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Research article2016Peer reviewed

Revealing hidden species distribution with pheromones: the case of Synanthedon vespiformis (Lepidoptera: Sesiidae) in Sweden

Burman, Joseph; Westerberg, Lars; Ostrow, Suzanne; Ryrholm, Nils; Bergman, Karl-Olof; Winde, Inis; Nyabuga, Franklin; Larsson, Mattias; Millberg, Per


Synanthedon vespiformis L. (Lepidoptera: Sesiidae) is considered a rare insect in Sweden, discovered in 1860, with only a few observations recorded until a sex pheromone attractant became available recently. This study details a national survey conducted using pheromones as a sampling method for this species. Through pheromone trapping we captured 439 specimens in Southern Sweden at 77 sites, almost tripling the number of previously reported records for this species. The results suggest that S. vespiformis is truly a rare species with a genuinely scattered distribution, but can be locally abundant. Habitat analyses were conducted in order to test the relationship between habitat quality and the number of individuals caught. In Sweden, S. vespiformis is thought to be associated with oak hosts, but our attempts to predict its occurrence by the abundance of oaks yielded no significant relationships. We therefore suggest that sampling bias and limited knowledge on distribution may have led to the assumption that this species is primarily reliant on oaks in the northern part of its range, whereas it may in fact be polyphagous, similar to S. vespiformis found as an agricultural pest in Central and Southern Europe. We conclude that pheromones can massively enhance sampling potential for this and other rare lepidopteran species. Large-scale pheromone-based surveys provide a snapshot of true presences and absences across a considerable part of a species national distribution range, and thus for the first time provide a viable means of systematically assessing changes in distribution over time with high spatiotemporal resolution.


Ecology; Saproxylic; Moth; Indicator of species richness; Conservation; Monitoring :

Published in

Journal of Insect Conservation
2016, Volume: 20, number: 1, pages: 11-21
Publisher: SPRINGER