Journal of Insect Behavior

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 34–45 | Cite as

Postemergence Experience Affects Sex Ratio Allocation in a Gregarious Insect Parasitoid

  • Amanda J. Lentz
  • Karen M. Kester


We tested the hypotheses that postemergence experience with plants (“early adult learning”) modifies sex ratio and clutch size allocations of Cotesia congregata (Say) (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), a gregarious larval endoparasitoid of Manduca sexta L. (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae). Emerging wasps were exposed for 2–3 h to (a) one of two host plants (tomato or tobacco) or no plant, and (b) one of two novel plants (arugula or parsley) or no plant. Each female was permitted a single oviposition in a host offered with one of the two plant species 24 h later. Hosts were reared on laboratory diet before and after parasitization. Wasps exposed to either host plant allocated proportionately more females to hosts offered with the plant species experienced at emergence than wasps with the alternate species, but clutch sizes did not differ. Irrespective of plant species, wasps exposed to novel plants allocated proportionately more females to hosts than wasps without plant experience, and larger clutches to hosts offered with parsley than with arugula. Differential responses to host and novel plants suggest inherent recognition of host foodplants by C. congregata. Results demonstrate a direct effect of learning on reproductive potential.


Learning sex ratio theory ovipositional decision-making tritrophic interactions Hymenoptera Braconidae Cotesia congregata (Say) 



We thank S. Wilkinson and L. Gray for assistance with insect rearing, and M. Fine and B. Brown for comments on the manuscript. This work was funded, in part, by NSF Grant #DBI-9796334 to K.M. Kester and H.R. Royaltey.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA

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