Several studies have reported that flowering herbs, which grow naturally or are sown adjacent to agricultural fields, may be an important source of nutrients for natural enemies. Many parasitoids readily feed on plant exudates such as floral nectar, which contain different types of sugars that enable the insects to optimize their longevity, mobility and reproductive success. However, leaf tissues of plants grown in the margins of agricultural fields may also provide food for immature stages of insect herbivores, such as caterpillars, that are in turn attacked by parasitoids. Herbivores and their parasitoids may later disperse into the crop, so the nutritional quality of surrounding plants, as this affects herbivore and parasitoid fitness, may also influence the success of biological control programmes, especially later in the season. Here, we compare the suitability of three species of cruciferous plants (Brassicaceae) on the development of Pieris rapae L. (Lep., Pieridae) and its solitary endoparasitoid, Cotesia rubecula Marshall (Hym., Bracondiae). Insects were reared on a feral population of cabbage, Brassica oleracea, on radish Raphanus sativus, which is widely sown in agricultural margins, and on hedge mustard, Sisymbrium officinale, a wild crucifer which often grows in medium to large stands along road verges and field edges. Development time in both the herbivore and parasitoid were extended on R. sativus, compared with the other two species, whereas C. rubecula completed its development most rapidly on B. oleracea. Moreover, adult butterflies and parasitoids were significantly smaller when reared on R. sativus plants. Our results reveal that differences in the quality of plants growing adjacent to agricultural fields can affect the development of key herbivores and their parasitoids. This should be borne in mind when establishing criteria for the selection of floral biodiversity.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Entomology
Journal publication date2006

ID: 278441