Gregarious parasitic wasps, which lay more than one egg into or onto a host arthropod’s body, are usually assumed to lay an optimal number of eggs per host. If females would lay too few eggs, some resources may be wasted, but if females lay too many eggs, offspring may develop into substantially smaller-sized adults or may not develop successfully and die. The availability of hosts can further influence a female’s clutch size decision, as more eggs should be laid when hosts are scarce. Here, we analyzed clutch size decisions and the fitness consequences thereof in the ectoparasitic wasp Bracon brevicornis (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), a potential biocontrol agent against pest moth species. For experiments, larvae of the Mediterranean flower moth, Ephestia kuehniella (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) were used. Using artificially created as well as naturally laid clutches of eggs, the effects of clutch size on fitness of first (F1) and second (F2) generation offspring were investigated. Our results revealed that the fitness consequences of large clutches included both increased mortality and smaller adult sizes of the emerging offspring (F1). Smaller F1 females matured fewer eggs during their lifetime and their offspring (F2) had reduced egg-to-adult survival probability. Naturally laid clutches varied with host size up to a maximum, which probably reflects egg limitation. Clutches remained smaller than the calculated optimal (Lack) clutch size and females responded to high host availability with a decreased number of eggs laid. We thus conclude that large clutches may result in significantly smaller offspring with reduced fitness, and that host size as well as host availability influence the clutch size decision made by B. brevicornis females.
Journal of Insect Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 24, 2017
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