Impact of herbivore-induced plant volatiles on parasitoid foraging success: a spatial simulation of the Cotesia rubecula, Pieris rapae, and Brassica oleracea system

Molly Puente, Krisztian Magori, George G Kennedy, Fred Gould
Journal of Chemical Ecology 2008, 34 (7): 959-70
Many parasitoids are known to use herbivore-induced plant volatiles as cues to locate hosts. However, data are lacking on how much of an advantage a parasitoid can gain from following these plant cues and which factors can limit the value of these cues to the parasitoid. In this study, we simulate the Cotesia rubecula-Pieris rapae-Brassica oleracea system, and ask how many more hosts can a parasitoid attack in a single day of foraging by following plant signals versus randomly foraging. We vary herbivore density, plant response time, parasitoid flight distance, and available host stages to see under which conditions parasitoids benefit from herbivore-induced plant cues. In most of the parameter combinations studied, parasitoids that responded to cues attacked more hosts than those that foraged randomly. Parasitoids following plant cues attacked up to ten times more hosts when they were able to successfully attack herbivores older than first instar; however, if parasitoids were limited to first instar hosts, those following plant cues were at a disadvantage when plants took longer than a day to respond to herbivory. At low herbivore densities, only parasitoids with a larger foraging radius could take advantage of plant cues. Although preference for herbivore-induced volatiles was not always beneficial for a parasitoid, under the most likely natural conditions, the model predicts that C. rubecula gains fitness from following plant cues.

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