SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

vol.67 issue3Achievements in the epidemiology of begomoviruses and their vector Bemisia tabaci in Costa RicaGenetic and morphometric comparison of two isolated populations of Barilius bendelisis (Cypriniformes: Cyprinidae) from the Indian Himalayas author indexsubject indexarticles search
Home Pagealphabetic serial listing  

Services on Demand




Related links


Revista de Biología Tropical

On-line version ISSN 0034-7744Print version ISSN 0034-7744

Rev. biol. trop vol.67 n.3 San José Jun. 2019 


Chemical and morpho-functional aspects of the interaction between a Neotropical resin bug and a sticky plant

Aspectos químicos y morfo-funcionales de la interacción entre un chinche neotropical de resina y una planta pegajosa

Alejandra Jiménez-Pomárico1 

Jorge Luis Avila-Núñez1 

Alberto Oliveros-Bastidas1 

Foción Rojas Márquez1  2 

Denys Uzcátegui3 

Rosa Virginia Mendoza-Briceño4 

Delsy Dávila-Vera4 

Luis B. Rojas5 

Rosa Aparicio5 

1 Grupo de Química Ecológica, Departamento de Química, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Los Andes, Mérida 5101, Venezuela;,,,

2 Departamento de Galénica, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad de Los Andes, Mérida 5101, Venezuela;

3 Laboratorio de Enzimología de Parásitos, Departamento de Biología, Universidad de Los Andes, Mérida 5101, Venezuela;

4 Centro de Microscopía Electrónica “Dr. Ernesto Palacios Prü”, Vicerrectorado Académico, Universidad de Los Andes, Mérida 5101, Venezuela;,

5 Instituto de Investigaciones, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad de Los Andes, Mérida 5101, Venezuela;,

5* Correspondence


Rubus adenotrichos is an Andean blackberry plant bearing glandular trichomes which secrete an adhesive exudate. The resin bug Heniartes stali is frequently found on this plant and collects this exudate using the forelegs to enhance its preying capacity. Here, we describe the morphology of the plant’s glandular trichomes with the aid of light and scanning electron microscopy, as well as the chemical components of the exudate by histochemical and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis. We have also combined behavioral observations with the analysis of the insect leg morphology to identify possible morpho-functional adaptations evolved by H. stali for collecting the sticky secretions. Glandular trichomes exhibited a multicellular long stalk and a calyx-shaped head with radially aligned cells. The composition of the resinous fluid was mainly terpenes and phenolics, which may contribute to its sticky properties. Brush-like structures on the tibia of forelegs in H. stali suggests an adaptive trait for collecting the trichomes exudate. A profusely hair-covered area on metatibiae operated as a resin storage structure. Abundant pore-like openings were observed in the cuticle of this area through which substances could be conceivably secreted to prevent resin hardening. These findings combine morphological and chemical features of a fascinating insect-plant interaction in the Neotropics.

Key words: glandular trichomes; plant resin; assassin bug; insect-plant interaction; Heniartes stali; Rubus adenotrichos


Rubus adenotrichos es una planta de mora andina que contiene tricomas glandulares los cuales secretan un exudado pegajoso. El chinche de las resinas Heniartes stali se encuentra con frecuencia en esta planta recogiendo el exudado con sus patas delanteras para mejorar su capacidad en la captura de las presas. En este trabajo empleamos microscopía de luz y microscopía electrónica de barrido para describir la morfología de los tricomas. Los constituyentes químicos del exudado fueron estudiados mediante técnicas histoquímicas, de cromatografía de gases y espectrometría de masas. También combinamos observaciones del comportamiento del insecto en la recolección y almacenamiento del exudado con el análisis de la morfología de sus patas, empleando microscopía de luz y microscopía electrónica de barrido para identificar las posibles adaptaciones morfo-funcionales desarrolladas para la manipulación de estas secreciones adhesivas. Los tricomas glandulares exhibieron un tallo largo multicelular y una cabeza glandular en forma de cáliz con células alineadas radialmente. El fluido resinoso estaba compuesto principalmente por terpenos y compuestos fenólicos, los cuales parecen contribuir con sus propiedades adhesivas. La presencia de estructuras tipo pincel en las puntas de las tibias de las patas delanteras sugieren un carácter adaptativo para recoger el exudado de los tricomas. También describimos un área en las patas traseras profusamente cubierta de pelos, que funcionaban como estructuras de almacenamiento de la resina. En la cutícula de éstas observamos abundantes aberturas similares a poros y sugerimos que a través de ellos se secretan sustancias que impiden el endurecimiento de la resina almacenada. Estos hallazgos aportan información sobre características morfológicas y químicas de un novedoso modelo de interacción insecto-planta en el neotrópico.

