Research Article: Factors affecting the biology of Pachycrepoideus vindemmiae (Hymenoptera: Pteromalidae), a parasitoid of spotted-wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii)

Date Published: July 23, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Cherre S. Bezerra Da Silva, Briana E. Price, Alexander Soohoo-Hui, Vaughn M. Walton, Kleber Del-Claro.


Pachycrepoideus vindemmiae is a wasp that parasitizes and host-feeds on pupae of the invasive spotted-wing drosophila (SWD, Drosophila suzukii). Few studies have addressed interactions between these two species and little is known about the potential of this parasitoid as a biocontrol agent of SWD and the different variables that may affect it. Here, we investigated the impact of extrinsic and intrinsic factors on life-history traits of P. vindemmiae. Both constant (entire adulthood) and limited (30 minutes) supplies of water + honey, honey, or host increased parasitoid survival compared to controls (water or fasting). Water + honey caused the highest parasitoid survivals (35–60 days), independent of supply period, sex, and host availability. Females were intrinsically more resistant to water- and honey-deprivation than males, and host-feeding elevated such resistance even higher. Constant honey supply (either with or without water) supported the highest host-killing capacities (= capacity to kill hosts) (ca. 600 SWD pupae/wasp). However, in young females (4–9 days old), the impact of honey availability (with or without water) was insignificant while water deprivation (either with or without honey) caused the highest host-killing potential. This indicates that although sugar becomes a critical nutritional resource as females age, young females depend more on water than sugar to reproduce. Neither water nor honey affected the sex ratio of young females, but when we considered the entire adulthood, the availability of honey caused the lowest proportion of females (0.50), independent of water availability. Neither water nor honey affected parasitoid emergence rate (0.97), independent of female age. Based on survival and host-killing capacity, we conclude that P. vindemmiae has a tremendous biocontrol potential against SWD. Both limited and constant supply of water, sugar, and host increase parasitoid survival, while constant supply of water and/or honey enhance its host-killing potential and decrease sex ratio depending on maternal age.

Partial Text

Since 2008, spotted-wing drosophila (SWD), Drosophila suzukii (Diptera: Drosophilidae), has become a key pest of small fruits and cherries in the Americas and Europe [1–3]. The fly is native to southeast Asia and was first detected in North America (California) [4] and Europe (Italy and Spain) [5] in 2008, and in South America (Brazil) in 2013 [6]. Management relies greatly on broad-spectrum insecticides [7,8] and cultural tactics such as early/timely harvest and sanitation [9–11]. However, these approaches display limited efficacy, and are not environmentally or economically sustainable. For these reasons, there is a need for alternative control strategies that can be incorporated into a holistic integrated pest management (IPM) program for SWD [9,12]. Biological control provides such an alternative as it is relatively safe and compatible with other forms of pest control, constituting one of the main pillars of most IPM programs [13,14]. In the context of SWD, parasitic wasps are expected to play a key role in reducing field populations of this fly pest in newly invaded areas [3,9,12,15–17].

Sex can determine a parasitoid’s lifespan [45], especially when males and females differ in the way they allocate nutritional resources to survival and reproduction [46]. In our study, the impact of water and honey supply on adult P. vindemmiae was similar (but yet different) between males and females. For example, when observed separately, both sexes were highly resilient in terms of survival. Offered water + honey they lived for up to 72–79 days, and even those individuals that were kept in complete starvation lived for 6–11 days. This lifespan is long relative to other parasitoid species and to a Chinese population of P. vindemmiae which under starvation only lived for 2.7 days [35,36,38,40]. Water + honey caused the highest survival curves, while water alone and fasting produced the lowest ones, independent of sex. However, by comparing survival curves between males and females we found that overall females live either same or longer than males, especially when water or sugars are scarce. First, honey-fed, host-deprived females survived better than males when water was scarce, but such a difference was diluted when water was offered, meaning that males are inherently more sensitive to water deprivation than females. Second, honey-deprived, host-provided females survived much better than males, but such advantage was suppressed when honey was supplied, i.e., males are more sensitive and hence more dependent on alternative sources of sugars than females. Taken together, these findings indicate that females are more likely to survive periods of water and sugar scarcity in the field than males, not only because females were intrinsically less sensitive to shortage of those resources, but also because females can supplement their nutritional needs with host-feeding.

This study demonstrates that P. vindemmiae is long-lived and can significantly contribute towards SWD biocontrol through a combination of parasitism and miscellaneous attack (host-feeding, mutilation, pseudoparasitism, and aborted parasitism). We showed that limited and constant supplies of water and honey affect the survival of male and female wasps, as well as their parasitism capacity, sex ratio, and miscellaneous attack, with clear consequences for SWD mortality. Males are more sensitive to water and sugar scarcity than females. In the absence of water and sugars, females of P. vindemmiae can host-feed and rely exclusively on pupae of SWD to extensively extend their survival and increase their parasitism capacity. Even a single bout of feeding on hosts, sugar, and especially on both water and sugar, significantly extended the wasp’s survival. Constant supplies of water and sugars in an environment with no hosts can result in survival of up to 72 days, allowing maintenance of parasitoid populations and resumed parasitism when hosts once again become available. But even if none of those resources are available, both males and females can survive for many days under complete starvation. Taken together, these characteristics demonstrate the high resilience, adaptibility and biocontrol potential of P. vindemmiae against SWD, proving their increased likelihood of surviving unfavorable periods of water, food, and host scarcity in both the laboratory and field. These findings open many opportunities for additional research. These include additional comparative studies with imported specialist parasitoids of SWD [57,58], controlled field studies to determine how nutrient supply can result in improved biocontrol [59,60], and studies to determine impacts of horticultural practices such as irrigation on the parasitoid efficacy [17].




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