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Research article2017Peer reviewedOpen access

Host-plant location by the Guatemalan potato moth Tecia solanivora is assisted by floral volatiles

Karlsson, Miriam Frida; Proffit, Magali; Birgersson, Goran


Insects locate their host plants using mainly visual and olfactory cues, generally of the exploited plant structure. However, when the resource is difficult to access, it could be beneficial to utilise indirect cues, which indicates the presence of reward (e.g., oviposition site or mate). In the present study, we investigated the host-plant location strategy of the monophagous Guatemalan potato moth Tecia solanivora (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae). The larva of the moth feed exclusively on potato Solanum spp. (Solanaceae) tubers usually hidden below ground. Using electrophysiological and behavioural tests, we characterised the olfactory cues mediating the attraction of the moth towards their host plant. Odour blends were made to represent different potato structures: tubers, foliage, and flowers. Synthetic blends were created by combining potato-emitted compounds that were antennal active which showed positive dose-response. Attraction to these blends of compounds in relation to the mating status of males and females was tested in dual-choice Y-tube assays. Both males and females, virgin and mated, were attracted to a three-compound blend representing flower odour, while foliage and tuber blends attracted neither sexes. Oviposition bioassays indicated additionally that the floral blend enhances oviposition. We show that potato flower odour might indicate the presence of an oviposition site for the female and possibly an increased mating opportunity for both sexes. Our results provide one of the few examples of the use of floral odour as a reliable indicator of host and probably mating possibility for phytophagous insects exploiting a site spatially separated from the flower.


Attraction; Gelechiidae; Kairomone; Olfactometer; Solanum tuberosum

Published in

2017, Volume: 27, number: 5, pages: 187-198