Master or Diploma project in the Department of Entomology

The role of cuticular hydrocarbons in mating behavior of the striped flea beetle, Phyllotreta striolata (F.)
The cuticular wax layer of insects plays an important role in insect physiology and chemical communication. It consists of a species-specific complex mixture of long-chained hydrocarbon structures. For example in longhorned beetles (Coleoptera, Cerambycidae), these so-called cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) were shown to act as contact sex pheromones that mediate mate recognition, but in leaf beetles (Coleoptera, Chrysomelidae) only few examples of contact sex pheromones are described in the literature.

Phyllotreta flea beetles are specialist herbivores on plants in the family Brassicaceae and aggregate on their host plants. This behavior is mediated by a male-produced aggregation pheromone. However, in the natural habitat, usually several Phyllotreta species can be found on the same host plant. This suggests that additional cues, such as a contact sex pheromone may be involved in mate recognition. In this project we will focus on the mating behavior of the striped flea beetle, Phyllotreta striolata.

Starting from behavioral observations of mating beetles we want to analyse the steps involved in mate choice. Using gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry, the quantitative and qualitative composition of male and female P. striolata CHCs will be analysed (in collaboration with Dr. Martin Kaltenpoth and Dr. Tobias Engl – Max Planck Research Group Insect Symbiosis). Whether or not beetle CHCs are involved in mate recognition of P. striolata will be tested in behavioral experiments.


Dr. Franziska Beran
Department of Entomology
e-mail: fberan [at]
Phone: 03641-571553