Original Paper


, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 209-218

First online:

Chemosensory and behavioural responses of the turnip sawfly, Athalia rosae, to glucosinolates and isothiocyanates

  • Alison M. BarkerAffiliated withCABI-Bioscience Switzerland Centre Email author 
  • , Reitumetse MolotsaneAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Imperial CollegeSchool of Molecular & Cell Biology, University of the Witwatersrand
  • , Caroline MüllerAffiliated withJulius-von-Sachs-Institut für Biowissenschaften, Universität Würzburg
  • , Urs SchaffnerAffiliated withCABI-Bioscience Switzerland Centre
  • , Erich StädlerAffiliated withEidg. Forschungsanstalt

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The turnip sawfly Athalia rosae sequesters glucosinolates from its cruciferous host plants in the larval stage. Investigation of the chemosensory and behavioural responses of adult A. rosae to glucosinolates and their volatile hydrolysis products, isothiocyanates, revealed that females detect glucosinolates by contact chemoreception and isothiocyanates by antennal olfaction. In electroantennogram recordings, four isothiocyanates (allyl [2-propenyl] isothiocyanate, benzyl isothiocyanate, butyl isothiocyanate and iberverin [3-methylthiopropyl isothiocyanate]) were active at all doses presented, including the lowest (0.1 μg), whilst the threshold for detection of three others, iberin [3-methylsulphinylpropyl isothiocyanate], methyl isothiocyanate, and sulforaphane [4-methylsulphinylbutyl isothiocyanate], was higher, at between 1 and 10 μg (source concentration of volatiles). Allyl isothiocyanate attracted experienced females in a four-chambered olfactometer, whilst naïve females showed no response. Allyl isothiocyanate also attracted mature females to baited yellow water traps in field trials, although immature females were repelled at high isothiocyanate concentrations. In laboratory behavioural bioassays the glucosinolates sinigrin (allyl [2-propenyl] glucosinolate) and sinalbin (p-hydroxybenzyl glucosinolate), stimulated ovipositor probing in mature female A. rosae to an extent comparable to hot-water extracts of their host plants. These responses show that glucosinolates and isothiocyanates play an important role in host finding and host recognition in A. rosae.

Key words.

glucosinolate isothiocyanate host-finding host-recognition sawfly Athalia rosae Delia radicum Hymenoptera Tenthredinidae Diptera Brassicaceae