Palabras clave: tricomas glandulares; resina vegetal; chinches asesinos; interacción insecto-planta; Heniartes stali; Rubus adenotrichos


Numerous sticky plants have glandular trichomes (GTs) that secrete viscous-adhesive fluids to entrap insects and other arthropods (Wheeler & Krimmel, 2015). These structures are epidermal hairs with the capacity to secrete or store secondary metabolites and other compounds (Huchelmann, Boutry, & Hachez, 2017). Leaves, stems, and flowers of many vascular plants exhibit GTs and a variety of adaptive functions have been postulated, including solar UV A/B protection, toxin secretion, and anti-herbivore defense (Wagner, Wang, & Shepherd, 2004; Glas, Schimmel, Alba, Escobar-Bravo, Schuurink, & Kant, 2012). Typically, GTs are multicellular structures with differentiated basal, stalk and apical cells. The production and storage compartments are usually located at the tip of the hair and are part of one or more glandular cells (Tissier, 2012). GTs may release the stored exudate by physical rupture or secrete it through the tip opening, causing the plant surfaces to become sticky (Falara & Pichersky, 2012). Exudates are chemically diverse and include terpenoids, flavonoids, phenylpropanoids, alkaloids, fatty acid derivatives and acylated sugars which can confer mucilaginous or resinous properties (Werker, 2000). The effectiveness of GTs in plant defense against herbivory notwithstanding (Levin, 1973; Wagner, 1991; Peiffer, Tooker, Luthe, & Felton, 2009; Tian, Tooker, Peiffer, Chung, & Felton, 2012), there are specialist arthropods which can move across the sticky plant surfaces without becoming entrapped (Voigt & Gorb, 2008, 2010). Species of spiders, plant bugs and stilt bugs are examples of invertebrates that colonize sticky plants for consuming both living and dead prey caught by the GTs (Sugiura & Yamazaki, 2006; Romero, Souza & Vasconcellos-Neto, 2008; Krimmel & Pearse, 2013).

Resin bugs (Hemiptera: Reduviidae) collect viscous substances (Roepke, 1932; Schuh & Slater, 1995; Gil-Santana, Costa, Forero, & Zeraik, 2003; Forero, Choe, & Weirauch, 2011; Zhang, Weirauch, Zhang, & Forero, 2015) which assist them in prey capture and protect their eggs against predators (Choe & Rust 2007). To date, the morphological base of the ability of these insects to collect and store fluids from a trichome-bearing plant has not been studied in the Neotropics.

Recently we described the natural history and the resin-collecting behavior of the assassin bug Heniartes stali Wygodzinsky 1953 (Hemiptera: Reduviidae: Harpactorinae) in association with Rubus adenotrichos (Schltdl.) (Rosaceae), an Andean wild blackberry whose stems and buds are covered by a densely arranged glandular sticky trichomes. We collected immature and adults of both sexes of H. stali on this plant as they harvested the adhesive GT secretion with the forelegs and stored it on the hindlegs (Avila-Núñez, Naya, Otero, & Alonso-Amelot, 2016). This exudate was an effective tool for prey capture (Avila-Núñez, Naya, Otero, & Alonso-Amelot, 2017). We also found H. stali on Melinis minutiflora grass, which was also covered with a thick layer of GTs. The association of Heniartes bugs and sticky trichome plants is not a rare phenomenon, since other as yet undetermined bug species have been observed in the field on such plants (Zhang & Weirauch, 2011; Zhang et al., 2015). Thus, H. stali is an excellent model for studying this exploitation of plant resource by insects. Our study was focused on three issues: 1. Morphology of the GTs of R. adenotrichos; 2. Chemical composition of the exudate of GT, and 3. Functional morphology of H. stali legs involved in the collection and storing of the exudate from GTs of R. adenotrichos.

Materials and methods

Plant and insect material: Stems of juvenile and mature R. adenotrichos individuals were collected in October 2015 growing in wild thickets along Monterrey road (2 515 m ), near Merida city, Merida State, Venezuela (8º40’43’’ N & 71º6’51’’ W) marked by anthropogenic fragments of shrubs, ferns, grasses and arboreal plants. Rainfall and average annual temperature is 2 560 mm and 13 ºC, respectively, with a bimodal March-May and August-November rain regime (Acevedo & Ataroff, 2012).

For the morpho-functional study, we examined the right legs (fore and hind legs) of six female adults of H. stali collected in La Llanada (2 150 m), near to Merida city, Venezuela (8º35’55’’N & 71º10’56’’ W). Voucher specimens of R. adenotrichos were deposited in the herbarium of the Facultad de Ciencias Ambientales y Forestales (No. 054882 MER) and H. stali in the insect collection of the Laboratorio de Ecología de Insectos (No. ED201 CLEI-ULA) of the Universidad de Los Andes, Mérida, Venezuela.

Morphology of GT of R. adenotrichos: Fresh stem samples from juvenile (N = 6) and mature (N = 6) individuals of R. adenotrichos were examined using a Kyowa SDZ-TR-PL stereo microscope. We also recorded the morphology and distribution of GT in leaves and inflorescences.

The density and length of GTs on the juvenile stems samples were measured. Small pieces of epidermal stripes (0.5 cm2) were prepared macerating sections of fresh juvenile stems (1 cm long) in 10 % KOH solution during 24 h at room temperature (modified from Kiger, 1971). Samples were then washed with distilled water and embedded in a glycerine drop on microscopic slide. The number of GTs per unit area was estimated at 20x magnification by counting the trichomes in randomly selected samples of stems (N = 15) from five juvenile plants (Gravano, Tani, Bennici, & Gucci, 1998). For measurements, GTs (N = 32) from 10 randomly selected epidermal stripes from five juvenile plants were removed using a fine point pincer. The distance from the middle point of the base to the vertex of the head of each GT was measured using ToupView®3.2 Image Software.

