The role of the plant in attracting parasitoids: response to progressive mechanical wounding


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Based on the model system of Brussels sprouts [Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera (Brassicaceae)], the herbivore cabbage white caterpillar, Pieris brassicae (L.) (Lepidoptera: Pieridae), and the parasitoid wasp, Cotesia glomerata (L.) (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), the influence of plant damage type, and damage duration were assessed on plant volatile emission and subsequent recruitment of natural antagonists of the herbivore. Plants were damaged by three methods for a period of either 3 or 8 h: herbivore damage (HD), progressive mechanical damage, and final mechanical damage inflicted in a single event. Wind-tunnel bioassays evaluated whether the mode of damage affected female parasitoid oriented flight. After both periods of damage, all treatments were highly significantly preferred by naïve C. glomerata to undamaged control plants. After 3 h, herbivore-damaged plants were significantly preferred to plants with final damage (FD). Most remarkably, following 8-h damage, the parasitoid preferred both herbivore-damaged and progressively damaged plants to plants with FD and did not significantly discriminate between herbivore and progressively damaged plants, thus indicating a similarity in plant response to herbivore and progressive mechanical damage. In addition to wind-tunnel bioassays, emitted plant volatiles were collected and analysed by thermal desorption gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, following 3 and 8 h of damage in order to correlate volatiles released from different damage types with the attraction of the parasitoid. Differences in volatile profiles from all damage types were similar following both 3 and 8 h of damage, with only (Z)-3-hexenyl acetate found to be emitted in significantly higher quantities by final mechanical damage compared with HD after 3 h. In conclusion, the plant's response to progressive mechanical damage was more similar to HD than final mechanical damage deployed at a single point in time, irrespective of damage duration, and C. glomerata did not significantly discriminate between progressive damage and HD.