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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Predator efficacy and attraction to herbivore- induced volatiles determine insect pest selection of inferior host plant

Khallaf, Mohammed A.; Sadek, Medhat M.; Anderson, Peter


Unlike mammals, most invertebrates provide no direct parental care for their progeny, which makes a well-selected oviposition site crucial. However, little is known about the female evaluation of opportunities and threats during host selection. Leveraging the wide range of host plants used by the polyphagous pest, Spodoptera littoralis, we investigate oviposition choice between two plants of different nutritional quality. Females prefer to lay their eggs on the host plant, which has inferior larval development and more natural enemies but provides lower predation rates. On the superior host plant, a major predator shows more successful search behavior and is more attracted to herbivore-induced volatiles. Our findings show that predator efficacy and odor-guided attraction, rather than predator abundance, determine enemy free space. We postulate that predators’ behaviors contribute to the weak correlation between preference and performance during host plant selection in S. littoralis and in polyphagous insects in general.

Published in

2023, Volume: 26, number: 2, article number: 106077

      SLU Authors

    • Associated SLU-program

      SLU Plant Protection Network

      Sustainable Development Goals

      SDG15 Life on land

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Behavioral Sciences Biology

      Publication identifier


      Permanent link to this page (URI)