Duration of plant damage by host larvae affects attraction of two parasitoid species (Microplitis croceipes and Cotesia marginiventris) to cotton: implications for interspecific competition

Tolulope Morawo, Henry Fadamiro
Journal of Chemical Ecology 2014, 40 (11-12): 1176-85
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by herbivore-damaged plants can guide parasitoids to their hosts. The quantity and quality of VOC blends emitted by plants may be affected by the duration of plant damage by herbivores, which could have potential ramifications on the recruitment of competing parasitoids. We used two parasitoid species, Microplitis croceipes and Cotesia marginiventris (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), to address the question of whether duration of plant damage affects parasitoid use of plant VOCs for host location. Both wasp species are larval endoparasitoids of Heliothis virescens (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), an important pest of cotton. Attraction of the two parasitoid species to odors emitted by undamaged (UD), fresh (6 h infestation) damage (FD), and old (24 h infestation) damage (OD) cotton plants infested by H. virescens larvae was investigated using a headspace volatile collection system coupled with four-choice olfactometer bioassay. Both sexes of M. croceipes showed a preference for FD- and OD-plant odors over UD-plants. On the other hand, more C. marginiventris females were attracted to UD- and FD-plants than to OD-plants. GC/MS analyses showed qualitative and quantitative differences in the VOC profiles of UD, FD, and OD-plants, which may explain the observed preferences of the parasitoids. These results suggest a temporal partitioning in the recruitment of M. croceipes and C. marginiventris to H. virescens-damaged cotton, and may have potential implications for interspecific competition between the two parasitoid species.

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