, Volume 140, Issue 3, pp 516–522 | Cite as

Fly parasitoid Megaselia opacicornis uses defensive secretions of the leaf beetle Chrysomela lapponica to locate its host

Plant Animal Interactions


Larvae of the leaf beetle Chrysomela lapponica derive a defensive secretion from salicyl glucosides found in the host plant Salix borealis. This secretion protects beetle larvae from some natural enemies, but does not appear to repel parasitoids. We tested the hypothesis that the fly parasitoid Megaselia opacicornis (Diptera, Phoridae) uses the larval defensive secretion of Ch. lapponica in its search for prey. In the field, nearly 30 times more M. opacicornis individuals were caught on leaves coated with sticky resin next to a source of secretion than on control leaves. In the laboratory, M. opacicornis females laid six times more eggs next to a cotton ball soaked in secretion than next to one soaked in water. Fly females also lay more eggs on prey rich in larval secretion than on secretion-poor prey. In the field, removal of defensive secretion from beetle prepupae resulted in a 7.5-fold reduction of oviposition by fly females. Parasitoids were nearly twice as likely to lay eggs on prepupae, rich in secretion, as on pupae, which contain little secretion. Fly offspring reared from beetle prepupae reached a 21% larger body mass than those reared from pupae. Finally, M. opacicornis females avoided host prepupae already parasitized by the tachinid fly Cleonice nitidiuscula, which possess little secretion. These experiments indicate that host plant-derived defensive secretions are used by this parasitoid for host location. Adaptation of parasitoids to use defensive secretions of hosts may selectively favor an increase in diet breadth in specialist herbivores.


Three trophic-level interactions Oviposition Host selection behavior Kairomone Olfactory attractant 


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© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Section of Ecology, Department of BiologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  2. 2.Department of BiologySonoma State UniversityRohnert ParkUSA

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