A semiochemical, from the Greek σημεῖον (semeion), meaning "signal", is a chemical substance or mixture released by an organism that affects the behaviors of other individuals.[1] Semiochemical communication can be divided into two broad classes: communication between individuals of the same species (intraspecific) or communication between different species (interspecific).[2]

It is usually used in the field of chemical ecology to encompass pheromones, allomones, kairomones, attractants and repellents.[1]

Many insects, including parasitic insects, use semiochemicals. Pheromones are intraspecific signals that aid in finding mates, food and habitat resources, warning of enemies, and avoiding competition. Interspecific signals known as allomones and kairomones have similar functions.[3]

In natureEdit


A pheromone (from Greek phero "to bear" + hormone from Greek – "impetus") is a secreted or excreted chemical factor that triggers a social response in members of the same species. Pheromones are chemicals capable of acting outside the body of the secreting individual to impact the behavior of the receiving individual.[4] There are alarm pheromones, food trail pheromones, sex pheromones, and many others that affect behavior or physiology.[5] Their use among insects has been particularly well documented. In addition, some vertebrates and plants communicate by using pheromones. A notable example of pheromone usage to indicate sexual receptivity in insects can be seen in the female Dawson's burrowing bee, which uses a particular mixture of cuticular hydrocarbons to signal sexual receptivity to mating, and then another mixture to indicate sexual disinterest. These hydrocarbons, in association with other chemical signals produced in the Dufour's gland, have been implicated in male repulsion signaling as well.[6]

The term "pheromone" was introduced by Peter Karlson and Martin Lüscher in 1959, based on the Greek word pherein (to transport) and hormone (to stimulate).[7] They are also sometimes classified as ecto-hormones.[8] German Biochemist Adolf Butenandt characterized the first such chemical, Bombykol (a chemically well-characterized pheromone released by the female silkworm to attract mates).[9]


An allomone is any chemical substance released by an individual of one species that affects the behavior of a member of another species to the benefit of the originator but not the receiver.[10] Production of allomones is a common form of defense, such as by plant species against insect herbivores or prey species against predators. Sometimes species produce the sex pheromones of the organisms they exploit as prey or pollinators (such as bolas spiders[11] and some orchids[12]). The term "Allomone" was proposed by Brown, Eisner, and Whittaker[13] to denote those substances which confer an advantage upon the emitter.


A kairomone is a semiochemical, emitted by an organism, which mediates interspecific interactions in a way that benefits an individual of another species which receives it, without benefitting the emitter. Two main ecological cues are provided by kairomones; they generally either indicate a food source for the receiver, or give warning of the presence of a predator. Often a pheromone may be utilized as a kairomone by a predator or parasitoid to locate the emitting organism.[14]


A synomone is an interspecific semiochemical that is beneficial to both interacting organisms, the emitter and receiver, e.g. floral synomone of certain Bulbophyllum species (Orchidaceae) attracts fruit fly males (Tephritidae: Diptera) as pollinators. In this true mutualistic inter-relationship, both organisms gain benefits in their respective sexual reproductive systems – i.e. orchid flowers are pollinated and the Dacini fruit fly males are rewarded with a sex pheromone precursor or booster. The floral synomone, also acts as a reward to pollinators, is either in the form of a phenylpropanoid (e.g. methyl eugenol[15][16][17]) or a phenylbutanoid (e.g. raspberry ketone[18] and zingerone[19][20]).

Human useEdit

The goals of using semiochemicals in pest control are

  1. to monitor pest populations to determine if control is warranted and
  2. to alter the behavior of the pest or its enemies to the detriment of the pest. In general, the advantages of using semiochemicals are
    1. they have adverse effects only on target pests,
    2. they are relatively nontoxic and required in low amounts,
    3. they are nonpersistent and environmentally safe
    4. they appear difficult for insects to develop resistance against. Monitoring of pest populations with pheromones is often integrated in management programs.


