Cuticular Hydrocarbons of Tribolium confusum Larvae Mediate Trail Following and Host Recognition in the Ectoparasitoid Holepyris sylvanidis
Parasitic wasps which attack insects infesting processed stored food need to locate their hosts hidden inside these products. Their host search is well-known to be guided by host kairomones, perceived via olfaction or contact. Among contact kairomones, host cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) may provide reliable information for a parasitoid. However, the chemistry of CHC profiles of hosts living in processed stored food products is largely unknown. Here we showed that the ectoparasitoid Holepyris sylvanidis uses CHCs of its host Tribolium confusum, a worldwide stored product pest, as kairomones for host location and recognition at short range. Chemical analysis of T. confusum larval extracts by gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry revealed a rich blend of long-chain (C25-C30) hydrocarbons, including n-alkanes, mono-, and dimethylalkanes. We further studied whether host larvae leave sufficient CHCs on a substrate where they walk along, thus allowing parasitoids to perceive a CHC trail and follow it to their host larvae. We detected 18 CHCs on a substrate that had been exposed to host larvae. These compounds were also found in crude extracts of host larvae and made up about a fifth of the CHC amount extracted. Behavioral assays showed that trails of host CHCs were followed by the parasitoids and reduced their searching time until successful host recognition. Host CHC trails deposited on different substrates were persistent for about a day. Hence, the parasitoid H. sylvanidis exploits CHCs of T. confusum larvae for host finding by following host CHC trails and for host recognition by direct contact with host larvae.
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