Public Release: 

Parasitic blister beetles tailor strategies to deceive hosts

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

A study demonstrates how a parasite adapts signaling and behavior to exploit different hosts. Aggregates of freshly hatched larvae of the parasitic blister beetle Meloe franciscanus emit chemical cues that mimic pheromones of female Habropoda bees. The cues attract male bees, which transfer the larvae to female bees during copulation and on to the bees' nests. The larvae feed on the bee's provisions and eggs, later emerging as adults. Leslie Saul-Gershenz and colleagues tested whether geographically isolated populations of M. franciscanus larvae--from Oregon's coast and California's Mojave Desert--use distinct adaptations to exploit their respective hosts, H. miserabilis and H. pallida. Male H. miserabilis bees were attracted to females of the same species and to aggregates of local larvae, but not to male bees. Male bees of both species were more attracted to local larvae than to larvae from the distant location, likely because the larval cues were tailored to the pheromones of local hosts. Additionally, the height at which the larval aggregates perched at each location was adapted to the cruising height of local male bees. According to the authors, the findings demonstrate how parasites evolve deceptive signals and behaviors to target different hosts.


Article #17-18682: "Deceptive signals and behaviors of a cleptoparasitic beetle show local adaptation to different host bee species," by Leslie Saul-Gershenz, Jocelyn Millar, J. Steven McElfresh, and Neal Williams

MEDIA CONTACT: Leslie Saul-Gershenz, University of California, Davis, CA; tel: 415-860-1664; e-mail: <>

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.