Other Functions

The cuticular waxes may have important roles in preventing the entry of microorganisms and in chemical communication (i.e., they serve as semiochemicals). It has been suggested that the waxes may prevent adhesion of microorganisms or may be toxic to them. Cuticular hydrocarbons are also known to serve as contact sex pheromones, for example, in female Diptera and Blattella, attracting or inducing copulatory behavior in males, or serving as an aphrodisiac to keep the male in position until insemination has occurred (Schal et al., 1998). In termites, the cuticular hydrocarbon blend is highly specific and serves as a species-and/or caste-recognition pheromone. (See also Chapter 13, Section 4.1.2.) Interestingly, some beetles that live in termite colonies produce the same hydrocarbon profile as the host, enabling them to remain unmolested in the nest. The species-specific nature of the lipids has been turned to advantage by some parasitic Hymenoptera who use these chemical cues (known as kairomones [Chapter 13, Section 4.2.) to locate their host (Blomquist and Dillwith, 1985).

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