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J Chem Ecol. 2009 Sep;35(9):999-1008. doi: 10.1007/s10886-009-9692-7. Epub 2009 Sep 25.

Strong attraction of the parasitoid Cotesia marginiventris towards minor volatile compounds of maize.

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Laboratory of Fundamental and Applied Research in Chemical Ecology (FARCE), University of Neuchâtel, Institute of Biology, Neuchâtel, Switzerland.


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.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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