Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 9, pp 1703-1715

First online:

Plant-to-Plant Communication Mediating In-Flight Orientation of Aphidius ervi

  • E. GuerrieriAffiliated withIstituto parla Protezione delle Piante CNR Sez. di Portici
  • , G. M. PoppyAffiliated withSchool of Biological Sciences, University of Southampton
  • , W. PowellAffiliated withIACR—Rothamsted
  • , R. RaoAffiliated withDipartimento di Scienze del Suolo, della Pianta e dell'Ambiente, Università di Napoli “Federico II”
  • , F. PennacchioAffiliated withDipartimento di Biologia, Difesa e Biotecnologie Agro-Forestali, Università della Basilicata, Macchia Romana Email author 

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Broad bean plants (Vicia faba) infested by the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum, play a key role in the in-flight orientation of the parasitoid Aphidius ervi, by producing host-induced synomones (HIS). These volatiles are herbivore-specific and are systemically released from insect-free parts of an infested plant, suggesting the existence of an elicitor circulating throughout the plant. This study was designed to investigate whether the plant metabolic changes, leading to HIS biosynthesis and emission, can in some way trigger similar responses in neighboring plants through aerial and/or root communication. Uninfested broad bean plants maintained in the same pot together with plants infested by A. pisum became more attractive towards A. ervi females when tested in a wind-tunnel bioassay. This change was not observed when root contact was prevented among plants that had their aerial parts in close proximity, suggesting that an exudate from the roots of the infested plant may cause the induction of the attractive volatiles in uninfested plants. Broad bean plants grown hydroponically also produce pea aphid induced signals that attract A. ervi. When an intact (uninfested) plant was placed in a hydroponic solution previously used to grow a pea aphid-infested plant, it became attractive to parasitoids, while an intact plant placed in a solution previously used to grow an intact plant did not undergo such a change. These results indicate that plant-to-plant signaling in this tritrophic system may occur at the rhizosphere level and is most likely mediated by a systemically translocated elicitor.

Synomones phytopheromones wind tunnel flight behavior Aphidiinae Aphididae