1. Diets that maximise life span often differ from diets that maximise reproduction. Animals have therefore evolved advanced foraging strategies to acquire optimal nutrition and maximise their fitness. The free-living adult females of parasitoid wasps (Hymenoptera) need to balance their search for hosts to reproduce and for carbohydrate resources to feed. 2. Honeydew, excreted by phloem-feeding insects, presents a widely available carbohydrate source in nature that can benefit natural enemies of honeydew-producing insects. However, the effects of variation in honeydew on organisms in the fourth trophic level, such as hyperparasitoids, are not yet understood. 3. This study examined how five different honeydew types influence longevity and fecundity of four hyperparasitoid taxa. Asaphes spp. (Pteromalidae) and Dendrocerus spp. (Megaspilidae) are secondary parasitoids of aphid parasitoids and are thus associated with honeydew-producing insects. Gelis agilis and Acrolyta nens (both Ichneumonidae) are secondary parasitoids of species that do not use honeydew-producing hosts. 4. Most honeydew types had a positive or neutral effect on life span and fecundity of hyperparasitoids compared with controls without honeydew, although negative effects were also found for both aphid hyperparasitoids. Honeydew produced by aphids feeding on sweet pepper plants was most beneficial for all hyperparasitoid taxa, which can partially be explained by the high amount of honeydew, but also by the composition of dietary sugars in these honeydew types. 5. The findings of this study underline the value of aphid honeydew as a carbohydrate resource for fourth-trophic-level organisms, not only those associated with honeydew-producing insects but also ?interlopers? without such a natural association.
Bibliographical note6827, TE; Data Archiving:
- foraging behaviour
- life-history trade-off
- nutritional ecology