- Differential arrestment of Trichogramma wasps to extreme sex pheromone types of the noctuid moth Heliothis virescens
- Ecological Entomology
- Volume | Issue number
- 39 | 5
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
1. Chemical espionage in nature may occur when predators or parasitoids home in on animal or plant communication signals. Parasitoid wasps are known to use pheromones emitted by adults hosts to locate host eggs, larvae or pupae. The response of Trichogramma egg parasitoids to a synthetic sex pheromone blend of moths has been shown in a number of studies over the past 40 years.
2. Trichogramma pretiosum (Hymenoptera, Trichogrammatidae) is a tiny parasitic wasp, attacking the eggs of the noctuid moth Heliothis virescens (Lepidoptera, Noctuidae). This study investigated whether T. pretiosum homes in on the sex pheromone of H. virescens at close range. The arrestment response of the wasps to sex pheromone gland extracts of two types of female moths, so-called high and low females, was also tested, referring to two selected extreme pheromone types of H. virescens. The study also investigated whether the wasps would mount females, possibly to hitchhike with them.
3. The wasps were arrested by the common, ‘low’ pheromone, but not by the rare, ‘high’ pheromone or by extracts from male hairpencils. The wasps did not show a preference for separate sex pheromone compounds, but when pre-exposed to the major sex pheromone component of H. virescens before the tests together with H. virescens eggs, they did show a preference, indicating learning behaviour. In the mounting experiments, mated females were mounted significantly more than virgin females or males, suggesting that hitchhiking is a strategy used by these wasps to locate moth eggs.
4. This represents the first study to show a differential response of parasitoid wasps to two different sex pheromone types in a single host species. The results warrant further investigations into the potential role of parasitic wasps in the evolution of sexual communication in moths.
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