Journal of Insect Behavior

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 165–175 | Cite as

Effect of Sequential Learning Experiences on Searching Responses and Sex Ratio Allocations of the Gregarious Insect Parasitoid, Cotesia congregata (Say) (Hymenoptera: Braconidae)

  • Amanda J. Lentz-Ronning
  • Karen M. KesterEmail author


We investigated the effects of sequential adult learning experiences (postemergence + ovipositional) with two host foodplants (tomato and/or tobacco) on searching responses, clutch size, and sex ratio allocations of Cotesia congregata, a gregarious endoparasitoid of Manduca sexta. Sequential experiences with one host foodplant resulted in a stronger searching response to the plant experienced and a higher proportionate allocation of females to hosts offered with this plant. Sequential experiences with both plants resulted in similar searching responses to the two plants and similar proportionate allocations of females, irrespective of the order in which plants were experienced. Ovipositional experience resulted in a stronger searching response to the plant experienced but effects on sex ratio allocations were not definitive. Clutch size was not modified by experience. Results demonstrate that parasitic wasps can learn multiple host-associated plant cues and suggest that sequential learning experiences serve to define the effective host foodplant range.


Insect learning tritrophic interactions host location postemergence learning early adult learning ovipositional learning sex ratio allocation 



We thank S. Wilkinson and L. Gray for assistance with insect rearing, and Justin Bredlau and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on improving the manuscript. This work was funded, in part, by NSF Grant #DBI-9796334 to K.M. Kester and H.R. Royaltey, and completed in partial fulfillment of the M.S. degree in Biology (A.J. Lentz, 2001).


  1. Björkstén TA, Hoffman AA (1998) Persistence of experience effects in the parasitoid Trichogramma nr. brassicae. Ecol Entomol 23:116–117Google Scholar
  2. Cortesero AM, Monge JP (1994) Influence of pre-emergence experience on response to host and host plant odors in the larval parasitoid Eupelmus vuilleti. Entomol Exp Appl 72:281–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cortesero AM, Monge JP, Huignard J (1995) Influence of two successive learning processes on the response of Eupelmus vuilleti Crw (Hymenoptera: Eupelmidae) to volatile stimuli from hosts and host plants. J Insect Behav 6:751–762CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dukas R, Duan JJ (2000) Potential fitness consequences of associative learning in a parasitoid wasp. Behav Ecol 11:536–543CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Gandolfi M, Mattiacci L, Dorn S (2003) Preimaginal learning determines adult response to chemical stimuli in a parasitic wasp. Proc R Soc Lond Ser B Biol Sci 270:2623–2629CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Heimpel GE, deBoer JF (2008) Sex determination in the hymenoptera. Ann Rev Entomol 53:209–230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Jensen MK, Kester KM, Kankaare M, Brown BL (2002) Characterization of microsatellite loci in the insect parasitoid, Cotesia congregata (Say). Mol Ecol Notes 2:346–348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Kester KM, Barbosa P (1991a) Postemergence learning in the insect parasitoid, Cotesia congregata, (Say) (Hymenoptera: Braconidae). J Insect Behav 4:727–741CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Kester KM, Barbosa P (1991b) Behavioral and ecological constraints imposed by plants on insect parasitoids: implications for biological control. Biol Cont 1:94–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kester KM, Barbosa P (1992) Effects of postemergence on searching and landing responses of the insect parasitoid, Cotesia congregata (Say) [Hymenoptera: Braconidae], to plants. J Insect Behav 5:301–319CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kester KM, Barbosa P (1994) Behavioral responses to host food plants of two populations of the insect parasitoid Cotesia congregata (Say). Oecologia 99:151–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Krombein KV, Hurd PD Jr, Smith DR, Burks BD (1979) Catalog of hymenoptera in America North of Mexico. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, p 245Google Scholar
  13. Lentz AJ, Kester KM (2008) Postemergence learning affects sex ratio allocation in a gregarious insect parasitoid. J Insect Behav 21:34–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lewis WJ, Takasu K (1990) Use of learned odours by a parasitic wasp in accordance with host and food needs. Nature 348:635–636CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Pérez-Maluf R, Kaiser L (1998) Mating and oviposition experience influence odor learning in Leptopilinia boulardi [Hymenoptera: Eucolidae], a parasitoid of Drosophila. Biol Cont 11:154–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Savary S, Drezen J-M, Tan F, Beckage NE, Periquet G (1999) The excision of polydnavirus sequences from the genome of the wasp Cotesia congregata (Braconidae, Microgastrinae) is developmentally regulated but not strictly restricted to the ovaries in the adult. Insect Mol Biol 8:319–332PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Tietz HM (1972) An index to the described life histories, early stages and hosts of the macrolepidoptera of the continental United States and Canada. Allyn Museum, Sarasota, p 1041Google Scholar
  18. Turlings T, Loughrin JH, McCall PJ, Rose USR, Lewis WJ, Tumlinson JH (1995) How caterpillar-damaged plants protect themselves by attracting parasitic wasps. Proc Natl Acad Sci 92:4169–4174PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Vet LEM, Dicke M (1992) Ecology of infochemical use by natural enemies in a tritrophic context. Ann Rev Entomol 3:141–172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Vet LEM, Groenewold AW (1990) Semiochemicals and learning in parasitoids. J Chem Ecol 16:3119–3135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Vet LEM, Lewis WJ, Papaj DR, van Lentern JC (1990) A variable response model for parasitoid foraging behavior. J Insect Behav 3:471–490CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Wäckers FL, Lewis WJ (1994) Olfactory and visual learning and their combined influence on host site location by the parasitoid Microplitis-croceipes (Cresson). Biol Cont 4:105–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA

Personalised recommendations