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J Chem Ecol. 2008 Jun;34(6):791-803. doi: 10.1007/s10886-008-9492-5. Epub 2008 Jun 3.

Predatory mite attraction to herbivore-induced plant odors is not a consequence of attraction to individual herbivore-induced plant volatiles.

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Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, 1090 GB, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Predatory mites locate herbivorous mites, their prey, by the aid of herbivore-induced plant volatiles (HIPV). These HIPV differ with plant and/or herbivore species, and it is not well understood how predators cope with this variation. We hypothesized that predators are attracted to specific compounds in HIPV, and that they can identify these compounds in odor mixtures not previously experienced. To test this, we assessed the olfactory response of Phytoseiulus persimilis, a predatory mite that preys on the highly polyphagous herbivore Tetranychus urticae. The responses of the predatory mite to a dilution series of each of 30 structurally different compounds were tested. They mites responded to most of these compounds, but usually in an aversive way. Individual HIPV were no more attractive (or less repellent) than out-group compounds, i.e., volatiles not induced in plants fed upon by spider-mites. Only three samples were significantly attractive to the mites: octan-1-ol, not involved in indirect defense, and cis-3-hexen-1-ol and methyl salicylate, which are both induced by herbivory, but not specific for the herbivore that infests the plant. Attraction to individual compounds was low compared to the full HIPV blend from Lima bean. These results indicate that individual HIPV have no a priori meaning to the mites. Hence, there is no reason why they could profit from an ability to identify individual compounds in odor mixtures. Subsequent experiments confirmed that naive predatory mites do not prefer tomato HIPV, which included the attractive compound methyl salicylate, over the odor of an uninfested bean. However, upon associating each of these odors with food over a period of 15 min, both are preferred. The memory to this association wanes within 24 hr. We conclude that P. persimilis possesses a limited ability to identify individual spider mite-induced plant volatiles in odor mixtures. We suggest that predatory mites instead learn to respond to prey-associated mixtures of volatiles and, thus, to odor blends as a whole.

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