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Plants that are infested by herbivores emit volatile cues that can be used by the natural enemies of the herbivores in their search for hosts. Based on results from behavioral studies, we investigated to what extent intact and herbivore-infested plant species and varieties from the food plant range of Pieris herbivore species differ in the composition of the volatile blends. Parasitoids of Pieris species, Cotesia glomerata and C. rubecula, show differential responses towards various herbivore-infested food plants, whereas differences in responses to plants infested by other herbivore species were less clear. Chemical analysis of the headspace samples of red cabbage, white cabbage, and nasturtium plants that were infested by P. brassicae or P. rapae larvae, or that were intact, yielded 88 compounds including alcohols, ketones, aldehydes, esters, nitriles, terpenoids, sulfides, (iso)thiocyanates, carboxylic acids, and others. The analysis revealed that herbivore-infested plants emit the largest number of compounds in the highest amounts. The plant species affected the volatile blend more than did the herbivore species, and differences between plant varieties were less pronounced than differences between plant species. Differences in headspace composition between plants infested by P. brassicae or P. rapae were mainly of a quantitative nature. Herbivore-infested nasturtium differed considerably from the cabbage varieties in a qualitative way. Headspace compositions of red and white cabbage varieties were comparable to that of the food plant Brussels sprouts (Brassica oleracea gemmifera cv. Titurel) as determined in earlier studies in our laboratory. With respect to plant response to herbivory, nasturtium differed considerably from the cabbage varieties analyzed so far and shows resemblance with Lima bean, cucumber, and corn. These plant species produce a greater quantity and variety of volatiles under herbivore attack than intact plants. The results of this study are discussed in relation to behavioral observations on C. glomerata and C. rubecula.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2935-2954
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

ID: 323486