Penicillium expansum Volatiles Reduce Pine Weevil Attraction to Host Plants
The pine weevil Hylobius abietis (L.) is a severe pest of conifer seedlings in reforested areas of Europe and Asia. To identify minimally toxic and ecologically sustainable compounds for protecting newly planted seedlings, we evaluated the volatile metabolites produced by microbes isolated from H. abietis feces and frass. Female weevils deposit feces and chew bark at oviposition sites, presumably thus protecting eggs from feeding conspecifics. We hypothesize that microbes present in feces/frass are responsible for producing compounds that deter weevils. Here, we describe the isolation of a fungus from feces and frass of H. abietis and the biological activity of its volatile metabolites. The fungus was identified by morphological and molecular methods as Penicillium expansum Link ex. Thom. It was cultured on sterilized H. abietis frass medium in glass flasks, and volatiles were collected by SPME and analyzed by GC-MS. The major volatiles of the fungus were styrene and 3-methylanisole. The nutrient conditions for maximum production of styrene and 3-methylanisole were examined. Large quantities of styrene were produced when the fungus was cultured on grated pine bark with yeast extract. In a multi-choice arena test, styrene significantly reduced male and female pine weevils’ attraction to cut pieces of Scots pine twigs, whereas 3-methylanisole only reduced male weevil attraction to pine twigs. These studies suggest that metabolites produced by microbes may be useful as compounds for controlling insects, and could serve as sustainable alternatives to synthetic insecticides.