Optimal host selection models based on dynamic programming predict that the physiological state of a foraging insect, i.e. egg load, energy reserves etc., influences behavioral decisions. To test this prediction, the effect of physiological state on host acceptance of the ectoparasitic wasp Agrothereutes lanceolatus was investigated. Female wasps in plastic cups (regarded as patches) were presented with hosts, and their responses to the hosts were continuously observed. After observations, the wasps were dissected and the number of mature and immature eggs they carried were counted. The results showed that behavioral decisions by the female wasps were influenced by mature egg load, but not by wasp size or immature egg load. Hence the wasps with higher egg loads were more likely to oviposit. The number of hosts previously encountered in a patch (i.e. wasp experience) also had an independent effect on females' host acceptance, indicating that female informational state was updated during foraging in that patch. Female wasps host-fed only when mature egg load approached zero. Concurrent host-feeding was not observed. Parasitoid survival was almost zero when parasitoid eggs were transferred onto hosts that were fed upon, indicating that concurrent host-feeding could cause a high degree of offspring mortality. These three results supported the assumption and prediction of optimal host-feeding models. Parasitoid host selection and host-feeding are discussed in the context of recent models.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics