Flower color affects tri-trophic-level biocontrol interactions

Mahmuda Begum, Geoffrey Gurr, Steve Wratten, Helen Nicol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

40 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The adults of many parasitoid species require nectar for optimal fitness, but very little is known of flower recognition. Flight cage experiments showed that the adults of an egg parasitoid (Trichogramma carverae Oatman and Pinto) benefited from alyssum (Lobularia maritima L.) bearing white flowers to a greater extent than was the case for light pink, dark pink or purple flowered cultivars, despite all cultivars producing nectar. Survival and realised parasitism on all non-white flowers were no greater than when the parasitoids were caged on alyssum shoots from which flowers had been removed. The possibility that differences between alyssum cultivars were due to factors other than flower color, such as nectar quality, was excluded by dying white alyssum flowers by placing the roots of the plants in 5% food dye (blue or pink) solution. Survival of T. carverae was lower on dyed alyssum flowers than on undyed white flowers. Mixing the same dyes with honey in a third experiment conducted in the dark showed that the low level of feeding on dyed flowers was unlikely to be the result of olfactory or gustatory cues. Flower color appears, therefore, to be a critical factor in the choice of plants used to enhance biocontrol, and is likely also to be a factor in the role parasitoids play in structuring invertebrate communities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)584-590
Number of pages7
JournalBiological Control
Volume30
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2004

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