Family planning in a stemborer parasitoid: Sex ratio, brood size and size-fitness relationships in Parallorhogas pyralophagus (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), and implications for biological control
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Various aspects were studied of the brood size and sex allocation strategies, and of size-fitness relationships in Parallorhogas pyralophagus (Marsh), a gregarious ectoparasitoid of Eoreuma loftini Dyar. Brood size was significantly correlated with host size; larger hosts were allocated larger broods. Brood sex ratios were fixed precisely at 1 male per 4 females, and eggs were likely to be deposited in that order; differential mortality did not contribute to this precise sex ratio. The sex allocation strategy of P. pyralophagus is likely to conform to strict, i.e. single foundress, local mate competition. Adoption of this strategy is probably influenced by a limited insemination capacity of males; a smaller proportion of females (0.09 vs. 0.21) remained virgin in broods with precise or higher sex ratios ( 0.20 males) relative to broods with lower than precise sex ratios (< 0.20 males). Moreover, all females were inseminated in most broods (60%) with precise or higher sex ratios, whereas this did not occur in broods with lower than precise sex ratios. The hypothesized occurrence of strict local mate competition in P. pyralophagus was supported also by observations that: (i) offspring brood sex ratios were independent of maternal brood sex ratios and number of parental females concurrently allocating offspring to a group of hosts, and; (ii) the rate of superparasitism under no-choice conditions was low (20%), suggesting that rates of outbreeding in the field are low. Other results suggested that fitness in P. pyralophagus was correlated with adult size; longevity and reproductive capacity both increased with adult size in males and females. However, adult size may be more important for females than for males because the differences in reproductive capacity between the largest and smallest individuals was up to 7.3 times greater in females versus < 2 times in males.