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Keywords:

  • Agaonidae;
  • host choice;
  • dispersal;
  • Ficus;
  • migration;
  • Moraceae;
  • take off;
  • temperature

Abstract

Ficus burtt-davyi, like most other fig species (Ficus, Moraceae), is exclusively pollinated by its own unique species of fig wasp, in this case Elisabethiella baijnathi (Chalcidoidea, Agaonidae). Because fig crop development on any one tree is usually synchronised, the small and short-lived female wasps have to migrate and find other trees bearing figs which are at suitable stage of development for oviposition. However, the likelihood of successful location and subsequent arrival at a new host tree is dependent on distance and the effect of environmental factors such as wind and temperature. This study examines the relationship between ambient temperatures and the timing of fig wasps emergence from their natal figs and the commencement of their dispersal flight. The behaviour of the wasps arriving at figs which were ready to be pollinated was also examined. The female wasps did not appear to distinguish between the figs and other parts of the tree when in flight. However, after landing on the tree their search for figs was more directed as they visited more figs than leaves. Short-range recognition of figs appears to be by contact chemo-reception, but the wasps showed a preference for entering figs which did not already contain a female wasp.