Microplitis croceipes is a solitary parasitoid that specializes on noctuid larvae of Helicoverpa zea and Heliothis virescens. Both the parasitoid and its hosts are naturally distributed across a large part of North America. When parasitoids deposit their eggs into hosts, venom and polydnaviruses (PDVs) are also injected into the caterpillars, which can suppress host immune responses, thus allowing parasitoid larvae to develop. In addition, PDVs can regulate host oral cues, such as glucose oxidase (GOX). The purpose of this study was to determine if parasitized caterpillars differentially induce plant defenses compared to non-parasitized caterpillars using two different caterpillar host/plant systems. Heliothis virescens caterpillars parasitized by M. croceipes had significantly lower salivary GOX activity than non-parasitized caterpillars, resulting in lower levels of tomato defense responses, which benefited parasitoid performance by increasing the growth rate of parasitized caterpillars. In tobacco plants, parasitized Helicoverpa zea caterpillars had lower GOX activity but induced higher plant defense responses. The higher tobacco defense responses negatively affected parasitoid performance by reducing the growth rate of parasitized caterpillars, causing longer developmental periods, and reduced cocoon mass and survival of parasitoids. These studies demonstrate a species-specific effect in different plant-insect systems. Based on these results, plant perception of insect herbivores can be affected by parasitoids and lead to positive or negative consequences to higher trophic levels depending upon the particular host-plant system.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics