A factorial experiment tested the effects of dietary nicotine and of partial starvation of fifth instar tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta (L.) (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae), on the survival and development of the parasitoid Cotesia congregata (Say) (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) in the laboratory. More parasitoids failed to emerge from partially starved hosts when reared on 0.1% nicotine diet, than from partially starved hosts fed control diet. Parasitoids reared from hornworms starved by 75% on nicotine diet had the longest development. The number of wasps was reduced when reared from hosts that were fed less than 50% of their daily consumption on nicotine diet. Pupal mortality was increased by dietary nicotine.
Nicotine, within the host tissues, may be directly toxic to the parasitoids before their emergence from hornworms. Our data suggest that nicotine may act by mediating the availability of nutrients or reduce assimilation of nutrients by developing parasitoids.