Physical and chemical plant characters inhibiting the searching behaviour of Trichogramma chilonis.
Several plant characters are known to affect the searching behaviour and parasitization efficiency of Trichogramma spp. In this study, plant characters contributing to low Helicoverpa armigera egg parasitism levels on pigeonpea were investigated. The efficiency of T. chilonis on pigeonpea was dependent on the plant structure on which the host eggs were found. In a cage experiment, more than 55% of eggs placed on leaves were parasitized, while 1% of eggs on calyces and no eggs on pods were parasitized. In a filter paper bioassay, parasitoids were deterred by acetone and hexane surface extracts from pigeonpea pods but showed no response to water extract. The searching behaviour of the parasitoids was not affected by different solvent extracts from the surface of pigeonpea leaves. In a four-armed airflow olfactometer, T. chilonis was repelled by volatiles from pigeonpea pods but showed no response to volatiles derived from hexane extract of pod surfaces. Volatile infochemicals and hexane surface extracts from pods of two wild Cajanus species, C. scarabaeoides and C. platycarpus, were similarly deterrent to T. chilonis. The movement of the parasitoids on pigeonpea pods and calyces was inhibited by long trichomes and wasps were trapped by sticky trichome exudates. Parasitoids walked significantly faster on leaves than on pods. The walking speed on both pods and leaves increased significantly after washing with hexane. The results presented in this paper show that the plant growth stage and the plant structures preferred by H. armigera for oviposition are the least suitable for T. chilonis, contributing to the low parasitoid efficiency on pigeonpea.