The effect of spatial scale on interactions between two weevils and their parasitoid


Mohd Norowi Hamid, Entomology and Nematology Department, IACR – Rothamsted, Harpenden, Hertfordshire AL5 2JQ, U.K.


1. The effect of spatial scale on the interactions between three hymenopteran parasitoids and their weevil hosts was investigated. The parasitoid Mesopolobus incultus (Walker) parasitised Gymnetron pascuorum Gyll.; the parasitoids Entodon sparetus (Walker) and Bracon sp. parasitised Mecinus pyraster Herbst. Both of these weevils develop inside the seedhead of Plantago lanceolata L. but occupy different niches. Seedheads were sampled annually from 162 plants at each of two experimental sites consisting of a series of habitat patches of two distinct sizes. Data were analysed from three site-years.

2. Parasitoid densities at each site-year were closely related to the abundance of their respective weevil hosts. The overall proportion of hosts parasitised was more variable for M. incultus than for E. sparetus and Bracon sp.

3. Changes in spatial scale affected the variability of parasitoid densities. For M. incultus, there was generally a greater degree of additional heterogeneity for all increases of scale; for E. sparetus, this was true only at the largest scales; for Bracon sp., all components of variance were negative.

4. The rate of parasitism was related to host density in different ways at different spatial scales. Mesopolobus incultus exhibited inverse density dependence at the finest (seedhead) scale, direct density dependence at the intermediate (plant) scale, and density independence at the large (habitat area 729 m2) scale. Entodon sparetus showed no response to variation in host density at any spatial scale. Bracon sp. showed direct density dependence only at the intermediate and largest scales.

5. Parasitoids E. sparetus and Bracon sp. seemed able to detect more than one M. pyraster individual in seedheads with multiple host occupancy; a greater incidence of conspecific parasitoids than expected emerged from such seedheads.