Plants release a variety of volatile organic compounds that play multiple roles in the interactions with other plants and animals. Natural enemies of plant-feeding insects use these volatiles as cues to find their prey or host. Here, we report differences between the volatile blends of tomato plants infested with the whitefly Bemisia tabaci or the tomato borer Tuta absoluta. We compared the volatile emission of: (1) clean tomato plants; (2) tomato plants infested with T. absoluta larvae; and (3) tomato plants infested with B. tabaci adults, nymphs, and eggs. A total of 80 volatiles were recorded of which 10 occurred consistently only in the headspace of T. absoluta-infested plants. Many of the compounds detected in the headspace of the two herbivory treatments were emitted at different rates. Plants damaged by T. absoluta emitted at least 10 times higher levels of many compounds compared to plants damaged by B. tabaci and intact plants. The multivariate separation of T. absoluta-infested plants from those infested with B. tabaci was due largely to the chorismate-derived compounds as well as volatile metabolites of C18-fatty acids and branched chain amino acids that had higher emission rates from T. absoluta-infested plants, whereas the cyclic sesquiterpenes α- and β-copaene, valencene, and aristolochene were emitted at significantly higher levels from B. tabaci-infested plants. Our findings imply that feeding by T. absoluta and B. tabaci induced emission of volatile blends that differ quantitatively and qualitatively, providing a chemical basis for the recently documented behavioral discrimination by two generalist predatory mirid species, natural enemies of T. absoluta and B. tabaci employed in biological control.
- Bemisia tabaci
- Tuta absoluta