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Biological Control
60, No. 2, 2012; Pages: 77 - 89

Attracting carnivorous arthropods with plant volatiles: The future of biocontrol or playing with fire?

Ian Kaplan

Department of Entomology, Purdue University, 901 W. State St., West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.


Herbivore-induced plant volatiles (HIPVs) are potent attractants for entomophagous arthropods and researchers have long speculated that HIPVs can be used to lure natural enemies into crops, reestablishing predator–prey relationships that become decoupled in disturbed agricultural habitats. This speculation has since become reality as the number of field trials investigating HIPV-mediated attraction and its consequences for pest suppression has risen dramatically over the past 10 years. Here, I provide an overview of recent field efforts to augment natural enemy populations using HIPVs, with emphasis on those studies manipulating synthetic compounds in controlled-release dispensers, and outline a prospectus for future research needs. Specifically, I review and discuss: (i) choice of compounds and release rates; (ii) functional changes in predator and parasitoid communities; (iii) non-target effects; (iv) mechanisms of attraction and prey suppression; (v) spatial- and landscape-level considerations; (vi) context-dependent responses; and (vii) temporal stability of attraction.

Fig. 1. Potential mechanisms underlying natural enemy attraction to fields baited with synthetic HIPVs, in this case using MeSA as an example. In Scenario 1, parasitoids are directly attracted to MeSA being emitted from slow-release dispensers embedded within the crop. In Scenario 2, parasitoids are responding to plant-derived HIPVs that were induced via exposure to synthetic lures. In these first two scenarios, natural enemy foraging efficiency is predicted to decrease because the signal is not associated with the presence of herbivores and thus wasps waste time searching prey-free plants. In Scenario 3, lures prime neighboring plants, which then amplifies the pest-induced volatile response that occurs when the crop is damaged. In all cases, habituation is a prime concern from over-exposing entomophagous arthropods to large quantities of the focal compound.

Keywords: Beneficial insects; HIPVs; Indirect plant defenses; Methyl salicylate; Pest management; Tritrophic interactions



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