Heptyl butyrate

January 13, 2020
Yellowjackets love apples because of me.
What molecule am I?

Heptyl butyrate is a colorless liquid with a chamomile-like odor that is found abundantly in fresh apples and plums. In late summer, as these fruits begin to fall from trees, swarms of yellowjackets (Vespula spp.) can appear.

In the late 1960s, Entomologist Harry G. Davis, chemist Martin Beroza, and colleagues at the US Department of Agriculture were researching attractants for the little housefly (Fannia canicularis) when they discovered the effect of heptyl butyrate on yellowjackets. But the details of this attraction were not investigated until 2016, when Peter Landolt at the USDA (Wapato, WA) and Q.H. Zhang at Sterling International (Spokane, WA) studied various potential attractants and reported that heptyl butyrate was superior to other compounds for attracting Vespula and other wasp genera.

In 2009, a fact sheet issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency stated that heptyl butyrate is a safe, food-grade compound. Earlier that year, EPA had issued a pesticide registration for the compound to be used as an attractant in yellowjacket traps and other devices.

Heptyl butyrate also occurs in babaco (an Ecuadorean hybrid papaya-like fruit in the genus Vasconcellea). So if you like the smell of fresh fruit, you and yellowjackets are in good company.

Heptyl butyrate hazard information

Hazard class* Hazard statement
Flammable liquids, category 4 H227—Combustible liquid
Skin corrosion/irritation, category 2 H315—Causes skin irritation Chemical Safety Warning
Serious eye damage/eye irritation, category 2A H319—Causes serious eye irritation  Chemical Safety Warning
Specific target organ toxicity, single exposure, respiratory tract irritation, category 3 H335—May cause respiratory irritation Chemical Safety Warning

*Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.
Explanation of pictograms.


Heptyl butyrate fast facts

CAS Reg. No. 5870-93-9
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nomenclature
Butanoic acid, heptyl ester
Empirical formula C11H22O2
Molar mass 186.29 g/mol
Appearance Colorless liquid
Boiling point 226 ºC
Water solubility 33 mg/L (est.)
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