For the histological analysis, five stem sections (0.5 cm long) from juvenile plants were fixed in FAA 50 for 48 hours, followed by dehydration in an ethanol series, stored in 100 % ethanol, and embedded in paraffin wax (Paraplast®Plus) (Johansen, 1940). Serial sections (10 μm thick) were obtained on a rotator microtome, stained with astra blue and basic fuchsin (Kraus et al., 1998), and mounted in Canada balsam on glass slides.

Chemical composition of the exudate from R. adenotrichos

Microscopic analysis/Staining: The Prussian blue method (Price & Butler, 1977) for phenolics and the Dragendorff assay for alkaloids (Furr & Mahlberg, 1981) were employed in histochemical tests. Twelve fresh GTs were pulled off with a fine point pincer. Six GTs were soaked with a distilled water drop and, at 1 min intervals, one drop of FeNH4(SO4)2 solution was added, followed by another drop of a K3Fe(CN)6 solution 20 min after. One drop of Dragendorff reagent was added to six GTs. After exposing GTs to these reagents color changes were observed in the light microscope.

Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS): The GT exudate was selectively extracted following the procedure described by Calcagno-Pissarelli, Alonso-Amelot, Mora, Rodríguez, and Avila-Núñez (2010). Removing previously the leaves, fresh sections (30 cm long) of juvenile stems (311 g) were immersed in dichloromethane (10 mL/g fresh weight) in an ultrasound bath, 3 times for 30 s followed by dehydration with anhydrous sodium sulfate, filtered, and evaporated to dryness at reduced pressure a 30 ºC, yielding a crude residue (1.61 g; 0.5 % of fresh weight). This material was flash-chromatographed through silica gel and eluted with a hexane-dichloromethane-ethyl acetate-methanol gradient into four fractions (F1, 0.014 g; F2, 0.149 g; F3, 0.409 g, and F4, 0.770 g). F1 and F2 were pooled and all fractions were taken up in acetone (5 mg/mL) for GC-MS analysis (Hewlett-Packard GC-quadrupole MS Model 5973). We used a Hewlett-Packard HP-MS fused silica column (30 m x 0.25 mm (inner diameter), film thickness, 0.25 µm; injection volume, 1.0 µL. The transfer line temperature was programmed from 100 to 300 ºC (5 ºC/min); source temperature, 230 ºC; quadrupole temperature, 150 ºC. The carrier gas was helium, adjusted to a linear velocity of 34 cm/s; scan range, 40-700 amu; 3.9 scans/s. The identity of components was established by matching against Mass Spectra Wiley library (6th edition) and those reported in the literature (Adams, 2007).

Morphology of H. stali legs: Our previous observations indicated that forelegs and hind legs were used by H. stali for collecting and storing the exudate from GT (Avila-Núñez et al., 2016). For LM, legs (N= 3) were excised, macerated in 10 % KOH for 48 h and rinsed with 70 % ethanol following the procedure of Zhang & Weirauch (2011). Subsequently, they were immersed in a glycerol drop on a microscope slide. For scanning electron microscopy (SEM), excised legs (N = 3) were immersed in dichloromethane for 30 s to remove the sticky exudate and dehydrated in a series of ethanol dilutions (30 - 100% in 10 % steps) and then one step in 100 % acetone. The samples were mounted on metallic stubs and using a Hitachi HUS-5GB vacuum evaporator, the drying was completed for 5 s. Finally, the samples were sputter-coated with a 200 nm-thick layer of gold for 300 s, at 8 mA current using Ion Coater 1B-2 (Hitachi High-Technologies Corporation, Japan). Micrographs were obtained in a Hitachi S-2500 scanning electron microscope (Hitachi High-Technologies Corporation, Japan).

Leg and GT morphology was studied with macrograph and micrograph images obtained using T-10 (Sony Cybershot) and FMA050 (AmScope Co) digital cameras, respectively, both for leg´s and GT morphology. Insect structures were termed as in Forero et al. (2011).


GT of R. adenotrichos: SM showed the presence of trichomes on stems, petioles, young leaves and inflorescences, while on mature leaves trichomes were located primarily on veins and margins of the abaxial side (Fig. 1A). We observed two trichome types: non-glandular trichomes (NGTs) and GTs (Fig. 1B, Fig. 1C). The NGTs were unbranched, tapered, having a translucent appearance. GTs were unbranched, multicellulary stalked, capitate, occurring with a mean of 44.13 GT per cm2 of stem sections (Standard Deviation, SD = 9.58) and a mean of 1.83 mm (SD = 0.99) in length. They had a characteristic dark red color although they were less pigmented in those plant parts less exposed to sunlight (Fig.1B). A yellowish secretion was released by the calyx-shaped head as individual droplets (Fig. 1D) which eventually collapsed and smeared the GT stalk (Fig. 1C). Stem surfaces turned to gummy traps for wandering insects as recognized in our field observations (Fig. 1B).

