Parasitism by endoparasitoid wasps alters the internal but not the external microbiome in host caterpillars

  • Gabriele Gloder (Creator)
  • Mitchel E. Bourne (Creator)
  • Christel Verreth (Creator)
  • Liesbet Wilberts (Creator)
  • Sofie Bossaert (Creator)
  • Sam Crauwels (Creator)
  • Marcel Dicke (Creator)
  • Erik Poelman (Creator)
  • Hans Jacquemyn (Creator)
  • Bart Lievens (Creator)



Background The microbiome of many insects consists of a diverse community of microorganisms that can play critical roles in the functioning and overall health of their hosts. Although the microbial communities of insects have been studied thoroughly over the past decade, little is still known about how biotic interactions affect the microbial community structure in and on the bodies of insects. In insects that are attacked by parasites or parasitoids, it can be expected that the microbiome of the host insect is affected by the presence of these parasitic organisms that develop in close association with their host. In this study, we used high-throughput amplicon sequencing targeting both bacteria and fungi to test the hypothesis that parasitism by the endoparasitoid Cotesia glomerata affected the microbiome of its host Pieris brassicae. Healthy and parasitized caterpillars were collected from both natural populations and a laboratory culture. Results Significant differences in bacterial community structure were found between field-collected caterpillars and laboratory-reared caterpillars, and between the external and the internal microbiome of the caterpillars. Parasitism significantly altered the internal microbiome of caterpillars, but not the external microbiome. The internal microbiome of all parasitized caterpillars and of the parasitoid larvae in the caterpillar hosts was dominated by a Wolbachia strain, which was completely absent in healthy caterpillars, suggesting that the strain was transferred to the caterpillars during oviposition by the parasitoids. Conclusion We conclude that biotic interactions such as parasitism have pronounced effects on the microbiome of an insect host and possibly affect interactions with higher-order insects.
Date made available16 Oct 2021
PublisherKU Leuven


  • Cotesia glomerata
  • Microbial community
  • Parasitism
  • Pieris brassicae
  • Trophic interactions
  • Wolbachia

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