Proximate Mechanisms of Host Plant Location by a Specialist Phytophagous Insect, the Grape Berry Moth, Paralobesia Viteana

  • Michael S. WolfinEmail author
  • Ronald R. ChilsonIII
  • Jonathan Thrall
  • Yuxi Liu
  • Sara Volo
  • Dong H. Cha
  • Gregory M. Loeb
  • Charles E. LinnJr


There are contrasting hypotheses regarding the role of plant volatiles in host plant location. We used the grape berry moth (GBM; Paralobesia viteana)-grape plant (Vitis spp.) complex as a model for studying the proximate mechanisms of long distance olfactory-mediated, host-plant location and selection by a specialist phytophagous insect. We used flight tunnel assays to observe GBM female in-flight responses to host (V. riparia) and non-host (apple, Malus domestica; and gray dogwood, Cornus racimosa,) odor sources in the form of plant shoots, extracts of shoots, and synthetic blends. Gas chromatography-electroantennographic detection and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry analyses were used to identify antennal-active volatile compounds. All antennal-active compounds found in grape shoots were also present in dogwood and apple shoots. Female GBM flew upwind to host and non-host extracts and synthetic blends at similar levels, suggesting discrimination is not occurring at long distance from the plant. Further, females did not land on sources releasing plant extracts and synthetic blends, suggesting not all landing cues were present. Additionally, mated and unmated moths displayed similar levels of upwind flight responses to all odor sources, supporting the idea that plant volatiles are not functioning solely as ovipositional cues. The results of this study support a hypothesis that GBM females are using volatile blends to locate a favorable habitat rather than a specific host plant, and that discrimination is occurring within the habitat, or even post-landing.


Insect semiochemicals Flight tunnel Habitat cues Grape berry moth Tortricidae Lepidoptera GC-EAD Volatile collection 



We thank Shinyoung Park, Callie Musto, and Stephen Hesler for help maintaining the greenhouse, GBM colonies, and for setting up cohorts for flight tunnel tests. We thank Stephen Parry at the Cornell University Statistical Consulting Unit for his statistical guidance. Sara Volo, Yuxi Liu, and Jonathan Thrall were undergraduates at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY participating in a Summer Scholars Program supported by funding from the David and Brenda Rickey Foundation. We also thank Paul Robbins for his support, advice, and optimism regarding GC-EAD problem solving. We thank the Chong Lab for providing the dimethyl-1,3(E),7-nonatriene. The research was supported by a USDA-AFRI proposal # 2012-67013-19364, and a USDA Federal Formula Fund Initiative #2014-15-154.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Entomology, Cornell AgriTech at the New York Agricultural Experiment StationCornell UniversityGenevaUSA
  2. 2.Department of EntomologyPennsylvania State UniversityState CollegeUSA
  3. 3.Biology DepartmentHobart and William Smith CollegesGenevaUSA
  4. 4.USDA-ARS, Daniel K. Inouye US Pacific Basin Agricultural Research CenterHiloUSA

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