Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 23, Issue 12, pp 2935–2954

Comparative Analysis of Headspace Volatiles from Different Caterpillar-Infested or Uninfested Food Plants of Pieris Species

  • Jacqueline B. F. Geervliet
  • Maarten A. Posthumus
  • Louise E. M. Vet
  • Marcel Dicke


Plants that are infested by herbivores emit volatile cues that can be used by the natural enemies of the herbivores in their search for hosts. Based on results from behavioral studies, we investigated to what extent intact and herbivore-infested plant species and varieties from the food plant range of Pieris herbivore species differ in the composition of the volatile blends. Parasitoids of Pieris species, Cotesia glomerata and C. rubecula, show differential responses towards various herbivore-infested food plants, whereas differences in responses to plants infested by other herbivore species were less clear. Chemical analysis of the headspace samples of red cabbage, white cabbage, and nasturtium plants that were infested by P. brassicae or P. rapae larvae, or that were intact, yielded 88 compounds including alcohols, ketones, aldehydes, esters, nitriles, terpenoids, sulfides, (iso)thiocyanates, carboxylic acids, and others. The analysis revealed that herbivore-infested plants emit the largest number of compounds in the highest amounts. The plant species affected the volatile blend more than did the herbivore species, and differences between plant varieties were less pronounced than differences between plant species. Differences in headspace composition between plants infested by P. brassicae or P. rapae were mainly of a quantitative nature. Herbivore-infested nasturtium differed considerably from the cabbage varieties in a qualitative way. Headspace compositions of red and white cabbage varieties were comparable to that of the food plant Brussels sprouts (Brassica oleracea gemmifera cv. Titurel) as determined in earlier studies in our laboratory. With respect to plant response to herbivory, nasturtium differed considerably from the cabbage varieties analyzed so far and shows resemblance with Lima bean, cucumber, and corn. These plant species produce a greater quantity and variety of volatiles under herbivore attack than intact plants. The results of this study are discussed in relation to behavioral observations on C. glomerata and C. rubecula.

Pieris cabbage crucifers Brassica Tropaeolum herbivore-induced synomones volatile infochemicals green leaf volatiles headspace analysis tritrophic interactions 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. AGELOPOULOS, N. G., DICKE, M., and POSTHUMUS, M. A. 1995. Role of volatile infochemicals emitted by feces of larvae in host-searching behavior of parasitoid Cotesia rubecula (Hymenoptera: Braconidae): a behavioral and chemical study. J. Chem. Ecol. 21:1789–1811.Google Scholar
  2. AGELOPOULOS, N. G., and KELLER, M. A. 1994. Plant-natural enemy association in the tritrophic system, Cotesia rubecula-Pieris rapae-Brassicaceae (Cruciferae): III. Collection and identification of plant and frass volatiles. J. Chem. Ecol. 20:1955–1967.Google Scholar
  3. BLAAKMEER, A., GEERVLIET, J. B. F., LOON, J. J. A. VAN, POSTHUMUS, M. A., BEEK, T. A. VAN and GROOT, AE. DE. 1994. Comparative headspace analysis of cabbage plants damaged by two species of Pieris caterpillars: Consequences for in-flight host location by Cotesia parasitoids. Entomol. Exp. Appl. 73:175–182.Google Scholar
  4. CHEW, F. S. 1988. Searching for defensive chemistry in the Cruciferae, pp. 81–112, in K. C. Spencer (ed.). Chemical Mediation of Coevolution. Academic Press, San Diego.Google Scholar
  5. DICKE, M. 1994. Local and systemic production of volatile herbivore-induced terpenoids: Their role in plant-carnivore mutualism. J. Plant Physiol. 143:465–472.Google Scholar
