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Chemical Ecology of Floral Resources in Conservation Biological Control


Conservation biological control aims to enhance populations of natural enemies of insect pests in crop habitats, typically by intentional provision of flowering plants as food resources. Ideally, these flowering plants should be inherently attractive to natural enemies to ensure that they are frequently visited. We review the chemical ecology of floral resources in a conservation biological control context, with a focus on insect parasitoids. We highlight the role of floral volatiles as semiochemicals that attract parasitoids to the food resources. The discovery that nectar-inhabiting microbes can be hidden players in mediating parasitoid responses to flowering plants has highlighted the complexity of the interactions between plants and parasitoids. Furthermore, because food webs in agroecosystems do not generally stop at the third trophic level, we also consider responses of hyperparasitoids to floral resources. We thus provide an overview of floral compounds as semiochemicals from a multitrophic perspective, and we focus on the remaining questions that need to be addressed to move the field forward.