LM images revealed that GT stalk cells were arranged in multiple rows, while the cells of the glandular head containing red-stained vacuoles were radially organized (Fig. 1E, Fig. 1F). The outer cell walls of the latter were greatly thickened and heavily cutinized. Additionally to trichomes, we also could distinguish the typical tissues of a dicotyledonous stem (Fig. 1E).

Fig. 1 The plant surface of R. adenotrichos. A. Aspect of the whole plant showing parts bearing trichomes (arrows). B. Trichomes perpendicularly aligned to the stem surface. Some trapped insects can be seen on these sticky structures (arrows). C. Stereoscopic view of glandular trichomes (arrow) and non-glandular, filiform trichomes (asterisk) in a stem surface. Arrow points exudate at the tip of the trichome. D. A calyx-shaped head of a glandular trichome showing the secretion of tiny drops (arrow) of the exudate. E. Light microscopy micrograph (LM) of a stem cross-section. Glandular trichome (GT), Non-glandular trichome (NGT), Epidermal (E), chlorenchyma (C), phloema (Ph) and xylema (Xy) tissues can be viewed. Asterisk indicates a ruptured GT. F. Detail of GT obtained with LM. Glandular head (HGT) and multicellular stalk (SGT) G. LM image showing residual exudate in the head of glandular trichome upon staining with blue.  

Chemical composition of the exudate of GT from R. adenotrichos: The intense blue coloration upon exposure of GT to the Prussian blue reagent suggested the presence of phenolic compounds in the trichome secretion (Fig. 1G), whereas alkaloids were absent (Dragendorff reagent).

Twelve major compounds, chiefly terpenoids were identified by GC-MS analyses of the exudate of R. adenotrichos (Table 1, Fig. 2). The waxes nanocosane and hentriacontane were the most abundant constituents in fraction F2, in addition to heptacosane and nanocosane in F3 and F4. These cuticular hydrocarbons were probably co-extracted with dichloromethane, i.e., artefacts which do not belong to the exudate compounds. F3 predominantly contained lupeol, and a few other sesquiterpenes. A greater molecular diversity was identified in F4, including blue-reactive phenolic compound eugenol and hydroxy chromene (Table 1).

TABLE 1 Major compounds identified by GC-MS from column chromatography fractions of the glandular exudate of R. adenotrichos (see Fig. 2 for further information) 

Fraction Compound Class Tr (min) % **
2 1 Heneicosane h 27.506 0.5
2 Pentacosane h 30.715 0.8
3 Heptacosane h 33.695 1.3
4 Nonacosane h 36.476 3.9
5 Hentriacontane h 39.074 2.3
3 1 Caryophyllene oxide s 13.990 0.5
2 Spathulenol s 14.884 1.3
3 Germacra-4-(15),5,10,(14)-trien-1α-ol s 16.144 1.4
4 Heptacosane h 33.683 2.8
5 Nonacosane h 36.476 1.4
6 Lupeol t 42.585 12.6
4 1 Eugenol php 8.927 4.17
2 Caryophyllene oxide s 13.975 2.0
3 Spathulenol s 14.880 0.4
4 trans-Caryophyllene s 16.150 0.6
5 Germacra-4-(15),5,10,(14)-trien-1α-ol s 16.140 2.6
6 Heptacosane h 33.695 5.5
7 Nonacosane h 36.487 2.8
8 2-(3,4-dimethoxyphenyl)-7-hydroxi-3-Methoxy-4H-chromen c 37.530 7.6
9 Lupeol t 42.591 20.4
Total 74.87

Tr = retention time in minutes; ** percentage relative to the total of identified compounds; h = long-chain linear hydrocarbons, s = sesquiterpene, t = triterpene, php = phenylpropene, c = chromen.

Fig. 2 Spectra obtained from GC-MS analysis column chromatography, demonstrating F2, F3, F4 of the plant extract prepared from R. adenotrichos. Numbers at peaks correspond to their retention times. Numbers in parentheses indicate the identified compound (for details see table 1). The peaks were identified according to the Mass Spectra library (6th edition) and Adams (2007). 

Leg morphology of H. stali: The apex of the protibia was directly involved in the collection of resin from GT heads (Fig. 3A). We could identify two areas with different vestiture on the ventroapical surface (Fig. 3B, Fig. 3C). In the distal area the setation was less dense, with short setae and scattered long setae. The proximal area was covered with a brush-like structure with very dense vestiture composed by long, wide and concave setae. A short row of straight setae protruded from the center of the upper edge.

Hind legs: The harvested GT exudate was stored on the metatibiae (Fig. 3D) whose most conspicuous characteristic were long, brush-like and pointed setae (Fig. 3E) either erect or procumbent, and some of them longer than the tibia’s width. Although setae were observed on the entire metatibia surface, they were more abundant on middle section. Another remarkable feature was the abundance of small ovoid protuberances with irregular-shaped openings distributed on the entire metatibial cuticle (Fig. 3E, Fig. 3F).

