Abstract: In heliothine moths, the male-specific olfactory system is activated by a few odor molecules, each of which is associated with an easily identifiable glomerulus in the primary olfactory center of the brain. This arrangement is linked to two well-defined behavioral responses, one ensuring attraction and mating behavior by carrying information about pheromones released by conspecific females and the other inhibition of attraction via signal information emitted from heterospecifics. The chance of comparing the characteristic properties of pheromone receptor proteins, male-specific sensory neurons and macroglomerular complex (MGC)-units in closely-related species is especially intriguing. Here, we review studies on the male-specific olfactory system of heliothine moths with particular emphasis on five closely related species, i.e., Heliothis virescens, Heliothis subflexa, Helicoverpa zea, Helicoverpa assulta and Helicoverpa armigera.
Abstract: Nestmate recognition is a hallmark of social insects. It is based on the match/mismatch of an identity signal carried by members of the society with that of the perceiving individual. While the behavioral response, amicable or aggressive, is very clear, the neural systems underlying recognition are not fully understood. Here we contrast two alternative hypotheses for the neural mechanisms that are responsible for the perception and information processing in recognition. We focus on recognition via chemical signals, as the common modality in social insects. The first, classical, hypothesis states that upon perception of recognition cues by the sensory system the information is passed as is to the antennal lobes and to higher brain centers where the information is deciphered and compared to a neural template. Match or mismatch information is then transferred to some behavior-generating centers where the appropriate response is elicited. An alternative hypothesis, that of “pre-filter mechanism”, posits that the decision as to whether to pass on the information to the central nervous system takes place in the peripheral sensory system. We suggest that, through sensory adaptation, only alien signals are passed on to the brain, specifically to an “aggressive-behavior-switching center”, where the response is generated if the signal is above a certain threshold.
Abstract: The codling moth, Cydia pomonella L. (Lepidoptera, Tortricidae), is a major pest of apple, pear and walnut orchards worldwide. This pest is often controlled using the biologically friendly control method known as pheromone-based mating disruption. Mating disruption likely exerts selection on the sexual communication system of codling moth, as male and female moths will persist in their attempt to meet and mate. Surprisingly little is known on the intraspecific variation of sexual communication in this species. We started an investigation to determine the level of individual variation in the female sex pheromone composition of this moth and whether variation among different populations might be correlated with use of mating disruption against those populations. By extracting pheromone glands of individual females from a laboratory population in Canada and from populations from apple orchards in Spain and Italy, we found significant between- and within-population variation. Comparing females that had been exposed to mating disruption, or not, revealed a significant difference in sex pheromone composition for two of the minor components. Overall, the intraspecific variation observed shows the potential for a shift in female sexual signal when selection pressure is high, as is the case with continuous use of mating disruption.
Abstract: We investigated intraspecific aggression in experimental nests (expN1, expN2) of the giant honey bee Apis dorsata in Chitwan (Nepal), focusing on interactions between surface bees and two other groups of bees approaching the nest: (1) homing “nestmate” foragers landing on the bee curtain remained unmolested by guards; and (2) supposed “non-nestmate” bees, which were identified by their erratic flight patterns in front of the nest, such as hovering or sideways scanning and splaying their legs from their body, and were promptly attacked by the surface bees after landing. These supposed non-nestmate bees only occurred immediately before and after migration swarms, which had arrived in close vicinity (and were most likely scouting for a nesting site). In total, 231 of the “nestmate” foragers (fb) and 102 approaches of such purported “non-nestmate” scouts (sc) were analysed (total observation time expN1: 5.43 min) regarding the evocation of shimmering waves (sh). During their landing the “nestmate” foragers provoked less shimmering waves (relnsh[fb] = 23/231 = 0.0996, relnsh[sc] = 75/102 = 0.7353; p <0.001, χ2-test) with shorter duration (Dsh[fb] = 197 ± 17 ms, Dsh[sc] = 488 ± 16 ms; p <0.001; t-test) than “non-nestmates”. Moreover, after having landed on the nest surface, the “non-nestmates” were attacked by the surface bees (expN1, expN2: observation time >18 min) quite similarly to the defensive response against predatory wasps. Hence, the surface members of settled colonies respond differently to individual giant honey bees approaching the nest, depending on whether erratic flight patterns are displayed or not.
Abstract: The polyphagous feeding habits of the corn earworm, Helicoverpa zea (Boddie), underscore its status as a major agricultural pest with a wide geographic distribution and host plant repertoire. To study the transcriptomic response to toxins in diet, we conducted a microarray analysis of H. zea caterpillars feeding on artificial diet, diet laced with nicotine and Nicotiana tabacum (L.) plants. We supplemented our analysis with growth and aversion bioassays. The transcriptome reflects an abundant expression of proteases, chitin, cytochrome P450 and immune-related genes, many of which are shared between the two experimental treatments. However, the tobacco treatment tended to elicit stronger transcriptional responses than nicotine-laced diet. The salivary factor glucose oxidase, known to suppress nicotine induction in the plant, was upregulated by H. zea in response to tobacco but not to nicotine-laced diet. Reduced caterpillar growth rates accompanied the broad regulation of genes associated with growth, such as juvenile hormone epoxide hydrolase. The differential expression of chemosensory proteins, such as odorant binding-protein-2 precursor, as well as the neurotransmitter nicotinic-acetylcholine-receptor subunit 9, highlights candidate genes regulating aversive behavior towards nicotine. We suggest that an observed coincidental rise in cannibalistic behavior and regulation of proteases and protease inhibitors in H. zea larvae signify a compensatory response to induced plant defenses.
Abstract: Plants are challenged by both above- and belowground herbivores which may indirectly interact with each other via herbivore-induced changes in plant traits; however, little is known about how genetic variation of the host plant shapes such interactions. We used two genotypes (M4 and E9) of Solanum dulcamara (Solanaceae) with or without previous experience of aboveground herbivory by Spodoptera exigua (Noctuidae) to quantify its effects on subsequent root herbivory by Agriotes spp. (Elateridae). In the genotype M4, due to the aboveground herbivory, shoot and root biomass was significantly decreased, roots had a lower C/N ratio and contained significantly higher levels of proteins, while the genotype E9 was not affected. However, aboveground herbivory had no effects on weight gain or mortality of the belowground herbivores. Root herbivory by Agriotes increased the nitrogen concentration in the roots of M4 plants leading to a higher weight gain of conspecific larvae. Also, in feeding bioassays, Agriotes larvae tended to prefer roots of M4 over E9, irrespective of the aboveground herbivore treatment. Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FT-IR) documented differences in metabolic profiles of the two plant genotypes and of the roots of M4 plants after aboveground herbivory. Together, these results demonstrate that previous aboveground herbivory can have genotype-specific effects on quantitative and qualitative root traits. This may have consequences for belowground interactions, although generalist root herbivores might not be affected when the root biomass offered is still sufficient for growth and survival.