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Mechanism of mate detection in parasitoid wasps: sound and vibratory cues change with the developmental progress of future mates inside host pupal cases

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Abstract

Insects including parasitoid wasps use acoustic and vibratory signals in the context of sexual communication, mate recognition, courtship and mating. Males of the parasitoid wasp Pimpla disparis Viereck (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae) detect insect host pupae parasitized by a conspecific female, learn their location, visit them repeatedly and remain on or near them when the prospective mate nears emergence. In the present study, the acoustic and vibratory cues that males exploit to detect the presence and track the developmental progress of a future mate inside a host pupal case are investigated. Responses are acquired from developing parasitoids (DePa) by airborne sound and laser Doppler vibrometer recordings, after gently stimulating each of 20 wax moth host pupae with a paintbrush on days 1–23 post parasitism. Sound and vibratory cues produced by DePa are detectable from day 7 onward and relate mostly to spinning movements. Parameters of sound and vibratory cues (amplitude, dominant frequency, upper limit of frequency band) change significantly over time and thus could ‘inform’ a visiting adult male about the stage of development of DePa. Adult males antennating a parasitized pupa and flying around it also induce vibrations, which in turn may inform DePa about the presence of a male. There is no experimental evidence for true signalling and rapid information exchange between DePa and adult males. Delaying reply signals may help DePa avoid attacks by illicit receivers of such signals, including female (hyper)parasitoids and invertebrate predators.

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