Fig. 3 Morphology of H. stali legs. A. A female on a stem of R. adenotrichos while gathering the sticky exudate from the trichome heads employing the foreleg end (arrow). B. LM image of the lateral view of a foreleg showing a brush-like structure in the protibia tip (arrow). C. SEM image of protibia. Short setae (ss), long setae (ls), brush-like structure (bs), short straight setae (sts). D. Metatibia covered with secretion of the plant trichomes adhering to the bulk of setae (arrow). E. LM image of a metatibia showing long setae (asterisks) and high number of pores dispersed over the cuticle (arrow). F. SEM image of ornamented pore in the cuticle of metatibia (arrow). 


The presence and abundance of GTs secreting a sticky fluid was a relevant attribute of R. adenotrichos aerial parts. These GTs showed typical multicellular structures in the base, long stalk and glandular head (Werker, 2000). However, the sticky fluid did not accumulate within a subcuticular space in the glandular tip as in other plants bearing GT with a similar basic morphology, nor was this fluid released by the rupture of the cuticle (Gregory, Ave, Bouthyette, & Tingey, 1986; Pichersky & Gershenzon, 2002; Peiffer et al., 2009). In R adenotrichos, the GT heads appeared as secreting organs which exported the sticky fluid possibly through cuticular pores (Wagner et al., 2004; Sousa, 2016). Once on the outside, the secretion was dispersed throughout the GT stalk.

Although the origin, cell development, and properties of prickles and GT in species of Rubus and other Rosaceae have been investigated (Kellogg, Branaman, Jones, Little, & Swanson, 2011; Gallenmüller, Feus, Fiedler, & Speck, 2015), several studies describe the morphology and anatomy of their GTs. Sulborska and Weryszko-Chmielewska (2014) described the secretory structures in the flowers of Rosa rugosa Thunb. as GTs having the features of colleters, with stalk and glandular head whose cells were radially arranged in a globular contour. While studied the raspberries Rubus phoenicolasius Maxim. and R. odoratus L. Pohl (2009) and Roshchina (2014) characterized these GTs as multi-cellular glands constituted by a stalk and glandular head with morphology and anatomy very similar to R. adenotrichos’s GTs

Our chemical analysis of the R. adenotrichos GT exudate let assume a lipophilic mix mainly of terpenes, phenolic compounds and others. Many of these compounds are bioactive and/or physiologically important in GT-bearing plants (Schilmiller, Last, & Pichersky, 2008; Schnetzler, Teixeira & Ribeiro-Marinho, 2017; Ribeiro-Marinho, Poletti, Gobbo-Neto & Pádua, 2018). Among Rosaceae, the GT of Rosa rugosa secrete a viscous fluid in which the sesquiterpenes rugosal and others related to carotane, are predominant constituents (Hashidoko, Satushi, & Junya, 1992; Hashidoko, Endoh, Kudo, & Tahara, 2001). In Rubus, studies on the chemical constituents have been focused on leaves and fruits from non-glandular species. Numerous diterpenes and triterpenes have been isolated (Patel, Rojas-Vera, Dacke, 2004), some of them with taxonomic significance such as rubusoside and suavioside (Seto, Tanaka, & Tanaka, 1984). Also it is known Rubus contains a number of phenolic compounds, the prevailing being anthocyanins and ellagitannins (Mullen et al., 2002; Maatta-Riihinen, Kamal-Eldin, & Torronen, 2004).

In our study, lupeol, a common triterpene of higher plants, was the major compound identified in the R. adenotrichos exudate, in consonance with the GT sticky secretion of certain insect-trapping plants (Simoneit, Medeiros, & Wollenweber, 2008; Frenzke et al., 2016). Lupeol biotransformation, mechanism of action, and biological activities are on record (Gallo & Sarachine, 2009).

Triterpenes and phenolics present in the exudate of R. adenotrichos could explain the adhesive properties. It is known natural adhesives do not consist of one compound only but are chemical mixtures (Betz, 2010). Triterpenes, as pure natural products, are crystalline solids, but as a mixture they form sticky syrup (Simoneit et al., 2008). Additionally, polyphenolics are one class of chemical compounds which are frequently found in bioadhesives (Rischka et al., 2010).

During our analysis of the dichloromethane-soluble fraction, although stem sections were briefly immersed in the solvent to dissolve the exudate, this wash might have included more compounds than only those of the exudate. Chances are, however, that these are cuticular substances and probably not cell vacuole substances from stem cuticle or parenchyma. Additionally, some peaks in the GC trace escaped mass spectral characterization. Compound richness could be enhanced by more exhaustive extraction procedures using other solvents. We are currently expanding our studies in this regard.

The morphology of H. stali´s female legs suggests the evolution of morpho-functional traits to gather and store viscous exudates from sticky plants. Two areas of vestiture and modified setae on fore and hind legs support this contention. The brush-like structure on the protibia tip of H. stali suggests an adaptation for collecting efficiently the tiny drops on the glandular head of trichomes. Bugs extended their forelegs to browse the GTs heads repeatedly to load up the hairy tips of protibia with resin. An expansion of the apex of the protibia area has also been identified in the resin bug Heniartes flavicans Fabricius 1798 (Forero et al., 2011), another harvesting species of GT sticky exudate (Zhang et al., 2015). However, apical setae in H. flavicans forelegs are more discrete than the brushy setation of H stali.

