Nathan Rank

Sonoma State University

Natural enemies and host plant use
Chemical ecology of leaf beetle/willow interactions (Page 2 of 5 )

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  • Larvae use host plant salicylates to make a defensive secretion.
  • Many willows contain little or no salicylates.
  • Beetles feeding on salicylate-poor willows produce very little secretion.

Beetle larvae displaying droplets of salicylaldehyde
  • Larvae of many leaf beetle species possess secretion glands.
  • They display droplets of a repellent smelling secretion when disturbed by potential enemies.
  • Some beetles (Chrysomela spp., Phratora vitellinae) use host plant salicylates to produce their secretion
  • This secretion consists mostly of the bitter-smelling, volatile salicylaldehyde.
  • Salicylates may be found in the bark or leaves of willows.
  • The salicylate chemistry of willows tends to be species specific.
  • Many willow species contain little or no salicylates.

Salicylate contents of Finnish willows (Julkunen-Tiitto 1989)

Leaf chemistry of three Finnish willows: Salix myrsinifolia, S. pentandra, and S. phylicifolia.


  • We investigated the salicylate chemistry of three species of Finnish willow species.
  • Salix myrsinifolia andS. pentandra contained substantial amounts of salicylates.
  • Salix phylificolia contained no salicylates

Beetle secretion on the same three Finnish willows.


  • Beetle larvae produce little secretion when feeding on the salicylate-poor S. phylicifolia..
  • They produce the most secretion when feeding on the species that contains the most salicylates, Salix pentandra.

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January 23, 1999 NER