Foraging for solitarily and gregariously feeding caterpillars: a comparison of two related parasitoid species

J.S.C. Wiskerke, L.E.M. Vet

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In the present study we apply a comparative approach, in combination with experimentation, to study behavior of two parasitoid species that attack caterpillar hosts with different feeding strategies (gregarious or solitary). In a semifield setup, consisting of clean cabbage plants and plants infested with one of two host species, the foraging behavior of the specialistCotesia rubecula, on obligate parasitoid of solitarily feedingPieris rapae larvae, was compared to that of the generalistCotesia glomerata, a polyphagous parasitoid of several Pieridae species (mainly the gregariously feedingPieris brassicae).Cotesia glomerata displayed equal propensity to search for and parasitize larvae of both host species. AlthoughC. glomerata exhibited a relatively plastic foraging behavior in that it searched differently under different host distribution conditions, its behavior seems more adapted to search for gregariously feeding hosts. Females exhibited a clear area-restricted search pattern and were more successful in finding the gregariously feeding caterpillars.Cotesia rubecula showed a higher propensity to search forP. rapae than forP. brassicae, i.e., females left the foraging setup significantly earlier when their natural hostP. rapae was not present.C. rubecula showed a more fixed foraging behavior, which seems adapted to foraging for solitarily feeding host larvae. In a setup with onlyP. rapae larvae, the foraging strategies of the two parasitoid species were quite similar. In a choice situationC. glomerata did not show a preference for one of the host species, whileCotesia rubecula showed a clear preference for its natural host species. The latter was shown by several behavioral parameters such as the number of first landings, allocation of search time, and percentage parasitization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)585-603
JournalJournal of Insect Behavior
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes


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