The resin-storing area in the hind legs which was characterized by long and thin setae was a prominent trait in H. stali. Setae appeared to operate as a multifunctional brush to collect and store temporarily the exudate being transferred from the forelegs after harvesting from GTs. In turn, the stored resin was reclaimed by the forelegs as required for prey trapping (Avila-Nuñez et al., 2016). By contrast, the vestiture on the anterior surface of H. flavican´s metatibiae showed only sparse and relatively short setae (Forero et al., 2011).

The abundant ovoid protuberances on the cuticle of H. stali metatibiae were another interesting finding. Catalá and Scholfield (1994) recorded similar structures in antennal sensilla of hematophagous bug Rhodnius (Reduviidae: Triatominae) as highly ornamented pores with 5-6 inner extensions. Although pores in the metatibiae have been reported in other Apiomerini species (Forero et al. 2011), ours is the first record of ornamented pores in this group. The function of these openings in H. stali is still uncertain. According to Weirauch (2008), who identified similar pores in Triatominae as outlets of dermal glands, these structures in Apiomerini might produce secretions to prevent the hardening of resin stored in the hairy structures and maintain the insect ability to manipulate it (Avila-Nuñez et al. 2016). This hypothesis has also been proposed for Apiomerus females that store plant resins on their abdominal surface where gland structures have been observed (Forero et al., 2011), but this is as yet untested.

Our results suggest that the structural modifications in the fore and hind legs constitute morphological traits to exploit plants with resinous trichomes. These findings contribute to the considerations of the sticky plant trichome usage in assassin bugs, which evolved as an exogenous source of adhesive fluids in sticky trap strategy (Zhang et al. 2015). These results have also revealed new directions toward a more profound study of this fascinating interaction. Our ongoing research aims to associate the antioxidant properties of the exudate and the stability of its sticky properties upon air contact after harvesting by H. stali and the purported role of the insect’s secretions to prevent the collected exudate hardening.


We thank the financial support of CDCHTA-ULA, Grant Nº C-1981-16-08-B.


Acevedo, M. F., & Ataroff, M. (2012). Leaf Spectra and Weight of Species in Canopy, Subcanopy, and Understory Layers in a Venezuelan Andean Cloud Forest. Scientifica. DOI: 10.6064/2012/839584 [ Links ]

Adams, P. R. (2007). Identification of essential oil components by Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectromety. Illinois: Allured Publishing Corp. [ Links ]

Avila-Núñez, J. L., Naya, M., Otero, L. D., & Alonso-Amelot, M. E. (2016). A resin bug (Reduviidae: Harpactorinae: Apiomerini) harvesting the trichome secretion from an Andean blackberry. Neotropical Biodiversity, 2, 151-158. [ Links ]

Avila-Núñez, J. L., Naya, M., Otero, L. D., & Alonso-Amelot, M. E. (2017). Sticky trap predation in the neotropical resin bug Heniartes stali (Wygodzinsky) (Hemiptera: Reduviidae: Harpactorinae). Journal of Ethology, 35, 213-219. [ Links ]

Betz, O. (2010). Adhesive exocrine glands in insects: morphology, ultrastructure, and adhesive secretion. In J. Byern & I. Grunwald (Eds.), Biological Adhesive Systems - From Nature to Technical and Medical Application (pp. 111-152). New York: Springer. [ Links ]

Calcagno-Pissarelli, M. P., Alonso-Amelot, M. E., Mora, R., Rodriguez, D., & Avila-Núñez, J. L. (2010). Foliar exudates of Blakiella bartsiifolia (SF Blake) Cuatrec (Asteraceae). A preliminary study of the chemical composition. Avances en Química, 5, 161-166. [ Links ]

Catalá, S., & Schofield, C. J. (1994). The antennal sensilla of Rhodnius. Journal of Morphology, 219, 193-203. [ Links ]

Choe, D. H., & Rust, M. (2007). Use of plant resin by a bee assasin bug, Apiomerus flaviventris (Hemiptera: Reduviidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 100, 320-326. [ Links ]

Falara, V., & Pichersky, E. (2012). Plant volatiles and other specialized metabolites: synthesis, storage, emission, and function. In J. M. Vivanco & F. Baluska (Eds.), Secretions and Exudates in Biological Systems, Signaling and Communication in Plants (pp. 109-123). Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag. [ Links ]

Forero, D., Choe, D. H., & Weirauch, C. (2011). Resin gathering in neotropical resin bugs (Insecta: Hemiptera: Reduviidae): Functional and Comparative Morphology. Journal of Morphology , 272, 204-229. [ Links ]

Frenzke, L., Lederer, A., Malanin, M., Eichhorn, K. L., Neinhuis, C., & Voigt, D. (2016). Plant pressure sensitive adhesives: similar chemical properties in distantly related plant lineages. Planta, 244, 145-154. DOI: 10.1007/s00425-016-2496-4 [ Links ]

Furr, M., & Mahlberg, P. G. (1981). Histochemical analyses of laticifers and glandular trichomes in Cannabis sativa. Journal of Natural Products, 44, 153-159. [ Links ]

