Aphelinus nigritus Howard (Hymenoptera: Aphelinidae) Preference for Sorghum Aphid, Melanaphis sorghi (Theobald, 1904) (Hemiptera: Aphididae), Honeydew Is Stronger in Johnson Grass, Sorghum halepense, Than in Grain Sorghum, Sorghum bicolor.
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How aphid parasitoids of recent invasive species interact with their hosts can affect the feasibility of biological control. In this study, we focus on a recent invasive pest of US grain sorghum, Sorghum bicolor, the sorghum aphid (SA), Melanaphis sorghi. Understanding this pest's ecology in the grain sorghum agroecosystem is critical to develop effective control strategies. As parasitoids often use aphid honeydew as a sugar resource, and honeydew is known to mediate parasitoid-aphid interactions, we investigated the ability of SA honeydew to retain the parasitoid Aphelinus nigritus. Since SAs in the US have multiple plant hosts, and host-plant diet can modulate parasitoid retention (a major component in host foraging), we measured SA honeydew sugar, organic acid, and amino acid profiles, then assessed via retention time A. nigritus preference for honeydew produced on grain sorghum or Johnson grass, Sorghum halepense. Compared to a water control, A. nigritus spent more time on SA honeydew produced on either host plant. Despite similar honeydew profiles from both plant species, A. nigritus preferred honeydew produced on Johnson grass. Our results suggest the potential for SA honeydew to facilitate augmentation strategies aimed at maintaining A. nigritus on Johnson grass to suppress SAs before grain sorghum is planted.