Journal of Chemical Ecology (2009) 35, 999-1008

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Marco D'Alessandro, Virginie Brunner, Georg von Mérey and Ted C.J. Turlings (2009)
Strong attraction of the parasitoid Cotesia marginiventris towards minor volatile compounds of maize
Journal of Chemical Ecology 35 (9), 999-1008
Abstract: Plants infested with herbivorous arthropods emit complex blends of volatile compounds, which are used by several natural enemies as foraging cues. Despite detailed knowledge on the composition and amount of the emitted volatiles in many plant-herbivore systems, it remains largely unknown which compounds are essential for the attraction of natural enemies. In this study, we used a combination of different fractionation methods and olfactometer bioassays in order to examine the attractiveness of different compositions of volatile blends to females of the parasitoid Cotesia marginiventris. In a first step, we passed a volatile blend emitted by Spodoptera littoralis infested maize seedlings over a silica-containing filter tube and subsequently desorbed the volatiles that were retained by the silica filter (silica extract). The volatiles that broke through the silica filter were collected on and subsequently desorbed from a SuperQ filter (breakthrough). The silica extract was highly attractive to the wasps, whereas the breakthrough volatiles were not attractive. The silica extract was even more attractive than the extract that contained all herbivore-induced maize volatiles. Subsequently, we fractioned the silica extract by preparative gas-chromatography (GC) and by separating more polar from less polar compounds. In general, C. marginiventris preferred polar over non-polar compounds, but several fractions were attractive to the wasp, including one that contained compounds emitted in quantities below the detection threshold of the GC analysis. These results imply that the attractiveness of the volatile blend emitted by Spodoptera-infested maize seedlings to C. marginiventris females is determined by a specific combination of attractive and repellent/masking compounds, including some that are emitted in very small amounts. Manipulating the emission of such minor compounds has the potential to greatly improve the attraction of certain parasitoids and enhance biological control of specific insect pests.
(The abstract is excluded from the Creative Commons licence and has been copied with permission by the publisher.)
Link to article at publishers website
Database assignments for author(s): Ted C.J. Turlings

Research topic(s) for pests/diseases/weeds:
biocontrol - natural enemies
Research topic(s) for beneficials or antagonists:
environment/habitat manipulation
general biology - morphology - evolution


Pest and/or beneficial records:

Beneficial Pest/Disease/Weed Crop/Product Country Quarant.


Spodoptera littoralis Maize/corn (Zea mays)
Cotesia marginiventris (parasitoid) Spodoptera littoralis Maize/corn (Zea mays)