The red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum (Herbst) (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae), is a major pest of facilities where grain is processed because of its ability to find and colonize food resource patches. Traps baited with pheromone and kairomone lures are commonly used to monitor for the presence of insects in warehouses or flour mills, for example. However, two nonmutually exclusive components, environment and genetics, could influence insect responsiveness to volatiles, impacting the efficacy of monitoring. Intraspecific variation in attraction behavior to food and mates is largely unexplored in stored-product insects, but tapping into natural genetic variation could provide a baseline for identifying genetic mechanisms associated with finding resources. Here, we assess eight strains of T. castaneum for variation in response to kairomone- and pheromone-based lures using three behavioral assays: paired choice with no forced air flow, upwind attraction with forced air flow, and movement pattern in an arena with a single odor source. We find strain-specific responses to kairomones and pheromones and evidence for heritability in behavioral responses. However, environmental coefficients for behavioral responses to both lures are high, suggesting that environment, and its potential interaction with genotype, strongly influences behavioral outcomes in these assays. Furthermore, despite the different environmental conditions among the different behavioral assays, we find a correlation for volatile preference among the assays. Our results provide a baseline assessment of natural variation for preference to kairomone and pheromone lures and suggest that careful consideration of behavioral assay is key to understanding the mechanisms of attraction in these stored-product pests.
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Vol. 47 • No. 5