Does it Pay to Care?: Exploring the Costs and Benefits of Parental Care in the Hibiscus Harlequin Bug Tectocoris diophthalmus (Heteroptera: Scutelleridae)

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Abstract

Knowledge of the selective pressures favouring parental care can inform our understanding of the evolutionary origins and transitions of sociality in insects. Here, we report upon investigations designed to estimate the costs and benefits of parental care in the egg-guarding hibiscus harlequin bug Tectocoris diophthalmus (Heteroptera: Scutelleridae). We found that the presence of a guarding female had no effect on hatching success under benign laboratory conditions. In the wild, however, guarding decreased the likelihood of total clutch failure, and produced a fourfold greater egg-hatching rate relative to unguarded clutches. Females guarded against generalist invertebrate egg predators, including conspecific nymphs, but were ineffective against hymenopteran egg parasitoids. Females continued to feed during the guarding period and exhibited no signs of weight loss or increased mortality due to this behaviour. We did not observe the production of subsequent clutches in any experimental females; therefore, the lifetime fecundity costs of providing parental care in T. diophthalmus remain indeterminate. Overall, maternal egg guarding appears to function as a relatively low cost–low benefit strategy that increases hatching success by protecting against predation – but not parasitism.

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