Herbivore-induced volatiles from maize plants attract Chelonus insularis, an egg-larval parasitoid of the fall armyworm.
Chelonus insularis (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) is an egg-larval endoparasitoid that attacks several lepidopteran species, including the fall armyworm (FAW), Spodoptera frugiperda, as one of its main hosts. In this study, we identified the volatiles emitted by maize plants undamaged and damaged by S. frugiperda larvae that were attractive to virgin C. insularis females. In a Y-glass tube olfactometer, parasitoid females were more attracted to activated charcoal extracts than Porapak Q maize extracts. Chemical analysis of activated charcoal extracts from maize plants damaged by S. frugiperda larvae by gas chromatography coupled with electroantennography (GC-EAD) showed that the antennae of virgin female wasps consistently responded to three compounds, identified by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) as α-pinene, α-longipinene and α-copaene. These compounds are constitutively released by maize plants but induction via herbivory affects their emissions. α-Longipinene and α-copaene were more abundant in damaged maize plants than in healthy ones, whereas α-pinene was produced in higher amounts in healthy maize plants than in damaged ones. Female parasitoids were not attracted to EAD-active compounds when evaluated singly; however, they were attracted to the binary blend α-pinene + α-copaene, which was the most attractive blend, even more attractive than the tertiary blend (α-pinene + α-longipinene + α-copaene) and the damaged maize plant extracts. We conclude that C. insularis is attracted to a blend of herbivore-induced volatiles emitted by maize plants.