Koinobiont parasitoids develop in hosts that continue feeding and growing during the course of parasitism. Here, we compared development of a solitary koinobiont endoparasitoid, Meteorus pulchricornis Westmael (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), in second (L2) and fourth (L4) instars of three host species that are closely related (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) but which exhibit large variation in growth potential. Two hosts, Mamestra brassicae L. and Spodoptera littoralis Boisduval, may reach 1 g or more when the caterpillars are fully mature, whereas Spodoptera exigua Hübner is much smaller with mature caterpillars rarely exceeding 200 mg. Parasitoid survival (to pupation) in the two host instars was much higher on the larger hosts than on S. exigua. However, other fitness correlates in M. pulchricornis were very similar in the three host species. Development time was fairly uniform in L2 and L4 hosts of the three host species, whereas wasps were larger in L4 than in L2 hosts. However, M. pulchricornis developmentally arrested each of the hosts differently. The mass of dying L2 and L4 hosts after parasitoid larval egression (i.e., when they emerge from the dying caterpillar) varied significantly, with S. littoralis being by far the largest and S. exigua the smallest. These results reveal that M. pulchricornis is able to adjust its own development in response to species-specific differences in host resources.
Harvey, J. A., Molina, A. C., Bezemer, T. M., & Malcicka, M. (2015). Convergent development of a parasitoid wasp on three host species with differing mass and growth potential. Entomologia experimentalis et applicata, 154(1), 15-2. https://doi.org/10.1111/eea.12250