Clutch size in a larval-pupal endoparasitoid: 1. Variation across and within host species

L.E.M. Vet, A. Datema, K. van Welzen, H. Snellen

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Clutch size decisions by Aphaereta minuta (Nees) (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), a polyphagous, gregarious, larval-pupal endoparasitoid, were studied under laboratory conditions. This parasitoid attacks larvae of Diptera inhabiting ephemeral microhabitats such as decaying plant and animal material. Females oviposit in young larval stages, but the eventual size of the host pupa determines host food availability for competing offspring. The size of the pupa can differ greatly between host species. We questioned how A. minuta females deal with this delay between the moment of oviposition and eventual host food availability, and whether they make clutch size decisions that benefit their fitness. It was shown that females indeed vary their clutch size considerably and in an adaptive way: (1) females lay larger clutches in larvae of host species that produce larger pupae, even when the larvae are the same size at the moment of oviposition, and (2) females lay larger clutches in larger larvae than in smaller larvae of the same host species. The latter seems functional as larvae parasitized at an older stage indeed developed into larger pupae compared to larvae parasitized at a younger stage. Furthermore, mortality of parasitized young host larvae was greater than that of both unparasitized larvae and parasitized older larvae. Under field conditions the risk of mortality of young host larvae is expected to be even higher due to the limited period of microhabitat (host food) availability, strong scramble type competition between the host larvae, and the longer period of being exposed to predation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-415
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1993


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