Journal of Ethology

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 353–361 | Cite as

Temporal asynchrony and spatial co-occurrence with the host: the foraging patterns of Nemka viduata, a parasitoid of digger wasps (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae and Crabronidae)

  • Carlo Polidori
  • Pablo Mendiola
  • Josep D. Asís
  • José Tormos
  • Jesús Selfa


Studies which quantitatively analyse how aculeate parasitoids exploit their window of opportunity to find and attack a host are scarce, despite the recognized importance of parasitic pressure as a driving force that promotes aggregate nesting in their hosts. We have studied the activity and behaviour of the velvet ant Nemka viduata, an ectoparasitoid of immature stages of the digger wasp Stizus continuus. Due to the resource exploited by the parasitoid (mature larvae and prepupae), and in general agreement with basic optimal foraging theory, we expected a major activity at late stages of the host seasonal provisioning period, an independence from the host daily provisioning patterns and a spatial positive association with host nest density. In accordance with these predictions, during the season, the parasitoid resulted was more active at the end of the host provisioning period, and across the day, it showed an inverse quadratic pattern of activity, in contrast to the positive one shown by the host. Thus, at both temporal scales, N. viduata activity was highly asynchronous with that of the host. At a spatial scale, however, the activity of the velvet ants was correlated with host nest density, although there is weak evidence suggesting that areas of high host density suffered from a higher rate of parasitism. Multivariate analyses confirmed a number of relevant factors associated with velvet ants’ activity, including nest density (positive), air temperature and the hour of the day (both negative). In addition, the activity of both male S. continuus and male N. viduata entered in the models in association with female parasitoid’s activity, probably because of their mating strategy.


Digger wasp Hymenoptera Nemka viduata Optimal foraging theory Parasitism Stizus continuus Time allocation Velvet ant 



Thanks are due to the Ayuntamiento de Valencia and the Generalitat Valenciana for the permits necessary to carry out this work in a Nature Reserve. We are indebted to P. Bogusch, J. P. Pitts and two anonymous reviewers for the many suggestions which improved the manuscript. The research was supported by a grant from the Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia (Spanish Government) (CGL2006-02568) and from a 3-year grant FIRB (Fondo per gli Investimenti della Ricerca di Base) RBAU019H94-001 (2001). The experiments comply with current Spanish law.


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carlo Polidori
    • 1
  • Pablo Mendiola
    • 2
  • Josep D. Asís
    • 3
  • José Tormos
    • 3
  • Jesús Selfa
    • 2
  1. 1.Sezione di Zoologia e Citologia, Dipartimento di BiologiaUniversità degli Studi di MilanoMilanItaly
  2. 2.Departament de ZoologiaUniversitat de ValènciaValenciaSpain
  3. 3.Unidad de Zoología, Facultad de BiologíaUniversidad de SalamancaSalamancaSpain

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