Köpf, A., N.E. Rank, H. Roininen & J. Tahvanainen. 1997. Defensive larval secretions of leaf beetles attract a specialist predator Parasyrphus nigritarsis. Ecological Entomology 22:176-183
1. Noxious larval secretions of leaf beetles, which repel generalist predators, do not deter specialist syrphid fly predators (genus Parasyrphus). These flies cause considerable mortality to the beetles, but little is known about their foraging behaviour.
2. Larvae of Parasyrphus nigritarsis were attracted to the volatile larval secretions produced by two prey species Phratora vitellinae and Linaeidea aenea. Parasyrphus nigritarsis feeds on both beetles in nature. Phratora vitellinae feeds on willows and utilises host plant compounds for secretion production, while the alder-feeding L. aenea produces an autogenous secretion.
3. Fly larvae were strongly attracted to pieces of filter paper treated with larval secretion of the beetles. They attempted to feed on them for up to 7 minutes, and were equally attracted to the secretions of Ph. vitellinae and L. aenea. Fly larvae are also attracted to pure salicyl aldehyde, the main component of the secretion of Ph. vitellinae.
4. Fly larvae searched extensively for prey on leaves that had been damaged by beetle larvae. They also followed trails made with solutions containing faecal matter of prey larvae. They showed no differential preference for Ph. vitellinae or L. aenea, but always rejected larvae of the non-prey leaf beetle Agelastica alni.
5. Beetle secretions thus play an important, but unexpected role in the feeding behaviour of P. nigritarsis. This predator uses the beetle secretion to locate its prey. The implications of these results for three trophic level interactions are discussed.
Keywords. Chrysomelidae, kairomone, larval secretion, olfaction, Parasyrphus nigritarsis, Phratora vitellinae, plant herbivore interaction, predator prey interaction, Syrphidae.
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