The role of pollen odour in the attraction of pollen beetles to oilseed rape flowers



The role of pollen odour in resource location by the pollen beetle, Meligethes aeneus (Fabricius) (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae), a pollen-feeding insect regarded as a pest of oilseed rape, Brassica napus L., (Brassicaceae) crops, was investigated in a linear track olfactometer. Both male and female beetles were attracted to the odour of whole oilseed rape flowers, indicating that these insects can locate their host plants using floral odours as cues. The attractive odour of flowers was found to emanate from all floral parts tested: the petals/sepals, the anthers, and from pollen itself. Therefore, at least part of the attractive odour of oilseed rape flowers emanates from pollen. Beetles were more attracted to floral samples containing anthers than those without anthers when these odours were directly compared in a choice-test, and this indicates that there were detectable differences between them. Anthers and pollen may therefore release distinctive odours that are quantitatively and/or qualitatively different from the odour of the rest of the flower. These experiments support the hypothesis that pollen-seeking insects use pollen odour cues to locate this food source.