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Parasitoid host range may proceed from traits affecting host suitability, traits affecting parasitoid foraging behaviour, or both. We tested the hypothesis that encapsulation can be used as a reliable indicator of parasitoid host range in two closely related larval endoparasitoids of Lepidoptera. Cotesia glomerata (L.) (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) is gregarious and a generalist on several species of Pieridae, whereas C. rubecula (Marshall) is solitary and specific to Pieris rapae (L.). We determined the effects of host species (Pieris brassicae (L.), P. napi (L.) and P. rapae) (Lepidoptera: Pieridae) and host developmental stage (early first, second and third instar) on encapsulation of parasitoid eggs. Host species and parasitoid species, as well as the resulting interaction between these two factors had significant effects on encapsulation of Cotesia eggs. Encapsulation in Pieris hosts was much lower for C. glomerata (32%), even when the latter was parasitizing P. rapae. Encapsulation increased with the age of the larvae, although the only significant difference was for C. glomerata. Overall, P. rapae showed a stronger encapsulation reaction than P. brassicae and P. napi. Encapsulation levels of C. glomerata corresponded well to patterns of female host species and host age preference for oviposition and parasitoid larval performance. In contrast, percentages of encapsulation of C. rubecula were not consistent with host preference and host suitability. We argue that encapsulation alone is unlikely to provide a sufficient explanation for C. glomerata and C. rubecula host range.
|Publication status||Published - 1995|