Studies on Conura torvina (Hymenoptera: Chalcididae) Reproduction and biology in Relation to Hosts in Brassica Crops
Gaines, David N.
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Conura torvina (Cresson) (Hymenoptera: Chalcididae) is a solitary pupal endoparasite of numerous insect species. In Brassica crops it acts as a parasite of Plutella xylostella (L.) (Lepidoptera: Plutellidae) and was found as a hyperparasite of Cotesia rubecula (Marshall) (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) and several other parasitoid species. Cotesia rubecula was introduced into Virginia in 1987 as a biological control agent for Pieris rapae (L.) (Lepidoptera: Pieridae), and because C. torvina was thought to have eliminated this population of C. rubecula, studies of C. torvina's reproductive biology and behavior were initiated. A study using plants laden with "trap hosts" to detect C. torvina activity in the spring indicated no activity until late June, but proved trap host sampling to be an efficient and effective method of monitoring C. torvina activity. Studies of C. torvina's ability to reproduce in C. rubecula pupae of different ages indicated that C. torvina can successfully parasitize pupae at all stages of development, but was most successful in young to middle aged pupae. Studies of C. torvina's host species preference indicated the larger host species such as P. xylostella were preferred. Equal numbers of P. xylostella and C. rubecula were parasitized, but a greater proportion of fertile eggs were laid in P. xylostella. Smaller host species were often ignored. Host dissection studies indicated that caged C. torvina were inefficient at host finding and oviposition. Superparasitism was common, but declined as the females gained oviposition experience. Experienced C. torvina produced an average of 8.25 progenies per day for a period of 12 days when provided with 13 P. xylostella hosts each day. Conura torvina produced up to 14 progenies a day when provided 3 26 hosts. Dissection of C. torvina ovaries indicated three ovarioles per ovary with a mean of 9.2 and maximum of 15 mature eggs per female. Host dissection indicated that a mean of 18 and maximum of 30 eggs could be laid per day. New eggs were produced as oviposition occurred. Significantly larger eggs were laid in P. xylostella than in C. rubecula, and significantly more eggs were laid in C. rubecula than in P. xylostella. From these data and data from earlier studies I concluded that C. torvina has a poor reproductive ability and its impact as a hyperparasite is limited to the summer months. This makes C. torvina an unlikely cause of C. rubecula's disappearance.
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