Role of chemical cues and natal rearing effect on host recognition by the parasitic wasp Melittobia digitata


Christian Sherley Araújo da Silva Torres, CPES - Department of Entomology, University of Georgia, Tifton, GA 31794, USA. Email:


Parasitoids are expected to have the ability to find, recognize, and perhaps to discern potential hosts that can best support the development of their progeny. Melittobia Westwood (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae) are gregarious ectoparasitoids, which primarily attack mud daubers (Hymenoptera: Sphecidae). How Melittobia females locate their host is not well known, but the process may involve host-related  chemical signals. In this study, we investigated the roles of host chemical cues and natal rearing effect in host recognition by Mel. digitata Dahms. In an olfactometer that contained prepupae of Trypoxylon  politum Say (Hymenoptera: Sphecidae), Megachile rotundata (Fabricius) (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae), puparia of Neobellieria bullata (Parker) (Diptera: Sarcophagidae), empty or intact host cocoons, or nest mud, Mel. digitata females spent significantly more time in air fields that contained T. politum (prepupae + cocoon) and Meg. rotundata (prepupae + cocoon) than in N. bullata and control fields. Nest mud and natal host had no attraction for parasitoid host choice. Most first and last choices of Mel. digitata females in the olfactometer were not consistent, suggesting an initial random dispersion, although they responded positively towards hosts in cocoons.