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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Developing Integrated Weed and Insect Management Systems for Efficient and Sustainable Sugarcane Production

Location: Sugarcane Research Unit

Title: Host plants impact courtship vibration transmission and mating success of a parasitoid wasp, Cotesia flavipes (Hymenoptera: Braconidae)

Authors
item Andrea, Joyce -
item White, William
item Medina, Raul -

Submitted to: Evolutionary Ecology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 13, 2013
Publication Date: November 23, 2013
Citation: Andrea, J.L., White, W.H., Medina, R.F. 2013. Host plants impact courtship vibration transmission and mating success of a parasitoid wasp, Cotesia flavipes (Hymenoptera: Braconidae). Evolutionary Ecology. DOI: 10.1007/s10682-013-9682-7.

Interpretive Summary: Beneficial insects play an important role in controlling damaging insect pests. Yet both the pest and its natural enemies are closely tied to the host plant that they habitat. Each plant species is a distinct habitat and both pest and beneficial insect must adapt to that habitat in order to survive, mate, and reproduce. Those distinctions among host habitats can be so profound that they can actually cause genetic change among a group of insects as they adapt to different host plant species. In this study we looked at some specific physical traits of different host plants (rice, corn, and sugarcane) that may affect the courtship behavior of a beneficial wasp species. Those traits evaluated were leaf density, leaf width, and percent moisture. The behavioral mechanism evaluated was courtship vibration signal transmission and how signal transmission relates to mating success of this wasp. Results showed that signals transmitted for a longer period of time and were louder in those plant leaves of the host species with the lowest leaf density. That host plant species was rice and it was also the host plant with the highest mating frequency. The results from this study support the suggestion that host plants can contribute to the behavioral divergence of beneficial insects on different host plant species. These findings, although very basic in their nature, will ultimately help entomologist match an important beneficial insect with the best host plant. The findings may also help explain why certain genetic races of a beneficial insect are not as successful on one host plant species as they are on others.

Technical Abstract: Host plants provide food, shelter and mating habitats for herbivorous and parasitoid insects. Yet each plant species is a distinct microhabitat and insects must adapt to its chemical and physical attributes in order to survive, mate and reproduce. Behavioral and genetic divergence between insect populations can occur as they adapt to different host plant species. Few studies have investigated the behavioral mechanisms involved in assortative mating of host plant associated insect populations. This study examines differences in courtship vibration signal transmission through three host plant species that vary in physical characteristics (leaf density, leaf width and percent moisture) and how signal transmission relates to mating success for a parasitoid wasp. The vibration signals transmit with a longer duration and a louder relative amplitude in the host plant leaves of the species with the lowest leaf density, which was also the plant type with the highest mating frequency. These data support the suggestion that host plants are a selective force on courtship vibration signals and may contribute the behavioral divergence of populations on different host plant species.

Last Modified: 10/20/2014
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