Intraspecific variation in herbivore-induced plant volatiles influences the spatial range of plant-parasitoid interactions

9 July 2018

Aartsma, Yavanna; Leroy, Benjamin; van der Werf, Wopke; Dicke, Marcel; Poelman, Erik; Bianchi, Felix

Chemical information influences the behaviour of many animals, thus affecting species interactions. Many animals forage for resources that are heterogeneously distributed in space and time, and have evolved foraging behaviour that utilizes information related to these resources. Herbivore-induced plant volatiles (HIPVs), emitted by plants upon herbivore attack, provide information on herbivory to various animal species, including parasitoids. Little is known about the spatial scale at which plants attract parasitoids via HIPVs under field conditions and how intraspecific variation in HIPV emission affects this spatial scale. Here, we investigated the spatial scale of parasitoid attraction to two cabbage accessions that differ in relative preference of the parasitoid Cotesia glomerata when plants were damaged by Pieris brassicae caterpillars. Parasitoids were released in a field experiment with plants at distances of up to 60 m from the release site using intervals between plants of 10 or 20 m to assess parasitism rates over time and distance. Additionally, we observed host-location behaviour of parasitoids in detail in a semi-field tent experiment with plant spacing up to 8 m. Plant accession strongly affected successful host location in field set-ups with 10 or 20 m intervals between plants. In the semi-field set-up, plant finding success by parasitoids decreased with increasing plant spacing, differed between plant accessions, and was higher for host-infested plants than for uninfested plants. We demonstrate that parasitoids can be attracted to herbivore-infested plants over large distances (10m or 20m) in the field, and that stronger plant attractiveness via HIPVs increases this distance (up to at least 20m). Our study indicates that variation in plant traits can affect attraction distance, movement patterns of parasitoids, and ultimately spatial patterns of plant-insect interactions. It is therefore important to consider plant-trait variation in HIPVs when studying animal foraging behaviour and multi-trophic interactions in a spatial context.