  1. ^ a b "Definition of Semiochemical". The Dictionary of Forestry. Bethesda, Maryland: The Society of American Foresters (SAF). 2008. Archived from the original on 2014-07-26.
  2. ^ J. H. Law; F. E. Regnier (1971). "Pheromones". Annual Review of Biochemistry. 40: 533–548. doi:10.1146/ PMID 4108191.
  3. ^ Cardé, Ring T; Willis, Mark A (26 July 2008). "Navigational Strategies Used by Insects to Find Distant, Wind-Borne Sources of Odor". Journal of Chemical Ecology. 34 (7): 854–886. doi:10.1007/s10886-008-9484-5. PMID 18581182.
  4. ^ "Pheromone". MedicineNet. Retrieved 2015-11-05.
  5. ^ Kleerebezem, Michiel; Quadri, Luis E. (2001-10-01). "Peptide pheromone-dependent regulation of antimicrobial peptide production in Gram-positive bacteria: a case of multicellular behavior". Peptides. Bacterial and anti bacterial peptides. 22 (10): 1579–1596. doi:10.1016/S0196-9781(01)00493-4. PMID 11587786.
  6. ^ Simmons, Leigh W.; Alcock, John; Reeder, Anthony (2003-10-01). "The role of cuticular hydrocarbons in male attraction and repulsion by female Dawson's burrowing bee, Amegilla dawsoni". Animal Behaviour. 66 (4): 677–685. doi:10.1006/anbe.2003.2240.
  7. ^ Karlson, P.; Lüscher, M. (1959-01-03). "'Pheromones': a New Term for a Class of Biologically Active Substances". Nature. 183 (4653): 55–56. doi:10.1038/183055a0. PMID 13622694.
  8. ^ Kohl, J. V.; Atzmueller, M.; Fink, B.; Grammer, K. (2001-10-01). "Human pheromones: integrating neuroendocrinology and ethology". Neuro Endocrinology Letters. 22 (5): 309–321. ISSN 0172-780X. PMID 11600881.
  9. ^ Butenandt, Adolf; Beckmann, Rüdiger; Hecker, Erich (2009). "Über den Sexuallockstoff des Seidenspinners, I. Der biologische Test und die Isolierung des reinen Sexuallockstoffes Bombykol". Hoppe-Seyler's Zeitschrift für Physiologische Chemie. 324 (Jahresband): 71–83. doi:10.1515/bchm2.1961.324.1.71. PMID 13689417.
  10. ^ Grasswitz, T.R. and G.R. Jones (2002). "Chemical Ecology". Encyclopedia of Life Sciences. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. doi:10.1038/npg.els.0001716. ISBN 978-0470016176.
  11. ^ Haynes, K.F., C. Gemeno, and K.V. Yeargan (2002). "Aggressive chemical mimicry of moth pheromones by a bolas spider: how does this specialist predator attract more than one species of prey?". Chemoecology. 12 (2): 99–105. doi:10.1007/s00049-002-8332-2.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ Ayasse, M (2010). "Chemical Ecology in deceptive orchids". Chemoecology. 20: 171–178.
  13. ^ Brown, W.L.; Eisner, T.; Whittaker, W.H. (1970). "Allomones and kairomones: Transspecific chemical messengers". BioScience. 20 (1): 21–22. CiteSeerX doi:10.2307/1294753. JSTOR 1294753.
  14. ^ Zuk, M. & Kolluru G.R. (1998). "Exploitation of sexual signals by predators and parasitoids". The Quarterly Review of Biology. 73 (4): 415–438. doi:10.1086/420412.
  15. ^ Tan, K.H., R. Nishida and Y.C. Toong (2002). "Bulbophyllum cheiri's floral synomone lures fruit flies to perform pollination". Journal of Chemical Ecology. 28 (6): 1161–1172. doi:10.1023/A:1016277500007.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  16. ^ Nishida, R., K.H. Tan, S.L. Wee, A.K.W. Hee and Toong, Y. C. (2004). "Phenylpropanoids in the fragrance of the fruit fly orchid, Bulbophyllum cheiri, and their relationship to the pollinator, Bactrocera papayae". Biochemical Systematics and Ecology. 32 (3): 245–252. doi:10.1016/S0305-1978(03)00179-0.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ Tan, K.H., L.T. Tan, and R. Nishida (2006). "Floral phenylpropanoid cocktail and architecture of Bulbophyllum vinaceum orchid in attracting fruit flies for pollination". Journal of Chemical Ecology. 32 (11): 2429–2441. doi:10.1007/s10886-006-9154-4. PMID 17082990.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  18. ^ Tan, K.H.; Nishida, R. (2005). "Synomone or Kairomone? - Bulbophyllum apertum (Orchidaceae) flower releases raspberry ketone to attract Bactrocera fruit flies". Journal of Chemical Ecology. 31: 509–519. doi:10.1007/s10886-005-2023-8. PMID 15898497.
  19. ^ Tan, K.H. and R. Nishida (2000). "Mutual reproductive benefits between a wild orchid, Bulbophyllum patens, and Bactrocera fruit flies via a floral synomone". Journal of Chemical Ecology. 26 (2): 533–546. doi:10.1023/A:1005477926244.
  20. ^ Tan, K.H. and R. Nishida (2007). "Zingerone in the floral synomone of Bulbophyllum baileyi (Orchidaceae) attracts Bactrocera fruit flies during pollination". Biochemical Systematics and Ecology. 35 (6): 334–341. doi:10.1016/j.bse.2007.01.013.

External linksEdit

  • Rutledge, Claire E. (1996). "A Survey of Identified Kairomones and Synomones Used by Insect Parasitoids to Locate and Accept Their Hosts". Chemoecology. 7 (3): 121–131. doi:10.1007/BF01245964.
  • Article on Semiochemicals,