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Host habitat finding and host selection of theDrosophila parasitoidLeptopilina australis (Hymenoptera, Eucoilidae), with a comparison of the niches of EuropeanLeptopilina species

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Decaying petioles of giant hogweed,Heracleum mantegazzianum Sommier & Levier, are used as a breeding site by six species ofDrosophila and the drosophilidScaptomyza pallida. The most numerous parasitoid species associated with this community isLeptopilina australis. BecauseL. australis was previously unknown in western Europe, we present the characters to distinguish it form its close relativeL. clavipes. Experiments on host species selection and survival ofL. australis showed that this parasitoid mainly usesD. limbata as host. Olfactometer experiments showed thatL. australis is attracted by the odour of decaying hogweed stalks, especially when these contain larvae ofD. limbata. L. australis is also strongly attracted by the odour of stinkhorns, a habitat in which it has never been found in nature.D. phalerata is the dominant fly species in stinkhorns, and is not a host ofL. australis. We offer a possible functional explanation for this unexpected habitat choice, by showing thatD. transversa andD. kuntzei, both species found to breed in fungi, are also suitable hosts forL. australis. We also discuss habitat choice with regard to a proposed phylogeny of theLeptopilina species in temperate Europe. Finally, we discuss niche overlap ofL. australis with the otherLeptopilina species.

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van Alphen, J.J.M., Nordlander, G. & Eijs, I. Host habitat finding and host selection of theDrosophila parasitoidLeptopilina australis (Hymenoptera, Eucoilidae), with a comparison of the niches of EuropeanLeptopilina species. Oecologia 87, 324–329 (1991). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00634586

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Key words

  • Parasitoid
  • Host suitability
  • Phylogeny
  • Leptopilina
  • Drosophila