Gallenmüller, F., Feus, A., Fiedler, K., & Speck, T. (2015). Rose prickles and Asparagus spines - different hook structures as attachment devices in climbing plants. PLoS ONE, 10(12), e0143850. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0143850 [ Links ]

Gallo, M. B. C., & Sarachine, M. J. (2009). Biological Activities of Lupeol. International Journal of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, 3, 46-66. [ Links ]

Gil-Santana, H. R., Costa, L. A. A., Forero, D., & Zeraik, S. (2003). Sinopse dos Apiomerini, com chave ilustrada para os géneros (Hemiptera-Heteroptera, Reduviidae, Harpactorinae). Publicações Avulsas do Museu Nacional, 97, 1-24. [ Links ]

Glas, J. J., Schimmel, B. C. J., Alba, J. M., Escobar-Bravo, R., Schuurink, R. C., & Kant, M. R. (2012). Plant GT as targets for breeding or engineering of resistance to herbivores. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 13, 17077-17103. [ Links ]

Gravano, E., Tani, C., Bennici, A., & Gucci, R. (1998). The ultrastructure of glandular trichomes of Phillyrea latifolia L. (Oleaceae) leaves. Annals of Botany, 81, 327-335. [ Links ]

Gregory, P., Ave, D. A., Bouthyette, P. Y., & Tingey, W. M. (1986). Insect-defensive chemistry of potato GT. In B. E. Juniper & T. R. E. Southwood (Eds.), Insects and the plant surface (pp. 173-183), London: E. Arnold. [ Links ]

Hashidoko, Y., Endoh, K., Kudo, T., & Tahara, S. (2001).Capability of wild Rosa rugosa and its varieties and hybrids to produce sesquiterpene components in leaf glandular trichomes. Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry, 65, 2037-2043. [ Links ]

Hashidoko, Y., Satushi, T., & Junya, M. (1992). Rugosal and related carotane sesquiterpenes in the glandular trichome exudate of Rosa rugosa. Phytochemistry, 31, 779-782. [ Links ]

Huchelmann, A., Boutry, M., & Hachez, C. (2017). Plant Glandular Trichomes: Natural Cell Factories of High Biotechnological Interest. Plant Physiology, 175, 6-22. [ Links ]

Johansen, D. A. (1940). Plant Microtechnique. New York: McGraw-Hill. [ Links ]

Kellogg, A. A., Branaman, T. J., Jones, N. M., Little, C. Z., & Swanson, J. D. (2011). Morphological studies of developing Rubus prickles suggest that they are modified glandular trichomes. Botany, 89, 217-226. [ Links ]

Kiger R. W. (1971). Epidermal and cuticular mounts of plant material obtained by maceration. Stain Technology, 46, 71-75. [ Links ]

Kraus, J. E., Sousa, H. C., Rezende, M. H., Castro, N. M., Vecchi, C., & Luque, R. (1998). Astra blue and basic fuchsin double staining of plant materials. Biotechnic & Histochemistry, 73, 235-243. [ Links ]

Krimmel, B. A., & Pearse, I. S. (2013). Sticky plant traps insects to enhance indirect defence. Ecology Letters, 16, 219-224. [ Links ]

Levin, D. A. (1973). The role of trichomes in plant defence. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 48, 3-15. [ Links ]

Maatta-Riihinen, K. R., Kamal-Eldin, A., & Torronen, A. R. (2004). Identification and quantification of phenolic compounds in berries of Fragaria and Rubus species (Family Rosaceae). Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 52, 6178-6187. [ Links ]

Mullen, W., McGinn, J., Lean, M. E. J., MacLean, M. R., Gardner, P., Duthie, G. G., Yokota, T., & Crozier, A. (2002). Ellagitannins, flavonoids, and other phenolics in red raspberries and their contribution to antioxidant capacity and vasorelaxation properties. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry , 50, 5191-5196. [ Links ]

Patel, A. V., Rojas-Vera, J., & Dacke, C. G. (2004). Therapeutic Constituents and Actions of Rubus Species. Current Medicinal Chemistry, 11, 1501-1512. [ Links ]

Peiffer, M., Tooker, J. F., Luthe, D. S., & Felton, G. W. (2009). Plants on early alert: GT as sensors for insect herbivores. New Phytologist, 184, 644-656. [ Links ]

Pichersky, E., & Gershenzon, J. (2002). The formation and function of plant volatiles: perfumes for pollinator attraction and defense. Current Opinion in Plant Biology, 5, 237-243. [ Links ]

Pohl, S. A. (2009). Untersuchungen zur möglichen Protokarnivorie von Lathraea squamaria, Salvia glutinosa und Rubus phoeniculasius (Diploma thesis). University of Vienna. [ Links ]

Price, M., & Butler, L. G. (1977). Rapid visual estimation and spectrophotometric determination of tannin content of Sorghum grain. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry , 25, 1268-1273. [ Links ]

Ribeiro-Marinho, C., Poletti Martucci, M. A., Gobbo-Neto, L., & Pádua Teixeira, S. (2018). Chemical composition and secretion biology of the floral bouquet in legume trees (Fabaceae). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 187, 5-25. [ Links ]

