Root feeding insects can influence foliar quality of the host plant, which can affect the development and behaviour of leaf herbivores and parasitoids. Thus far, such interactions have been reported in situations where root and leaf associated organisms share a host-plant. We tested whether root herbivory influences searching behaviour of an above-ground parasitoid when the foliar feeding host of the parasitoid and the root herbivore are feeding on different plants. We manipulated the proportion of 25 plants (ranging from 0 to 1) exposed to root herbivory by Delia radicum (neighbouring-plants). Five additional plants were infested above-ground with Pieris brassicae larvae (host-infested plants) and were placed in-between the neighbouring plants. We then released females of the parasitoid Cotesia glomerata which attacks P. brassicae and studied foraging efficiency of the parasitoid. Overall, parasitoids located more host-infested plants during the maximum allowed searching time, and found their hosts about three times faster when neighbouring plants were exposed to root herbivory, than when neighbouring plants were not infested with D. radicum. Similar results were found when the host-infested plants were also exposed to root herbivory. Our results show that the interaction between an above-ground foliar feeding insect and its parasitoid can be influenced by the presence of non-host herbivores feeding on the roots of neighbouring conspecific plants.
- tritrophic interaction webs