Exposure of Solidago altissima plants to volatile emissions of an insect antagonist (Eurosta solidaginis) deters subsequent herbivory

Anjel M. Helms, Consuelo M. De Moraes, John F. Tooker, Mark C. Mescher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Recent work indicates that plants respond to environmental odors. For example, some parasitic plants grow toward volatile cues from their host plants, and other plants have been shown to exhibit enhanced defense capability after exposure to volatile emissions from herbivore-damaged neighbors. Despite such intriguing discoveries, we currently know relatively little about the occurrence and significance of plant responses to olfactory cues in natural systems. Here we explore the possibility that some plants may respond to the odors of insect antagonists. We report that tall goldenrod (Solidago altissima) plants exposed to the putative sex attractant of a closely associated herbivore, the gall-inducing fly Eurosta solidaginis, exhibit enhanced defense responses and reduced susceptibility to insect feeding damage. In a field study, egg-laying E. solidaginis females discriminated against plants previously exposed to the sex-specific volatile emissions of males; furthermore, overall rates of herbivory were reduced on exposed plants. Consistent with these findings, laboratory assays documented reduced performance of the specialist herbivore Trirhabda virgata on plants exposed to male fly emissions (or crude extracts), as well as enhanced induction of the key defense hormone jasmonic acid in exposed plants after herbivory. These unexpected findings from a classic ecological study system provide evidence for a previously unexplored class of plant-insect interactions involving plant responses to insect-derived olfactory cues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-204
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Exposure of Solidago altissima plants to volatile emissions of an insect antagonist (Eurosta solidaginis) deters subsequent herbivory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this