The role of volatiles from cruciferous plants and pre-flight experience in the foraging behaviour of the specialist parasitoid Cotesia plutellae



The braconid Cotesia plutellae is an important larval parasitoid of the diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella), a major pest of crucifers in the tropics and sub-tropics. The in-flight searching behaviour of C. plutellae was investigated in a wind tunnel and the close-range attack behaviour observed in cages. The relative importance of volatile stimuli emanating from the plant-host-complex, oilseed rape (Brassica napus) –P. xylostella, in the long-range attraction of C. plutellae was investigated. Plants that were mechanically damaged, or damaged by P. xylostella larvae, were attractive to the parasitoid. Host-damaged leaves remained attractive to the parasitoid after removal of the host larvae. These results indicate that C. plutellae predominantly uses plant derived stimuli in its in-flight searching behaviour. An oviposition experience or contact with a host-damaged leaf prior to the bioassay significantly increased the response to these volatile cues. The foraging behaviour of C. plutellae is compared with other braconid larval parasitoids attacking lepidopteran hosts on crucifers.