Host influences on sex ratio, longevity, and egg load of two Metaphycus species parasitic on soft scales: Implications for insectary rearing Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Metaphycus flavus (Howard) and M. stanleyi Compere (Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae) are currently being screened for use as augmentative biological control agents of citrus-infesting soft scales (Homoptera: Coccidae). Two factors were investigated, host quality-dependent sex allocation and local mate competition, which likely influence these parasitoid's sex allocation strategies and are therefore of interest for their mass-rearing. The results of these studies suggested that, under the mass-rearing protocol that is envisioned for these parasitoids, offspring sex ratios in both M. flavus and M. stanleyi are dominated by host quality (= size) influences, but not by interactions with other females. These results indicated that host size strongly influences offspring sex ratios and brood sizes; larger hosts led to more female offspring and larger broods. In contrast, increasing the number of parental females did not lead to fewer female offspring as expected under local mate competition. Additionally, within-brood sex ratios did not vary with brood size; this result is inconsistent with expected sex ratios due to local mate competition. Other results also indicated that host quality was a dominant influence on M. flavus' and M. stanleyi's sex ratios. Larger hosts led to a larger size in the emerging wasps, and larger wasps had greater egg loads and lived longer than smaller wasps. However, wasp longevity, and the influence of wasp size on longevity were mediated by a wasp's diet. Metaphycus flavus females lived the longest when they had access to hosts, honey, and water, followed by honey and water, and shortest when they had access to water alone; M. stanleyi females lived longest with honey and water, followed by hosts, honey, and water, and shortest with water alone. Greater wasp size led to greater longevity in females only when they had access to food (honey, or hosts and honey). Finally, other results suggested that both M. flavus and M. stanleyi are facultatively gregarious. Wasp size did not decrease with brood size as expected under superparasitism. Overall, the results of these studies suggested that holding newly emerged females of both M. flavus and M. stanleyi for several days in the presence of an appropriate food source before field release could enhance a female's performance as an augmentative biological control agent. It increases their initial life expectancy following release, and maximizes the females' egg load (both Metaphycus species) and resources for replacing oviposited eggs (M. flavus only).

author list (cited authors)

  • Bernal, J. S., Luck, R. F., & Morse, J. G.

publication date

  • January 1999