1. In studying the evolution of life-history strategies in parasitoids, considerable attention has been paid to the relationship between host quality and parasitoid fitness. Various workers have reported that host quality influences parasitoid size, development time, and survival. Because body size is frequently correlated with fecundity, longevity, and host-finding ability in parasitoids, this parameter is usually considered to be the main target of selection.
2. In koinobiont parasitoids that consume the entire host before pupation, adult parasitoid size and development time are often strongly correlated with host size at the time when it is developmentally arrested through destructive feeding by the parasitoid larva.
3. Here, a mathematical model is proposed to describe the larval feeding behaviour of the solitary koinobiont endoparasitoid Venturia canescens in four larval stadia of its host Plodia interpunctella. In particular, the model describes how adult size, represented by an exponential growth rate, and development time are traded off when the parasitoid develops in nutritionally suboptimal second stadium hosts.
4. Using a graphical model, the different conditions faced by V. canescens during development in various host species of greatly differing mass are illustrated.
5. It is argued that the relative importance of size and development time on parasitoid fitness is determined by ecological and biological characteristics of both host and parasitoid, and it is suggested that there may be correlations between life-history traits and host-utilisation strategies among koinobionts.