Flexible Use of Patch-Leaving Mechanisms in a Parasitoid Wasp

  • Joep M. S. Burger
  • Ying Huang
  • Lia Hemerik
  • Joop C. van Lenteren
  • Louise E. M. Vet

Classical optimal-foraging theory predicts that a parasitoid is less likely to leave a patch after a host encounter when the host distribution is aggregated, whereas a parasitoid is more likely to leave after a host encounter when the host distribution is regular. Field data on host distributions in the area of origin of the whitefly parasitoid Encarsia formosa showed that whiteflies aggregate at several spatial scales. However, infested leaves most likely contained a single host. This suggests that a host encounter is not enough to decide when to leave. We therefore tested the effect of host distribution and parasitoid experience on patch-leaving behavior. Each parasitoid was observed for several consecutive days in a three-dimensional arena with leaflets containing on average one host per leaflet in an either regular or aggregated host distribution. A proportional hazards model showed that a host encounter decreased the leaving tendency on a leaflet with one host when the time since the latest host encounter was short, but increased the leaving tendency when the time since the latest host encounter was long, independent of host distribution. We conclude that a parasitoid can switch from decreasing to increasing its tendency to leave a patch after a host encounter. We propose two hypotheses that may explain the evolution of such a switching mechanism.


optimal foraging patch-leaving behavior host distribution Encarsia formosa whitefly 



We would like to thank Mohammad Javad Ardeh and Yu Tong Qiu for standing in during some observations, and Leo Koopman, Frans van Aggelen and Andre Gidding for rearing the whitefly.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joep M. S. Burger
    • 1
    • 6
  • Ying Huang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  • Lia Hemerik
    • 3
  • Joop C. van Lenteren
    • 1
  • Louise E. M. Vet
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Laboratory of EntomologyWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Institute of Life ScienceBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingP. R. China
  3. 3.BiometrisWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Netherlands Institute of EcologyMaarssenThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Institute of Animal and Plant QuarantineChinese Academy of Inspection and QuarantineBeijingP. R. China
  6. 6.Department of GeneticsUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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