Food plant and herbivore host species affect the outcome of intrinsic competition among parasitoid larvae

Erik H. Poelman, Rieta Gols, Alex V. Gumovsky, Anne-Marie Cortesero, Marcel Dicke, Jeffrey A. Harvey

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1. In nature, several parasitoid species often exploit the same stages of a common herbivore host species and are able to coexist despite competitive interactions amongst them. Less is known about the direct effects of resource quality on intrinsic interactions between immature parasitoid stages. The present study is based on the hypothesis that variation in the quality or type of plant resources on which the parasitoids indirectly develop may be complementary and thus facilitate niche segregation favouring different parasitoids in intrinsic competition under different dietary regimes. 2. The present study investigated whether two herbivore species, the cabbage butterflies Pieris brassicae and Pieris rapae (Pieridae), and the quality of two important food plants, Brassica oleracea and Brassica nigra (Brassicaceae), affect the outcome of intrinsic competition between their primary larval endoparasitoids, the gregarious Cotesia glomerata (Braconidae) and the solitary Hyposoter ebeninus (Ichneumonidae). 3. Hyposoter ebeninus is generally an intrinsically superior competitor over C.glomerata. However, C.glomerata survived more antagonistic encounters with H.ebeninus when both developed in P.brassicae rather than in P.rapae caterpillars, and while its host was feeding on B.nigra rather than B.oleracea. Moreover, H.ebeninus benefitted from competition by its higher survival in multiparasitised hosts. 4. These results show that both plant and herbivore species mediate the battleground on which competitive interactions between parasitoids are played out and may affect the outcomes of these interactions in ways that enable parasitoids to segregate their niches. This in turn may promote coexistence among parasitoid species that are associated with the same herbivore host.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)693-702
Number of pages10
JournalEcological Entomology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Brassica
  • Cotesia glomerata
  • Hyposoter ebeninus
  • intrinsic competition
  • multitrophic interactions
  • parasitoid ecology
  • Pieris
  • plant-mediated interactions
  • international


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