Letter | Published:

Host detection by chemically mediated associative learning in a parasitic wasp

Nature volume 331, pages 257259 (21 January 1988) | Download Citation

Subjects

Abstract

Parasitic insects use chemical cues to locate their hosts, and prior experiences can modify their responses to these odours1–4. Females of the parasitic wasp Microplitis croceipes experienced by contact with host faeces, orient and fly upwind to odours from their hosts, larvae of the moth Heliothis zea5. We use flight tunnel studies to show that associative learning occurs during encounters with host faeces. When females touch the faeces with their antennae they learn to recognize and subsequently fly to various volatile odours, even novel and otherwise unattractive odours like vanilla, associated with the faeces. They link these volatile odours with a water extractable nonvolatile chemical in the faeces, evidently a host-specific recognition cue. The association of tracking cues with host by-products, without the need for direct contact with the host, is a valuable adaptation for locating cryptic and evasive hosts.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    in Semiochemicals, Their Role in Pest Control (eds Nordlund, D. A., Jones, R. L. & Lewis, W. J.) 97–120 (Wiley, New York, 1981).

  2. 2.

    Neth. J. Zool. 33, 225–248 (1983).

  3. 3.

    & Oecologia 63, 171–177 (1984).

  4. 4.

    & Neth. J. Zool. 35, 497–504 (1985).

  5. 5.

    , , & J. chem. Ecol. 12, 1247–1262 (1986).

  6. 6.

    , & Science 208, 753–755 (1980).

  7. 7.

    in Semiochemicals, Their Role in Pest Control (eds Nordlund, D. A., Jones, R. L. & Lewis, W. J.) 13–28 (Wiley, New York, 1981).

  8. 8.

    , , , & Science 173, 842–843 (1971).

  9. 9.

    Anim. Behav. 34, 1281–1288 (1986).

  10. 10.

    & J. chem. Ecol. 12, 1125–1143 (1986).

  11. 11.

    Physiol. Entomol. 9, 465–472 (1984).

  12. 12.

    , & Physiol. Entomol. 2, 157–164 (1977).

  13. 13.

    & J. econ. Entomol. 63, 656–658 (1970).

Download references

Author information

Author notes

    • W. J. Lewis

    Present address: Insect Biology and Population Management Research Laboratory ARS, USDA Tifton, Georgia 31793, USA.

    • J. H. Tumlinson

    To whom correspondence should be addressed.

Affiliations

  1. Insect Attractants, Behavior and Basic Biology Research Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture, Gainesville, Florida 32604, USA

    • W. J. Lewis
    •  & J. H. Tumlinson

Authors

  1. Search for W. J. Lewis in:

  2. Search for J. H. Tumlinson in:

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/331257a0

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.