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Color Preference and Associative Color Learning in a Parasitoid Wasp, Ascogaster reticulata (Hymenoptera: Braconidae)

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Natural enemies of agricultural pests, such as parasitoids and predators, often use chemical and visual cues in search of their hosts and prey, and they can learn the association between the cues and the host and prey presence. The braconid, egg-larval endoparasitoid wasp Ascogaster reticulata is a promising biological control agent for tortricid pests, such as Adoxophyes honmai, in tea plantations. Although previous studies revealed that A. reticulata uses contact chemicals released by tea plants in response to tortricid egg oviposition and that it can learn the associated cues, the diurnal wasp is also expected to use visual cues, especially color. Therefore, in this study, we investigated the innate color preference and associative color learning ability of A. reticulata. When a green paper and a paper of a different color (black, blue, red or yellow) was offered together to naive females of the wasp, the females spent less time on a black and blue papers. However, wasps trained to associate black or blue with the presence of a host egg-mass showed increased preference for these colors, whereas red- and yellow-trained wasps did not show changes in preference. Our findings indicate that A. reticulata uses colors, in addition to chemical cues, in host searching behavior and has the ability to learn colors associated with host presence.

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We thank Prof. Hiroshi Honda, Prof. DeMar Taylor, and Dr. Sei-ichi Furukawa at the University of Tsukuba for their helpful comments and discussions on the experiments and the manuscript. We thank Mr. Yoshiaki Tokushima for his help for measuring reflectance spectra of colored papers, and also Ms. Rumi Yoshimura and our colleagues in the Laboratory of Applied Entomology, University of Tsukuba, for their help and support in conducting the experiments. We thank the two referees for their comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Yooichi Kainoh.

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Kawamata, R., Sato, Y., Suzuki, M. et al. Color Preference and Associative Color Learning in a Parasitoid Wasp, Ascogaster reticulata (Hymenoptera: Braconidae). J Insect Behav 31, 523–534 (2018).

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