Each spring, amid the decaying rubble of dead prairie plants, emerging male gall wasps find mates by calling upon the chemistry prowess of their predecessors, entomologists scouring Central Illinois have discovered.
Gall wasp larvae feeding inside a stem of Silphium terebinthinacem (prairie dock)
Photos provided by John Tooker.
A female gall wasp Antistrophus rufus
Photos provided by John Tooker.
In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they report that as adult gall wasps (Antistrophus rufus) feed in warm weather, they change the ratio of plant chemicals so that males emerging after the winter season can recognize when they are on the right stems at the right time. The study is being published in advance online the week of Nov. 18-22.
The finding is the first to suggest that insects can alter the chemical composition of plants for the purpose of mate location, said Lawrence M. Hanks, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Jim Barlow | EurekAlert!
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