Two gut-associated yeasts in a Tephritid fruit fly have contrasting effects on adult attraction and larval survival


Yeast-insect interactions have been well characterized in drosophilid flies, but not in tephritid fruit flies, which include many highly polyphagous pest species that attack ripening fruits. Using the Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni) as our model tephritid species, we identified yeast species present in the gut of wild-collected larvae and found two genera, Hanseniaspora and Pichia, were the dominant isolates. In behavioural trials using adult female B. tryoni, a fruit-agar substrate inoculated with Pichia kluyveri resulted in odour emissions that increased the attraction of flies, whereas inoculation with Hanseniaspora uvarum, produced odours that strongly deterred flies, and both yeasts led to decreased oviposition. Larval development trials showed that the fruit-agar substrate inoculated with the ‘deterrent odour’ yeast species, H. uvarum, resulted in significantly faster larval development and a greater number of adult flies, compared to a substrate inoculated with the ‘attractive odour’ yeast species, P. kluyveri, and a yeast free control substrate. GC-MS analysis of volatiles emitted by H. uvarum and P. kluyveri inoculated substrates revealed significant quantitative differences in ethyl-, isoamyl-, isobutyl-, and phenethyl- acetates, which may be responsible for the yeast-specific olfactory responses of adult flies. We discuss how our seemingly counterintuitive finding that female B. tryoni flies avoid a beneficial yeast fits well with our understanding of female choice of oviposition sites, and how the contrasting behavioural effects of H. uvarum and P. kluyveri raises interesting questions regarding the role of yeast-specific volatiles as cues to insect vectors. A better understanding of yeast-tephritid interactions could assist in the future management of tephritid fruit fly pests through the formulation of new ‘attract and kill’ lures, and the development of probiotics for mass rearing of insects in sterile insect control programs.