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Volatile Emissions from an Epiphytic Fungus are Semiochemicals for Eusocial Wasps

Thomas Seth Davis, Kyria Boundy-Mills and Peter J. Landolt
Microbial Ecology
Vol. 64, No. 4 (November 2012), pp. 1056-1063
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41693869
Page Count: 8
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Abstract

Microbes are ubiquitous on plant surfaces. However, interactions between epiphytic microbes and arthropods are rarely considered as a factor that affects arthropod behaviors. Here, volatile emissions from an epiphytic fungus were investigated as semiochemical attractants for two eusocial wasps. The fungus Aureobasidium pullulans was isolated from apples, and the volatile compounds emitted by fungal colonies were quantified. The attractiveness of fungal colonies and fungal volatiles to social wasps (Vespula spp.) were experimentally tested in the field. Three important findings emerged: (1) traps baited with A. pullulans caught 2750 % more wasps on average than unbaited control traps; (2) the major headspace volatiles emitted by A. pullulans were 2-methyl-1-butanol, 3-methyl-1-butanol, and 2-phenylethyl alcohol; and (3) a synthetic blend of fungal volatiles attracted 4,933 % more wasps on average than unbaited controls. Wasps were most attracted to 2-methyll-butanol. The primary wasp species attracted to fungal volatiles were the western yellowjacket (Vespula pensylvanica) and the German yellowjacket (V. germanica), and both species externally vectored A. pullulans. This is the first study to link microbial volatile emissions with eusocial wasp behaviors, and these experiments indicate that volatile compounds emitted by an epiphytic fungus can be responsible for wasp attraction. This work implicates epiphytic microbes as important components in the community ecology of some eusocial hymenopterans, and fungal emissions may signal suitable nutrient sources to foraging wasps. Our experiments are suggestive of a potential symbiosis, but additional studies are needed to determine if eusocial waspfungal associations are widespread, and whether these associations are incidental, facultative, or obligate.

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