  6. DICKE, M. 1998. Evolution of Induced indirect defense of plants. in C. D. Harvell and R. Tollrian (eds.). Evolution of Induced Defenses. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (in press).Google Scholar
  7. DICKE, M., and SABELIS, M. W. 1988. Infochemical terminology: Based on cost-benefit analysis rather than origin of compounds? Funct. Ecol. 2:131–139.Google Scholar
  8. DICKE, M., BEEK, T. A. VAN, POSTHUMUS, M. A., BEN DOM, N., BOKHOVEN, H. VAN, and GROOT, AE. DE. 1990a. Isolation and identification of volatile kairomone that affects acarine predatorprey interactions. Involvement of host plant in its production. J. Chem. Ecol. 16:381–396.Google Scholar
  9. DICKE, M., SABELIS, M. W., TAKABAYASHI, J., BRUIN, J., and POSTHUMUS, M. A. 1990b. Plant strategies of manipulating predator-prey interactions through allelochemicals: Prospects for application in pest control. J. Chem. Ecol. 16:3091–3118.Google Scholar
  10. GEERVLIET, J. B. F., VET, L. E. M., and DICKE, M. 1994. Volatiles from damaged plants as major cues in long-range host-searching by the specialist parasitoid Cotesia rubecula. Entomol. Exp. Appl. 73:289–297.Google Scholar
  11. GEERVLIET, J. B. F., VET, L. E. M., and DICKE, M. 1996. Innate responses of the parasitoids Cotesia glomerata and C. rubecula (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) to volatiles from different plantherbivore complexes. J. Insect Behav. 9:525–538.Google Scholar
  12. GEERVLIET, J. B. F., VREUGDENHIL, A. I., DICKE, M., and VET, L. E. M. 1997a. Learning to discriminate between infochemicals from different plant-host complexes by the parasitoids Cotesia glomerata and C. rubecula. (Hym: Braconidae) Entomol. Exp. Appl. In press.Google Scholar
  13. GEERVLIET, J. B. F., ARIËNS, S. J., DICKE, M., and VET, L. E. M. 1997b. Long-distance assessment of patch profitability through volatile infochemicals by the parasitoids Cotesia glomerata and C. rubecula (Hymenoptera: Braconidae). Biol. Control In press.Google Scholar
  14. GEERVLIET, J. B. F., VERDEL, M. S. W., SNELLEN, H., SCHAUB, J., DICKE, M., and VET, L. E. M. 1997c. Coexistence and niche segregation by field populations of the parasitoids Cotesia glomerata and C. rubecula in the Netherlands: analysis of parasitization and parasitoid behaviour. (submitted).Google Scholar
  15. MATTIACCI, L., DICKE, M., and POSTHUMUS, M. A. 1994. Induction of parasitoid attracting synomone in Brussels sprouts plants by feeding of P. brassicae larvae: Role of mechanical damage and herbivore elicitor. J. Chem. Ecol. 20:2229–2247.Google Scholar
  16. MORAES, G. J. DE, and MCMURTRY, J. A. 1987. Physiological effect of the host plant on the suitability of Tetranychus urticae as prey for Phytoseiulus persimilis (Acari: Tetranychidae, Phytoseiidae). Entomophaga 32:35–38.Google Scholar
  17. PAPAJ, D. R., SNELLEN, H., SWAANS, K., and VET, L. E. M. 1994. Unrewarding experiences and their effect on foraging in the parasitic wasp Leptopilina heterotoma (Hymenoptera: Eucoilidae). J. Insect Behav. 7:465–481.Google Scholar
  18. PRICE, P. W. 1981. Semiochemicals in evolutionary time, pp. 251–271, in D. A. Nordlund, R. L. Jones, and W. J. Lewis (eds.). Semiochemicals, Their Role in Pest Control. Wiley & Sons, New York.Google Scholar
  19. PRICE, P. W., BOUTON, C. E., GROSS, P., MCPHERON, B. A., THOMPSON, J. N., and WEIS, A. E. 1980. Interactions among three trophic levels: Influence of plants of interactions between insect herbivores and natural enemies. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 11:41–65.Google Scholar
