The Importance of Methyl-Branched Cuticular Hydrocarbons for Successful Host Recognition by the Larval Ectoparasitoid Holepyris sylvanidis
Cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) of host insects are used by many parasitic wasps as contact kairomones for host location and recognition. As the chemical composition of CHCs varies from species to species, the CHC pattern represents a reliable indicator for parasitoids to discriminate host from non-host species. Holepyris sylvanidis is an ectoparasitoid of beetle larvae infesting stored products. Previous studies demonstrated that the larval CHC profile of the confused flour beetle, Tribolium confusum, comprises long chain linear and methyl-branched alkanes (methyl alkanes), which elicit trail following and host recognition in H. sylvanidis. Here we addressed the question, whether different behavioral responses of this parasitoid species to larvae of other beetle species are due to differences in the larval CHC pattern. Our study revealed that H. sylvanidis recognizes and accepts larvae of T. confusum, T. castaneum and T. destructor as hosts, whereas larvae of Oryzaephilus surinamensis were rejected. However, the latter species became attractive after applying a sample of T. confusum larval CHCs to solvent extracted larvae. Chemical analyses of the larval extracts revealed that CHC profiles of the Tribolium species were similar in their composition, while that of O. surinamensis differed qualitatively and quantitatively, i.e. methyl alkanes were present as minor components on the cuticle of all Tribolium larvae, but were absent in the O. surinamensis CHC profile. Furthermore, the parasitoid successfully recognized solvent extracted T. confusum larvae as hosts after they had been treated with a fraction of methyl alkanes. Our results show that methyl alkanes are needed for host recognition by H. sylvanidis.