In parasitoid insects, successful offspring development depends on the female’s ability to find a suitable host. Specific recognition is often based on responses to olfactory cues, but their source and nature have rarely been determined.
–This paper deals with the recognition of odours involved in host location by Leptopilina boulardi[Barbotin, Carton & Kelner-Pillault] (Hymenoptera: Eucoilidae), a larval parasitoid of Drosophila species that develops in mature fruits. The nature and origin of volatile stimuli recognized among odours of the host–fruit complex, and the effect of learning on this recognition, were investigated. Oriented responses to these odours were observed in a four-armed olfactometer and were analysed with the observer software (Noldus Information Technology). Fruit odours alone (banana and pear) were not spontaneously attractive to naive parasitoids, whereas naturally-infested bananas were highly attractive. The attraction was related to the odour that adult Drosophila left on the substrate but not to Drosophila oviposition activity or larval development. A synergism between some fruit odours (banana and pear) and the odour left by adult Drosophila on damp filter paper was observed. However, when testing a non-fruit substrate (mushroom), no synergism was observed. Thus, female L. boulardi may innately recognize host–food substrate odours associated with odours from the adult stage of their host. In addition, an oviposition experience on an infested banana allows L. boulardi females to memorise the fruit odour itself through associative learning. The adaptive significance of this process is discussed.