In response to herbivory by insects, several plant species have been shown to produce volatiles that attract the natural enemies of those herbivores. Using a Y-tube olfactometer, we investigated responses of the aphid parasitoid Diaeretiella rapae MacIntosh (Hymenoptera: Aphidiidae) to volatiles from Arabidopsis thaliana Columbia (Brassicaceae) plants that were either undamaged, infested by the peach-potato aphid, Myzus persicae Sulzer (Homoptera: Aphididae), or mechanically damaged, as well as to volatiles from just the aphid or its honeydew. In dual-choice experiments, female D. rapae given oviposition experience on A. thaliana infested with M. persicae were significantly attracted to volatiles from A. thaliana infested with M. persicae over volatiles from undamaged A. thaliana and similarly were significantly attracted to plants that had been previously infested by M. persicae, but from which the aphids were removed, over undamaged plants. Diaeretiella rapae did not respond to volatiles from M. persicae alone, their honeydew, or plants mechanically damaged with either a pin or scissors. We conclude that an interaction between the plant and the aphid induces A. thaliana to produce volatiles, which D. rapae can learn and respond to. Poor responses of D. rapae to volatiles from an A. thaliana plant that had two leaves infested with M. persicae, with the two infested leaves being removed before testing, suggested the possibility that, at this stage of infestation, the majority of volatile production induced by M. persicae may be localized to the infested tissues of the plant. We conclude that this tritrophic interaction is a suitable model system for future investigations of the biochemical pathways involved in the production of aphid-induced volatiles attractive to natural enemies.
- Y-tube olfactometer
- tritrophic interactions
- mechanical damage
- ovipositional and foraging experience