The triatomine bug Rhodnius prolixus Stål, 1859 (Heteroptera: Reduviidae) is the primary vector of Chagas disease in Colombia and Venezuela. An important step in controlling Chagas disease is monitoring the growth and spread of bug populations to inform effective management. Such monitoring could be carried out using pheromone traps. To develop effective pheromone traps, it is vital to understand the pheromone chemistry of R. prolixus. Previous studies have found that female R. prolixus metasternal gland secretions induce males to: leave shelters, take off, orientate during walking, aggregate around mating pairs, and mate. This study aims to identify a synthetic blend of female metasternal gland compounds that could be used to attract R. prolixus.
We investigated the electrophysiological activity of the ten most abundant compounds in female R. prolixus metasternal glands using single sensillum recordings. In total we obtained 60 recordings from basiconic sensilla in male R. prolixus. In 31 of these recordings, responses to individual compounds were observed. Each of the ten tested compounds elicited neuron responses in a minimum of eight recordings. Having confirmed their electrophysiological activity, we tested these ten compounds by presenting them to male Rhodnius prolixus in a “T” olfactometer. Male bugs showed a significant preference for the blend of metasternal gland compounds compared to the clean air control.
A simple blend of ten compounds found in female R. prolixus metasternal glands is attractive to conspecific males. All compounds in the blend are either commercially available at low cost, or easily synthetically prepared from simple precursors. We hope that this blend will be evaluated as a lure for pheromone traps in field bioassays.