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Research article2011Peer reviewed

Non-host volatiles mediate associational resistance to the pine processionary moth

Jactel, Hervé; Birgersson, Göran; Andersson, Susanne; Schlyter, Fredrik


An increasing body of evidence indicates that the association between different plant species may lead to a reduction in insect herbivory, i.e. associational resistance. This might be due to a top-down regulation of herbivores by increased numbers of natural enemies or to a disruptive bottom-up influence of lower host plant accessibility. In particular, the richer plant communities release more diverse plant odours that may disturb olfactory-guided host choice and mating behaviour of insect herbivores, i.e. the "semiochemical diversity hypothesis". However, this hypothesis has been rarely tested experimentally in natural habitats, notably forest ecosystems. We tested the effects of non-host volatiles (NHV) on mate and host location by the pine processionary moth (PPM) at the scale of individual pine trees with branches of non-host tree (birch) at their base. Pheromone trap catches and the numbers of larval nests were both reduced by non-host presence under treated pine trees, confirming an associational resistance mediated by NHV. In both males and females, the antenna could detect several birch volatiles, including methyl salicylate (MeSa). MeSa inhibited the attraction of the PPM male to pheromone traps, as did bark and leaf chips from birch trees. Our test of three doses of MeSa at the habitat scale (50 m forest edges) showed that the reduction in the numbers of male PPM captured in traps and in larval nests was MeSa dose-dependent. These results show that odours released by deciduous non-host trees can reduce herbivory by a forest defoliator in conifers, providing support to the "semiochemical diversity hypothesis" as a mechanism of associational resistance.


Biodiversity; Ecosystem functioning; Semiochemical diversity; Methyl salicylate; Thaumetopoea pityocampa; Pinus pinaster; Betula pendula; NHV; GC-MS; GC-EAD

Published in

2011, Volume: 166, number: 3, pages: 703-711 Publisher: SPRINGER