Attraction of egg-killing parasitoids toward induced plant volatiles in a multi-herbivore context

Antonino Cusumano, Berhane T Weldegergis, Stefano Colazza, Marcel Dicke, Nina E Fatouros
Oecologia 2015, 179 (1): 163-74
In response to insect herbivory, plants emit volatile organic compounds which may act as indirect plant defenses by attracting natural enemies of the attacking herbivore. In nature, plants are often attacked by multiple herbivores, but the majority of studies which have investigated indirect plant defenses to date have focused on the recruitment of different parasitoid species in a single-herbivore context. Here, we report our investigation on the attraction of egg parasitoids of lepidopteran hosts (Trichogramma brassicae and T. evanescens) toward plant volatiles induced by different insect herbivores in olfactometer bioassays. We used a system consisting of a native crucifer, Brassica nigra, two naturally associated herbivores [the butterfly Pieris brassicae (eggs and caterpillars) and the aphid Brevicoryne brassicae] and an alien invasive herbivore (eggs and caterpillars of the moth Spodoptera exigua). We found that Trichogramma wasps were attracted by volatiles induced in the plants by P. brassicae eggs, but not by those induced in the plants by S. exigua eggs, indicating the specificity of the plant responses toward lepidopteran herbivores. The results of the chemical analysis revealed significant differences between the volatile blends emitted by plants in response to attack by P. brassicae and S. exigua eggs which were in agreement with the behavioural observations. We investigated the attraction of Trichogramma wasps toward P. brassicae egg-induced volatiles in plants simultaneously attacked by larvae and nymphs of different non-hosts. The two chewing caterpillars P. brassicae and S. exigua, but not the phloem-feeding aphid B. brassicae, can disrupt the attraction of Trichogramma species toward P. brassicae egg-induced volatiles. Indirect plant defenses are discussed in the context of multiple herbivory by evaluating the importance of origin, dietary specialization and feeding guild of different attackers on the recruitment of egg-killing parasitoids.

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