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Contrasting reproductive traits of competing parasitoids facilitate coexistence on a shared host pest in a biological control perspective


BACKGROUND: Interspecific competition in insect parasitoids is an important ecological phenomenon that has relevant implications for biological pest control. To date, interspecific intrinsic (=larval) competition has been intensively studied, while investigations on extrinsic (=adult) competition have often lagged behind. In this study we examined the role played by parasitoid reproductive traits and host clutch size on the outcome of extrinsic competition between Trissolcus basalis (Wollaston) and Ooencyrtus telenomicida (Vassiliev), two egg parasitoids of the pest Nezara viridula (L). Laboratory experiments were conducted by allowing both parasitoid species to exploit an egg mass made of 10, 20, 30, or 40 hosts through single or simultaneous releases. Furthermore, under field conditions, egg masses consisting of 10 or 40 hosts were exposed in a tomato crop in order to validate laboratory investigation. RESULTS: The results show that the egg mass size is an important predictor of extrinsic competition in our study system as a higher proportion of T. basalis emerged from large egg masses, while O. telenomicida dominated in small egg masses. Analysis of reproductive traits of parasitoid species indicates that T. basalis has superior abilities in host exploitation compared with O. telenomicida. CONCLUSIONS: We found that contrasting reproductive traits of two competing egg parasitoid species facilitate coexistence on a shared stink bug host. This work also highlights the importance to consider extrinsic competitive interactions between parasitoid species in a biological control perspective. © 2022 The Authors. Pest Management Science published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Society of Chemical Industry.