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Am Nat. 1999 Dec;154(6):652-673.

Variability and Parasitoid Foraging Efficiency: A Case Study of Pea Aphids and Aphidius ervi.


When a parasitoid is searching for hosts, not all hosts are equally likely to be attacked. This variability in attack probability may affect the parasitoid functional response. Using a collection of experiments, we quantified the functional response of Aphidius ervi (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), an insect parasitoid of the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum (Homoptera: Aphididae). We measured variability in the number of hosts attacked by a foraging parasitoid both among plants and within plants. At the first scale, A. ervi, searching among plants containing different numbers of aphids, showed both aphid-density-dependent and aphid-density-independent variability in the number of aphids attacked per plant. Within plants, A. ervi selectively attacked second and third instar aphids relative to other instars. Furthermore, there was variability in the susceptibility of attack among aphids independent of instar. Variability in attack rates among aphids both among and within plants decreased parasitoid foraging efficiency, with the greatest decrease caused by among-plant variability. Furthermore, the decrease in foraging efficiency was greatest when the average number of aphids per plant was low, thereby transforming a strong Type II functional response into one approaching Type I.

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