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1. In natural ecosystems, plants containing hosts for parasitoids are often embedded within heterogeneous plant communities. These plant communities surrounding host-infested plants may influence the host-finding ability of parasitoids. 2. A release-recapture-approach was used to examine whether the diversity and structural complexity of the community surrounding a host-infested plant influences the aggregation behaviour of the leaf-miner parasitoid Dacnusa sibirica Telenga and naturally occurring local leaf-miner parasitoids. Released and locally present parasitoids were collected on potted Jacobaea vulgaris Gaertn.plants infested with the generalist leaf-miner Chromatomyia syngenesiae Hardy. The plants were placed in experimentally established plant communities differing in plant diversity (1–9 species) and habitat complexity (bare ground, mown vegetation, and tall vegetation). Additionally, parasitoids were reared out from host mines on the trap plants. 3. Plant diversity did not influence the mean number of recaptured D. sibirica or captures of other locally present parasitoids but the number of recaptured parasitoids was influenced by habitat complexity. No D. sibirica parasitoids were recaptured in the bare ground plots or plots with mown vegetation. The mean number of recaptured D. sibirica generally increased with increasing complexity of the plant community, whereas locally present parasitoids were captured more frequently in communities with more bare ground. There was a unimodal relationship between the number of reared out parasitoids and diversity of the surrounding vegetation with the highest density of emerged parasitoids at intermediate diversity levels. 4. The present study adds to the thus far limited body of literature examining the aggregation behaviour of parasitoids in the field and suggests that the preference of parasitoids to aggregate in complex versus simple vegetation is association specific and thus depends on the parasitoid species as well as the identity of the plant community.
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