Information conveyance plays an important role in parasitoid-host interactions. Several sources of information are available for searching parasitoids and exploitation of that information during the different phases of host location depends on its reliability, detectability and accuracy. One source of information especially suitable for exploitation by parasitoids is a host aggregation pheromone, because this often combines all three aspects. In laboratory and field experiments we studied the behavioural responses of the parasitoid Leptopilina heterotoma to the aggregation pheromone of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, both for substrate selection and the behaviour on host snbstrates. Our results show that substrates with increasing dose of the host's aggregation pheromone attract increasingly more parasitoids, whereas we found no significant effects of pheromone on parasitoid searching behaviour on the substrates. Parasitoid searching behaviour on substrates was influenced by other host cues (e.g. larval exerements, traces of adults other than aggregation pheromone), which is discussed in relation to the expectations from reliability-detectability theory. The responses of the parasitoids were further influenced by substrate quality (i.e. yeast concentration) and the microscale distribution of pheromone. In several field experiments, the fraction of fruit fly larvae that was parasitised was significantly higher in substrates with aggregation pheromone than in control substrates, indicating an ecological cost to the use of aggregation pheromones in adult D. melanogaster.
- reliability-detectability problem
- heterotoma thomson hymenoptera
- foraging behavior
- host location