The superiority of the host monoterpene myrcene as a synergist for trans-verbenol and exo-brevicomin, aggregation pheromone components of the mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), suggests that the ancestral host of the mountain pine beetle is a pine rich in myrcene. A field trapping experiment in British Columbia testing reconstituted bole oleoresin of whitebark pine, Pinus albicaulis Engelmann, composed of mainly myrcene (20.7%), terpinolene (6.8%), and 3-carene (61.9%) showed it to be a better pheromone synergist than reconstituted bole oleoresin of lodgepole pine, Pinus contorta variety latifolia Engelmann, which contained only 2.7, 1.0, and 6.0%, respectively, of the above-mentioned three compounds. In the same experiment myrcene alone was the best synergist. In subsequent experiments, testing myrcene, terpinolene and 3-carene alone and in all possible binary and ternary combinations, a 50:50 blend of myrcene and terpinolene released at the same rate as either compound alone generally resulted in trap catches ≈3 times higher than with myrcene as a synergist. This result held as long as the terpinolene was free of contaminants, and the traps were in the open, well away from potential interference of semiochemicals emitted by newly attacked trees. 3-Carene seemed to be inert or slightly inhibitory. No single monoterpene tested alone or in binary or ternary combination in the absence of pheromones was attractive. There was no effect of doubling or tripling the release rate of myrcene or terpinolene. In five of nine experiments, adding terpinolene to myrcene caused a significant increase in the percentage of female mountain pine beetles captured. Among host pines, the presence of highly synergistic monoterpenes at various levels in combination with other monoterpenes that are apparently either inert or inhibitory could account for different degrees of pheromone synergism, and thus host preference. The highly synergistic effect of combining myrcene plus terpinolene with the mountain pine beetle aggregation pheromone components opens up the potential for suppression of populations through semiochemical-based mass trapping.
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