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Teder, T., Tammaru, T. and Pedmanson, R. 1999. Patterns of host use in solitary parasitoids (Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae): field evidence from a homogeneous habitat. - Ecography 22: 79-86.

We detected a significant inter- and intraspecific host preference on the level of individual host use in a system, in which three moth species (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), feeding on a cattail Typha latifolia, are parasitized by three solitary parasitoid species (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae). The biology of the host species is similar but they exhibit remarkable inter- and intraspecific variance in body size. All the parasitoid species preferred the largest host species in this system whereas other host species were used only occasionally. We found that parasitoids which emerged from females of the preferred host species were larger than those which developed in males of the same species. Accordingly, two of the parasitoid species had a significant within-host-species preference: females of the largest moth species were used more often than males. No dependence of the preference pattern on host density was found. This pattern of host use is discussed in the light of the switching theory and the optimal host selection theory. Our results indicate that non-random host use by parasitoids may have significant effects on host populations and communities, and forms a potential selective factor against large body size in herbivorous insects. Unlike the majority of ichneumonid wasps, these three parasitoid species have no remarkable female-biased sexual size dimorphism, in accordance with the predictions of Charnov's sex allocation theory for this case, we did not observe any significant host quality dependent biases in sex allocation: there was no association between host sex and parasitoid sex, neither did parasitoid sex ratio differ between years with different host quality.