficula auricularia.
The European earwig, Forficula auricularia is an invasive insect found in many temperate regions of the world and is regarded as an urban and agricultural pest of numerous crops. Several studies have shown that F. auricularia aggregate in large numbers with the use of an aggregation pheromone. However, the identity of compounds which constitute the pheromone remains elusive. Our aim was to isolate and identify the aggregation pheromone used by F. auricularia using both solvent washes of individuals and thermal desorption of substrates exposed to earwigs. Solvent washes of male, female and juvenile earwigs isolated 51 different branched and unbranched alkanes, alkenes and alkadienes. Substrates exposed to aggregating field populations in situ were demonstrated to be attractive to earwigs after less than 24 h of exposure. Analysis of these substrates using thermal desorption and solvent washes showed that hydrocarbons were the only detectable compounds laid down by earwigs on these surfaces. Significant behavioural responses were observed to synthetic blends of the unsaturated hydrocarbons containing (Z)-7-tricosene, (Z)-9-tricosene, (Z)-7-pentacosene and (Z)-9-pentacosene at ≥25 insect equivalents in field-based bioassays. However, behavioural responses to these blends proved inconsistent particularly later in the field season, possibly due to a missing component within the pheromone blend or plasticity in the pheromones production and response.