In response to attack by natural enemies, most aphid species release an alarm pheromone that causes nearby conspecifics to cease feeding and disperse. The primary component of the alarm pheromone of most species studied is (E)-β-farnesene. We recently demonstrated that the production and accumulation of (E)-β-farnesene during development by juvenile aphids is stimulated by exposure to odor cues, most likely by (E)-β-farnesene emitted by other colony members. Here, we tested whether the release of (E)-β-farnesene can be triggered by exposure to the alarm pheromone of other individuals, thereby amplifying the signal. Such contagious emission might be adaptive under some conditions because the amount of (E)-β-farnesene released by a single aphid may not be sufficient to alert an appropriate number of individuals of the colony to the presence of a potential threat. By using a push–pull headspace collection system, we quantified (E)-β-farnesene released from Acyrthosiphon pisum aphids exposed to conspecific alarm signals. Typical avoidance behavior was observed following exposure to (E)-β-farnesene (i.e., aphids ceased feeding and dropped from host-plant); however, no increase in alarm pheromone amount was detected, suggesting that contagious release of (E)-β-farnesene does not occur.
Aphid alarm pheromone productionAcyrthosiphon pisum(E)-β-farneseneHeadspace collection system