Effects of Rewarding and Unrewarding Experiences on the Response to Host-induced Plant Odors of the Generalist Parasitoid Cotesia marginiventris (Hymenoptera: Braconidae)

Associative learning is known to modify foraging behavior in numerous parasitic wasps. This is in agreement with optimal foraging theory, which predicts that the wasps will adapt their responses to specific cues in accordance with the rewards they receive while perceiving these cues. Indeed, the generalist parasitoid Cotesia marginiventris shows increased attraction to a specific plant odor after perceiving this odor during contact with hosts. This positive associative learning is common among many parasitoids, but little is known about the effects of unrewarding host searching events on the attractiveness of odors. To study this, preferences of female C. marginiventris for herbivore-induced odors of three plant species were tested in a six-arm olfactometer after the wasps perceived one of these odors either i) without contacting any caterpillars, ii) while contacting the host caterpillar Spodoptera littoralis, or iii) while contacting the non-host caterpillar Pieris rapae. The results confirm the effects of positive associative learning, but showed no changes in innate responses to the host-induced odors after "negative" experiences. Hence, a positive association is made during an encounter with hosts, but unsuccessful host-foraging experiences do not necessarily lead to avoidance learning in this generalist parasitoid.

Published in:
Journal of Insect Behavior, 23, 4, 303-318

 Record created 2010-09-15, last modified 2018-03-17

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