  20. SMITH, B. H. 1993. Merging mechanism and adaptation: An ethological approach to learning and generalization, pp. 126–157, in D. R. Papaj and A. C. Lewis (eds.). Insect Learning. Ecological and Evolutionary Perspectives. Chapman & Hall, New York.Google Scholar
  21. STEINBERG, S., DICKE, M., and VET, L. E. M. 1993. Relative importance of infochemicals from first and second trophic level in long-range host location by larval parasitoid Cotesia glomerata. J. Chem. Ecol. 19:47–59.Google Scholar
  22. TAKABAYASHI, J., and DICKE, M. 1996. Plant-carnivore mutualism through herbivore-induced carnivore attractants. Trends Plant Sci. 1:109–113.Google Scholar
  23. TAKABAYASHI, J., DICKE, M., and POSTHUMUS, M. A. 1991. Variation in composition of predator-attracting allelochemicals emitted by herbivore-infested plants: relative influence of plant and herbivore. Chemoecology 2:1–6.Google Scholar
  24. TAKABAYASHI, J., DICKE, M., and POSTHUMUS, M. A. 1994. Volatile herbivore-induced terpenoids in plant-mite interactions: Variation caused by biotic and abiotic factors. J. Chem. Ecol. 20:1329–1354.Google Scholar
  25. TAKABAYASHI, J., TAKAHASHI, S., DICKE, M., and POSTHUMUS, M. A. 1995. Developmental stage of herbivore Pseudaletia separata affects production of herbivore-induced synomone by corn plants. J. Chem. Ecol. 21:273–287.Google Scholar
  26. TOLLSTEN, L., and BERGSTRÖM, G. 1988. Headspace volatiles of whole plants and macerated plant parts of Brassica and Sinapis. Phytochemistry 27:4013–4018.Google Scholar
  27. TURLINGS, T. C. J., TUMLINSON, J. H., and LEWIS, W. J. 1990. Exploitation of herbivore-induced plant odors by host-seeking parasitic wasps. Science 250:1251–1253.Google Scholar
  28. TURLINGS, T. C. J., WÄCKERS, F. L., VET, L. E. M., LEWIS, W. J., and TUMLINSON, J. H. 1993. Learning of host-finding cues by hymenopterous parasitoids, pp. 51–78, in D. R. Papaj and A. C. Lewis (eds.). Insect Learning—Ecological and Evolutionary Perspectives. Chapman and Hall, New York.Google Scholar
  29. TURLINGS, T. C. J., LOUGHRIN, J. H., MCCALL, P. J., RÖSE, U. S. R., LEWIS, W. J., and TUMLINSON, J. H. 1995. How caterpillar-damaged plants protect themselves by attracting parasitic wasps. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 92:4169–4174.Google Scholar
  30. VET, L. E. M., and DICKE, M. 1992. Infochemical use by natural enemies of herbivores in a tritrophic context. Annu. Rev. Entomol. 37:141–172.Google Scholar
  31. VET, L. E. M., LEWIS, W. J., and CARDÉ, R. T. 1995. Parasitoid foraging and learning, pp. 65–101, in Cardé, R. T. and W. J. Bell (eds.). Chemical Ecology of Insects 2. Chapman and Hall, New York.Google Scholar
  32. VET, L. E. M., DE JONG, A. G., FRANCHI, E., and PAPAJ, D. R. 1997. When to respond to environmental variation: The effect of complete vs incomplete information on odour discrimination in a parasitic wasp. Anim. Behav. In press.Google Scholar
  33. VINSON, S. B. 1981. Habitat location, pp. 51–77, in D. A. Nordlund, R. L. Jones, and W. J. LEWIS (eds.). Semiochemicals—Their Role in Pest Control. John Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  34. WÄCKERS, F. L., and LEWIS, W. J. 1994. Olfactory and visual learning and their combined influence on host site location by the parasitoid Microplitis croceipes (Cresson). Biol. Contr. 4:105–112.Google Scholar
  35. WHITMAN, D. W., and ELLER, F. J. 1990. Parasitic wasps orient to green leaf volatiles. Chemoecology 1:69–75.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jacqueline B. F. Geervliet
    • 1
  • Maarten A. Posthumus
    • 2
  • Louise E. M. Vet
    • 1
  • Marcel Dicke
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EntomologyWageningen Agricultural UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Organic ChemistryWageningen Agricultural UniversityHB WageningenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations