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Keywords:

  • aphid behaviour;
  • Aphis fabae;
  • 1-hexacosanol;
  • host selection;
  • plant waxes

Abstract

Initiation of stylet penetration by aphids depends on the sensory assessment of a number of plant surface features including colour, texture and phytochemicals (volatile and non-volatile). Video recording behaviour of the black bean aphid, Aphis fabae, showed that these insects rapidly inserted their stylets following contact with host plants (beans), but were reluctant to penetrate non-hosts (oats). However, when epicuticular waxes were stripped from oats, using cellulose acetate, aphids penetrated the plant surface significantly earlier than on oats with the wax layer intact. Chloroform extraction of epicuticular lipids, followed by coupled gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, revealed a complex blend of wax components on beans, whereas one compound (1-hexacosanol) predominated on oats. Epicuticular lipids were applied to artificial (glass) substrates in order to investigate their behavioural activity. Initiation of a stylet penetration attempt by A. fabae was delayed when the oat extract or pure 1-hexacosanol were applied, but the bean extract had no behavioural effect. The results suggest that epicuticular lipids play an important role in the early stages of host-plant selection by A. fabae.