Rischka, K., Richter, K., Hartwig, A., Kozielec, M., Slenzka, K., Sader, R, & Grunwald, I. (2010). Bio-inspired polyphenolic adhesives for medical and technical applications. In J. von Byern & I. Grunwald (Eds.), Biological Adhesive Systems From Nature to Technical and Medical Application (pp. 201-211). Vienna: Springer. [ Links ]

Roepke, W. (1932). Über "Harzwanzen" von Sumatra und Java. Miscellanea Zoologica Sumatrana, 68, 1-5. [ Links ]

Romero, G. Q., Souza, J. C., & Vasconcellos-Neto, J. C. (2008). Anti-herbivore protection by mutualistic spiders and the role of plant glandular trichomes. Ecology, 89, 3105-3115. [ Links ]

Roshchina, V. (2014). Model systems to study the excretory function of higher plants. Berlin: Springer. [ Links ]

Schilmiller, A. L., Last, R. L., & Pichersky, E. (2008). Harnessing plant trichome biochemistry for the production of useful compounds. The Plant Journal, 54, 702-711. [ Links ]

Schnetzler, B. N., Teixeira, S. P., & Ribeiro-Marinho, C. R. (2017). Trichomes that secrete substances of a mixed nature in the vegetative and reproductive organs of some species of Moraceae. Acta Botanica Brasilica, 31, 392-402. [ Links ]

Schuh, R. T., & Slater, J. A. (1995). True bugs of the world (Hemiptera: Heteroptera): Classification and natural history. New York: Cornell University Press. [ Links ]

Seto, T., Tanaka, T., & Tanaka, O. (1984). β-glucosyl esters 19α-hydroxyursolic acid derivatives in leaves of Rubus species. Phytochemistry , 23, 2829-2834. [ Links ]

Simoneit, B. R. T., Medeiros, P. M., & Wollenweber, E. (2008). Triterpenoids as major components of the insect-trapping glue of Roridula species. Zeitschrift für Naturforschung, 63c, 625-630. [ Links ]

Sousa, E. A. (2016). How do secretory products cross the plant cell wall to be released? A new hypothesis involving cyclic mechanical actions of the protoplast. Annals of Botany , 117, 533-540. [ Links ]

Sugiura, S., & Yamazaki, K. (2006). Consequences of scavenging behaviour in a plant bug associated with a glandular plant. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 88, 593-602. [ Links ]

Sulborska, A., & Weryszko-Chmielewska, E. (2014). Characteristics of the secretory structures in the flowers of Rosa rugosa Thunb. Acta Agrobotanica, 67, 13-24. [ Links ]

Tian, D., Tooker, J., Peiffer, M., Chung, S. H., & Felton, G. W. (2012). Role of trichomes in defense against herbivores: comparison of herbivore response to woolly and hairless trichome mutants in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum). Planta , 236, 1053-1066. [ Links ]

Tissier, A. (2012). Gland trichomes: What comes after expressed sequence tags? The Plant Journal , 70, 51-88. [ Links ]

Voigt, D., & Gorb, S. (2008). An insect trap as habitat: cohesion-failure mechanism prevents adhesion of Pameridea roridulae bugs to the sticky surface of the plant Roridula gorgonias. Journal of Experimental Biology, 211, 2647-2657. [ Links ]

Voigt, D., & Gorb, S. (2010). Locomotion in a sticky terrain. Arthropod-Plant Interactions, 4, 69-79. [ Links ]

Wagner, G. J. (1991). Secreting GT: More than just hairs. Plant Physiology , 96, 675-679. [ Links ]

Wagner, G., Wang, E., & Shepherd, R. (2004). New approaches for studying and exploiting an old protuberance, the plant trichome. Annals of Botany (Lond) , 93, 3-1. [ Links ]

Weirauch, C. (2008). Cladistic analysis of Reduviidae (Heteroptera: Cimicomorpha) based on morphological characters. Systematic Entomology, 33, 229-274. [ Links ]

Werker, E. (2000). Trichomes diversity and development. In D. C. Hallahan & J. C. Gray (Eds.), Advances in Botanical Research, Plant trichomes (pp. 4-30). London: Academic Press. [ Links ]

Wheeler, A. G., & Krimmel, B. A. (2015). Mirid (Hemiptera: Heteroptera) specialists of sticky plants: adaptations, interactions, and ecological implications. Annual Review of Entomology, 60, 393-414. [ Links ]

Zhang, G., & Weirauch, C. (2011). Sticky predators: a comparative study of sticky glands in harpactorinae assassin bugs (Insecta: Hemiptera: Reduviidae). Acta Zoologica-Stockholm, 94, 1-10. [ Links ]

Zhang, J., Weirauch, C., Zhang, G., & Forero, D. (2015). Molecular phylogeny of Harpactorinae and Bactrodinae uncovers complex evolution of sticky trap predation in assassin bugs (Heteroptera: Reduviidae). Cladistics, 32, 538-554. [ Links ]

Received: June 03, 2018; Revised: March 02, 2019; Accepted: March 19, 2019

Creative Commons License This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License