Sublethal insecticide exposure of an herbivore alters the response of its predator.


Department of Chemical Ecology, Bielefeld University, Universitätsstr. 25, 33615, Bielefeld, Germany. Electronic address: [Email]


Sublethal insecticide exposure poses risks for many non-target organisms and is a challenge for successful implementation of integrated pest management (IPM) programs. Next to detrimental effects of short-term insecticide exposure on fitness-related traits of organisms, also properties such as chemical signaling traits can be altered, which mediate intra- and interspecific communication. We investigated the effects of different durations of larval sublethal exposure to the pyrethroid lambda-cyhalothrin on performance traits of larvae and adults of the herbivorous mustard leaf beetle, Phaedon cochleariae. Moreover, by applying a direct contact and olfactometer bioassays, we determined the reaction of a generalist predator, the ant Myrmica rubra, towards insecticide-exposed and unexposed herbivore larvae and their secretions. Already short-term sublethal insecticide exposure of a few days caused a prolonged larval development and a reduced adult body mass of males. These effects may result from an insecticide-induced reduction in energy reserves. Furthermore, ants responded more frequently to insecticide-exposed than to unexposed larvae of P. cochleariae and their secretions. This increased responsiveness of ants towards insecticide-exposed larvae may be due to an insecticide-induced change in synthesis of chrysomelidial and epichrysomelidial, the dominant compounds of the larval secretion, which act defensive against various generalist predators. In conclusion, the results highlight that short-term insecticide exposure can impair the fitness of an herbivorous species due to both direct toxic effects and an increased responsiveness of predators. Consequently, exposure of single non-target species can have consequences for ecological communities in both natural habitats and IPM programs.


Insecticide carry-over,Integrated pest management,Lambda-cyhalothrin,Myrmica rubra,Phaedon cochleariae,Pyrethroid,

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