Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 7, pp 1365–1375 | Cite as

Effects of Furanocoumarins on Feeding Behavior of Parsnip Webworms Depressaria pastinacella

  • J. A. Cianfrogna
  • A. R. Zangerl
  • M. R. Berenbaum


The parsnip webworm, Depressaria pastinacella, exhibits limited physiological resistance to furanocoumarin toxins in its principal host, the wild parsnip, Pastinaca sativa. These insects are typically found attacking individual plants low in furanocoumarins, relative to others within populations. They also feed preferentially on parthenocarpic fruits, which are lower in furanocoumarin content than are normal fruits. However, in a previous study with artificial diets, they did not appear to discriminate between high and low concentrations of furanocoumarins. In this study, the ability of webworms to distinguish between diets differing in furanocoumarin content was examined with an artificial diet containing wild parsnip and in green parsnip fruits with and without supplemental furanocoumarins. Larvae showed no preference for high or low furanocoumarin diets containing equal amounts of freeze-dried parsnip fruit powder. When given a choice between otherwise similar wild parsnip fruits, webworms strongly preferred fruits that were not augmented with furanocoumarins in one plant but showed no preference or only a weak preference for nonaugmented fruits in four other plants. In order to identify chemical constituents other than furanocoumarins that might determine feeding preferences, we compared the chemical profile of parthenocarpic fruits (which are preferred) to that of normal fruit. Octyl butyrate, a known deterrent to webworms, is highly correlated with furanocoumarin content, occurs in all plants, and differs significantly among normal and parthenocarpic fruit, suggesting that webworms may be able to avoid furanocoumarins by virtue of their behavioral response to octyl butyrate.

Behavior furanocoumarins insect parsnip webworm Depressaria pastinacella wild parsnip Pastinaca sativa 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. A. Cianfrogna
    • 1
  • A. R. Zangerl
    • 1
  • M. R. Berenbaum
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EntomologyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbana

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