Body odors of parasitized caterpillars give away the presence of parasitoid larvae to their primary hyperparasitoid enemies

Feng Zhu, Berhane T Weldegergis, Boris Lhie, Jeffrey A Harvey, Marcel Dicke, Erik H Poelman
Journal of Chemical Ecology 2014, 40 (9): 986-95
Foraging success of parasitoids depends on the utilization of reliable information on the presence of their often, inconspicuous hosts. These parasitic wasps use herbivore-induced plant volatiles (HIPVs) that provide reliable cues on host presence. However, host searching of hyperparasitoids, a group of parasitoids that parasitize the larvae and pupae of other parasitoids, is more constrained. Their hosts do not feed on plants, and often are even concealed inside the body of the herbivore host. Hyperparasitoids recently have been found to use HIPVs of plants damaged by herbivore hosts in which the parasitoid larvae develop. However, hyperparasitoids that search for these parasitoid larvae may be confronted with healthy and parasitized caterpillars on the same plant, further complicating their host location. In this study, we addressed whether the primary hyperparasitoid Baryscapus galactopus uses caterpillar body odors to discriminate between unparasitized herbivores and herbivores carrying larvae of parasitoid hosts. We show that the hyperparasitoids made faster first contact and spent a longer mounting time with parasitized caterpillars. Moreover, although the three parasitoid hosts conferred different fitness values for the development of B. galactopus, the hyperparasitoids showed similar behavioral responses to caterpillar hosts carrying different primary parasitoid hosts. In addition, a two-chamber olfactometer assay revealed that volatiles emitted by parasitized caterpillars were more attractive to the hyperparasitoids than those emitted by unparasitized caterpillars. Analysis of volatiles revealed that body odors of parasitized caterpillars differ from unparasitized caterpillars, allowing the hyperparasitoids to detect their parasitoid host.

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