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Keywords:

  • Biocontrol;
  • Braconidae;
  • egg load;
  • egg maturation rate;
  • egg resorption;
  • fecundity;
  • feeding status;
  • host access;
  • Hymenoptera;
  • inundative release

The number of mature eggs carried by a female parasitoid at any given moment (egg load) is a fitness-related parameter affecting reproductive potential and impacting upon host population dynamics. Microplitis rufiventris Kokujev (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) is a solitary koinobiont endoparasitoid wasp of several noctuid pests, including Spodoptera littoralis. The number of mature eggs carried by females at emergence is approximately 50. The rate of egg maturation is strongly affected both by feeding status and access to host larvae. In early adult life, egg maturation rates are lower for 6–72 h in fed wasps compared with food-deprived wasps. When given access to hosts, honey-fed wasps live for approximately 9 days with high lifetime fecundity (226 eggs). By contrast to early adult life, the total realized fecundity is positively affected by feeding status, where water-fed and starved females have 140 and 107 eggs, respectively. Egg resorption is most pronounced in the later life of females. The results suggest, in addition to confirming the effect of honey-feeding on total fecundity, that fecundity of starved wasps includes rapid egg maturation early in life, which potentially could improve the performance of the parasitoid as a biological control agent.