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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2012

Herbivory by a Phloem-Feeding Insect Inhibits Floral Volatile Production

Pareja, Martin; Qvarfordt, Erika; Webster, Ben; Mayon, Patrick; Pickett, John; Birkett, Michael; Glinwood, Robert


There is extensive knowledge on the effects of insect herbivory on volatile emission from vegetative tissue, but little is known about its impact on floral volatiles. We show that herbivory by phloem-feeding aphids inhibits floral volatile emission in white mustard Sinapis alba measured by gas chromatographic analysis of headspace volatiles. The effect of the Brassica specialist aphid Lipaphis erysimi was stronger than the generalist aphid Myzus persicae and feeding by chewing larvae of the moth Plutella xylostella caused no reduction in floral volatile emission. Field observations showed no effect of L. erysimi-mediated floral volatile emission on the total number of flower visits by pollinators. Olfactory bioassays suggested that although two aphid natural enemies could detect aphid inhibition of floral volatiles, their olfactory orientation to infested plants was not disrupted. This is the first demonstration that phloem-feeding herbivory can affect floral volatile emission, and that the outcome of interaction between herbivory and floral chemistry may differ depending on the herbivore's feeding mode and degree of specialisation. The findings provide new insights into interactions between insect herbivores and plant chemistry.


aphid; flower; volatile

Published in

2012, volume: 7, number: 2, article number: e31971

Authors' information

Pareja, Martin
Federal University of Lavras
Qvarfordt, Erika
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Webster, Ben
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Mayon, Patrick
Rothamsted research
Pickett, John
Rothamsted research
Birkett, Michael
Rothamsted research
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology

UKÄ Subject classification

Agricultural Science

Publication Identifiers


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