, Volume 82, Issue 2, pp 162-165

Plant structural complexity and host-finding by a parasitoid

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Summary

There are three major components to plant structure relevant to searching parasitoids: 1) plant size or surface area, 2) the variation among plant parts (structural heterogeneity), such as seed heads, flowers and nectaries, and heterogeneous surfaces (e.g. glabrous, hirsute), and 3) the connectivity of parts or plant form (structural complexity). We examined the effect of structural complexity, while controlling for size and structural heterogeneity, on searching behaviors of Trichogramma nubilale in controlled environments. Females were presented with a structurally simple surface and a structurally complex one. Parasitism rates were 2.9 times higher on simple surfaces than on complex ones. Unexpectedly, when no hosts were present, searching time on simple surfaces was 1.2 times higher than on complex surfaces. This implies that structural complexity per se can affect the giving-up-time of a searching parasitoid. Searching efficiency, however, was the dominant process, and females found hosts on simple surfaces 2.4 times faster than on complex surfaces. Structural complexity can have a dramatic effect on the success of parasitoid search.