Using a bioassay-driven approach, we have isolated and identified a blend of compounds from the roots of germinating corn, Zea mays L., that serve as feeding stimulants for neonate western corn rootworm larvae, Diabrotica virgifera virgifera LeConte (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). The active blend is a combination of simple sugars (30:4:4 mg/ml glucose:fructose:sucrose in the corn root) plus at least one of the free fatty acids in germinating corn roots (2:5 mg/ml oleic acid:linoleic acid in the corn root). When an extract of germinating corn was partitioned into an ethyl acetate fraction and an aqueous fraction, full feeding occurred only when the two fractions were recombined, indicating that the phagostimulant was comprised of both polar and nonpolar components. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis of root extracts from germinating corn seedlings revealed a blend of 20 compounds from a variety of chemical classes, including small sugars, diacids, amino acids, inorganic compounds, and free fatty acids. When the major components were tested in feeding bioassays, the sugars and lipids were shown to be essential for feeding by larvae, but the two classes of compounds were only effective when combined. The sugars alone elicited feeding by only 40% of larvae, but the percentage of larvae feeding was increased significantly with the addition of linoleic acid (91.7% larvae feeding) or oleic acid (85.8% larvae feeding). The amino acids alone were not essential elements for feeding by western corn rootworm larvae.
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Vol. 101 • No. 2