Response of natural populations of predators and parasitoids to artificially induced volatile emissions in maize plants (Zea mays L.)


T. C. J. Turlings, Institute of Zoology, University of Neuchâtel, Case postale 2, CH-2007 Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Tel.: + 41 32 7183158; fax: + 41 32 7183001; e-mail:


1 In response to herbivore attack, maize plants (Zea mays L.) emit a specific blend of induced volatiles. Artificial damage and subsequent treatment of the damaged site with caterpillar regurgitant induces the same response. The induced volatile chemicals are known to be highly attractive to several parasitoids of herbivores in laboratory bioassays, but very limited information is available on how the plant odours affect entomophagous insects in the field.

2 Experiments were conducted to determine if induced maize volatiles attract parasitic and predatory insects under field conditions and whether they affect their spatial distribution.

3 In a preliminary field experiment with blue sticky traps near treated (damaged and treated with caterpillar regurgitant) and healthy plants, more entomophagous insects (total number of parasitic Hymenoptera, Anthocoridae and Syrphidae) were trapped near treated plants than near healthy plants.

4 In a second experiment, attraction to the induced volatiles was monitored with sticky traps placed next to treated and healthy maize plants in a regular maize field. No significant differences between the two treatments were found, but significantly more insects (parasitic wasps, thrips and anthocorid bugs) were trapped near to the top of plants than on traps placed near the mid-stem. Displacement of these insect groups within the field seemed to occur principally over the canopy, but under severe weather conditions they travelled lower in the canopy.

5 In a third experiment, the effect of induced maize odours on the spatial distribution of predators and parasitoids was investigated by placing sticky traps at different distances from healthy and treated plants. The higher catches of parasitoids near treated plants and the increased presence of these insects on the downwind side of treated plants support the notion that herbivore-induced maize odours attract natural enemies of maize pests in the field.