The compound N-(17-hydroxylinolenoyl)-L-glutamine (named here volicitin) was isolated from oral secretions of beet armyworm caterpillars. When applied to damaged leaves of corn seedlings, volicitin induces the seedlings to emit volatile compounds that attract parasitic wasps, natural enemies of the caterpillars. Mechanical damage of the leaves, without application of this compound, did not trigger release of the same blend of volatiles. Volicitin is a key component in a chain of chemical signals and biochemical processes that regulate tritrophic interactions among plants, insect herbivores, and natural enemies of the herbivores.
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