Use of visual and olfactory cues of flowers of two brassicaceous species by insect pollinators

Katherine Y. Barragán-Fonseca*, Joop J.A. van Loon, Marcel Dicke, Dani Lucas-Barbosa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


1. Pollinating insects exploit visual and olfactory cues associated with flower traits indicative of flower location and reward quality. Pollination can induce changes in these flower-associated cues, thereby influencing the behaviour of flower visitors. 2. This study investigated the main cues exploited by the syrphid fly Episyrphus balteatus and the butterfly Pieris brassicae when visiting flowers of Brassica nigra and Raphanus sativus plants. Whether pollen is used as a cue and whether pollination-induced changes affect flower volatile emission and the behavioural responses of the two pollinator species were also studied. 3. Pollinator preference was investigated by offering visual and olfactory cues individually as well as simultaneously in two-choice bioassays. Plant treatments included emasculation, hand-pollination and untreated control plants. The composition of flower volatiles from pollinated and unpollinated control plants was analysed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. 4. Both pollinators exhibited a strong bias for visual cues over olfactory cues. Neither pollinator used pollen as a cue. However, E. balteatus discriminated between newly opened and long-open flowers at short distance only when pollen was available. Flower visits by pollinators were influenced by pollination-induced changes in B. nigra but not R. sativus flowers. Pieris brassicae only responded to pollination-induced changes when visual and olfactory cues were offered simultaneously. The blend of volatiles emitted by B. nigra, but not R. sativus inflorescences was affected by pollination. 5. Collectively, the findings of this study show that different pollinators exploit different visual and olfactory traits when searching for flowers of two brassicaceous plant species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-55
JournalEcological Entomology
Issue number1
Early online date4 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • Odour cues
  • plant volatiles
  • pollinators
  • post-pollination changes
  • visual cues


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