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To understand the ecological role of secondary plant compounds in host location by phytophagous insects it is important to consider attraction at different scales in natural populations. The cabbage seed weevil, Ceutorhynchus assimilis, which lays eggs in pods of crucifers where the larvae feed on seed, is attracted to purified extracts of specific glucosinolate-derived volatiles. We considered the possibility that C. assimilis adults are attracted to and preferentially attack patches of plants and/or individual plants producing these volatiles. Using discrete natural populations of Brassica oleracea and Brassica nigra, we found that oviposition was highest in populations of B. oleracea producing high amounts of 3-butenylglucosinolate. No links were found between the other glucosinolates, 2-propenylglucosinolate, 2-hydroxy-3-butenylglucosinolate, 1-indolylmethylglucosinolate or 1-methoxy-3-indolylmethylglucosinolate, and oviposition in B. oleracea. B. nigra, which contains only 2-propenylglucosinolate, was not attacked by C. assimilis. Within populations of B. oleracea, neither oviposition nor the number of seeds eaten was related to the glucosinolate profiles of individual plants. We suggest that C. assimilis adults use 3-butenylglucosinolate-derived volatiles to locate host populations, whereas other cues determine oviposition on individual plants. The consequences of these results for natural selection of glucosinolate phenotypes are discussed.

Original publication




Journal article


Proceedings. Biological sciences

Publication Date





1567 - 1573


Department of Biological Sciences, University of Liverpool, PO Box 147, Liverpool L69 3BX, UK.


Animals, Beetles, Plants, Glucosinolates, Oils, Volatile