Skip to main content
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2014

Plant response to touch affects the behaviour of aphids and ladybirds

Markovic, Dimitrije; Glinwood, Robert; Olsson, Ulf; Ninkovic, Velemir


Touching between leaves of the same plant and/or by neighbouring plants is one of the most common mechanical stimuli to which an individual plant has to respond on a daily basis. The possible ecological implications of a plant’s response to touch on plant–insect interactions have not been explicitly investigated. We examined whether plant response to 1 min daily touching over a period of 6 days affects host plant acceptance by the bird cherry-oat aphid Rhopalosiphum padi L. on maize and by the black bean aphid Aphis fabae Scop. on bean, as well as olfactory preference of an aphid predator, seven-spotted ladybird Coccinella septempunctata L. Maize plants responded to touch with significant reduction in plant height, total plant biomass, leaf weight, leaf surface, shoot/ root ratio and specific leaf area (SLA), while bean plants responded with reduced stem height and reduced SLA. Both aphid species showed significantly reduced acceptance of touched plants compared with untouched plants. The two aphid species and male and female ladybirds preferred volatiles from untouched plants over those from touched plants. Volatiles in the headspace of touched and untouched plants were collected and identified. Stepwise discriminant analyses identified (E)-nerolidol and (E)-bcaryophyllene in maize and 6-methyl-5-hepten-2-one and an unidentified sesquiterpene in bean as the best discriminating compounds in the volatile profiles of touched plants. Our study suggests that touch-induced changes in plants can potentially affect host plant selection by aphids and habitat searching by ladybirds. Thus, touch-induced changes in plants may have significant effects at higher trophic levels.


Rhopalosiphum padi, Aphis fabae, Coccinella septempunctata, volatile cues, aphid host plant acceptance, habitat selection

Published in

Arthropod-Plant Interactions
2014, volume: 8, number: 3, pages: 171-181

Authors' information

Markovic, Dimitrije
University of Banja Luka (UNIBL)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Economics
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology

UKÄ Subject classification

Agricultural Science

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)