Influence of flight activity and octopamine on hemolymph trehalose titers in Heliothis zea (Boddie) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)

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Virginia Tech


Hemolymph trehalose concentrations of male and female Heliothis zea were quantitated by high performance thin-layer chromatography (HPTLC) at various ages and times of the day and related to flight activity. Effects of octopamine injection or stress on trehalose levels were also quantified.

Flight activity was measured with a 32-channel computerized actograph that simulated sunrise at 0300 EST (Eastern Standard Time) and sunset at 1700. Males exhibited greater flight activity than females at all ages examined. Flight began near sunset, continuing through the night and ending around sunrise. Females flew continuously throughout the night, whereas males exhibited two peaks in activity: the first between 1700 and 1900, followed by a second peak between 2000 and 2400. Flight activity peaked on days 3-4 in males and days 4- 5 in females.

Trehalose was the predominant hemolymph sugar, comprising 82-100% of total hemolymph sugars. Glucose was the second most frequently observed sugar. Trehalose concentrations were variable, ranging from < 1 ug/ul to 37 ug/ul. Lab-reared moths had higher and more variable trehalose concentrations than field collected (wild) moths. Trehalose levels were relatively constant several days after emergence in both sexes but decreased significantly by day 6 in males. When examined over a 24 hour period, trehalose concentrations gradually increased throughout the day in day 4 males and females, peaking one hour before sunset at approximately 18 ug/ul. This peak is hypothesized to be related to flight preparation. Females showed a second peak in trehalose levels at 1800, but males’ trehalose levels continued to decline until 1900. Males and females exhibited more similar patterns in trehalose concentrations when sampled every 15 minutes over the sunset period (1500-1900) than when sampled at hour intervals.

Injections of octopamine, reputed to induce hyperglycemia in other insects, failed to elicit significant increases in trehalose levels in either fed or starved moths. Starved moths had lower trehalose concentrations than fed moths. Method of analysis (HPLC, HPTLC and anthrone) produced no differences in measured levels of trehalose or glucose. Various forms of stress (handling, shaking), also reported to induce hyperglycemia in other insects, similarly did not significantly increase trehalose titers in moths.