Host size is considered a reliable indicator of host quality and an important determinant of parasitoid fitness. Koinobiont parasitoids attack hosts that continue feeding and growing during parasitism. In contrast with hemolymph-feeding koinobionts, tissue-feeding koinobionts face not only a minimum host size for successful development but also a maximum host size, because consumption of the entire host is often necessary for successful egression. Here we study interactions between a generalist tissue-feeding larval endoparasitoid, Hyposoter didymator Thunberg (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae) and two of its natural hosts, Spodoptera exigua Hübner and Chrysodeixis chalcites Esper (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). Larvae of C. chalcites are up to three times larger than corresponding instars of S. exigua and also attain much higher terminal masses before pupation. We hypothesized that the range of host instars suitable for successful parasitism by H. didymator would be much more restricted in the large host C. chalcites than in the smaller S. exigua. To test this hypothesis, we monitored development of H. didymator in all instars of both host species and measured survival, larval development time, and adult body mass of the parasitioid. In contrast with our predictions, C. chalcites was qualitatively superior to S. exigua in terms of the survival of parasitized hosts, the proportion of parasitoids able to complete development, and adult parasitoid size. However, in both hosts, the proportion of mature parasitoid larvae that successfully developed into adults was low at the largest host sizes. Our results suggest that qualitative, as well as quantitative, factors are important in the success of tissue-feeding parasitoids.
|Published - 2007