In nature, competitive interactions occur when different species exploit similar niches. Parasitic wasps (parasitoids) often have narrow host ranges and need to cope with competitors that use the same host species for development of their offspring. When larvae of different parasitoid species develop in the same host, this leads to intrinsic and often contest competition. Thus far, most studies on intrinsic competition have focused on primary parasitoids. However, competition among primary hyperparasitoids, parasitic wasps that use primary parasitoids as a host, has been little studied. This study investigated intrinsic competition between two primary hyperparasitoids, the gregarious Baryscapus galactopus and the solitary Mesochorus gemellus, which lay their eggs in primary parasitoid larvae of Cotesia rubecula, while those in turn are developing inside their herbivore host, Pieris rapae. The aims were to identify: (i) which hyperparasitoid is the superior competitor; and (ii) whether oviposition sequence affects the outcome of intrinsic competition. The results show that B. galactopus won 70% of contests when the two hyperparasitoids parasitised the host at the same time, and 90% when B. galactopus oviposited first. When M. gemellus had a 48h head start, the two hyperparasitoids had an equal chance to win the competition. This suggests that B. galactopus is an intrinsically superior competitor to M. gemellus. Moreover, the outcome of competition is affected by time lags in oviposition events. In contrast to what has been reported for primary parasitoids, we found that a gregarious hyperparasitoid species had a competitive advantage over a solitary species.
Zhu, F., Lammers, M., Harvey, J. A., & Poelman, E. H. (2016). Intrinsic competition between primary hyperparasitoids of the solitary endoparasitoid Cotesia rubecula. Ecological Entomology, 41, 292-300. https://doi.org/10.1111/een.12303