Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

Research article2012Peer reviewed

Inducibility of chemical defenses in Norway spruce bark is correlated with unsuccessful mass attacks by the spruce bark beetle

Schiebe Christian, Hammerbacher Almuth, Birgersson Göran, Witzell Johanna, Brodelius Peter, Gershenzon Jonathan, Hansson Bill S, Krokene Paal, Schlyter Fredrik


Secondary attraction to aggregation pheromones plays a central role in the host colonization behavior of the European spruce bark beetle Ips typographus. However, it is largely unknown how the beetles pioneering an attack locate suitable host trees, and eventually accept or reject them. To find possible biomarkers for host choice by I. typographus, we analyzed the chemistry of 58 Norway spruce (Picea abies) trees that were subsequently either (1) successfully attacked and killed, (2) unsuccessfully attacked, or (3) left unattacked. The trees were sampled before the main beetle flight in a natural Norway spruce-dominated forest. No pheromones were used to attract beetles to the experimental trees. To test the trees’ defense potential, each tree was treated in a local area with the defense hormone methyl jasmonate (MeJ), and treated and untreated bark was analyzed for 66 different compounds, including terpenes, phenolics and alkaloids. The chemistry of MeJ-treated bark correlated strongly with the success of I. typographus attack, revealing major chemical differences between killed trees and unsuccessfully attacked trees. Surviving trees produced significantly higher amounts of most of the 39 analyzed mono-, sesqui-, and diterpenes and of four of 20 phenolics. Alkaloids showed no clear pattern. Differences in untreated bark were less pronounced, where only 1,8-cineole and (–)-limonene was significantly higher in unsuccessfully attacked trees. Our results show that the potential of individual P. abies trees for inducing defense compounds upon I. typographus attack may partly determine tree resistance to this bark beetle by inhibiting its mass attack


Resistance; Mass attack; Terpenes; Phenolics; Alkaloids

Published in

2012, Volume: 170, number: 1, pages: 183-198