Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 281-290

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Prey and Non-prey Arthropods Sharing a Host Plant: Effects on Induced Volatile Emission and Predator Attraction

  • Jetske G. de BoerAffiliated withLaboratory of Entomology, Wageningen UniversityEvolutionary Genetics, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies, University of Groningen Email author 
  • , Cornelis A. HordijkAffiliated withNetherlands Institute for Ecology, Centre for Limnology
  • , Maarten A. PosthumusAffiliated withLaboratory of Organic Chemistry, Wageningen University
  • , Marcel DickeAffiliated withLaboratory of Entomology, Wageningen University


It is well established that plants infested with a single herbivore species can attract specific natural enemies through the emission of herbivore-induced volatiles. However, it is less clear what happens when plants are simultaneously attacked by more than one species. We analyzed volatile emissions of lima bean and cucumber plants upon multi-species herbivory by spider mites (Tetranychus urticae) and caterpillars (Spodoptera exigua) in comparison to single-species herbivory. Upon herbivory by single or multiple species, lima bean and cucumber plants emitted volatile blends that comprised mostly the same compounds. To detect additive, synergistic, or antagonistic effects, we compared the multi-species herbivory volatile blend with the sum of the volatile blends induced by each of the herbivore species feeding alone. In lima bean, the majority of compounds were more strongly induced by multi-species herbivory than expected based on the sum of volatile emissions by each of the herbivores separately, potentially caused by synergistic effects. In contrast, in cucumber, two compounds were suppressed by multi-species herbivory, suggesting the potential for antagonistic effects. We also studied the behavioral responses of the predatory mite Phytoseiulus persimilis, a specialized natural enemy of spider mites. Olfactometer experiments showed that P. persimilis preferred volatiles induced by multi-species herbivory to volatiles induced by S. exigua alone or by prey mites alone. We conclude that both lima bean and cucumber plants effectively attract predatory mites upon multi-species herbivory, but the underlying mechanisms appear different between these species.


Food webs Indirect defense Methyl salicylate Terpenes Tritrophic interactions GC-MS Signal transduction