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Ecology. 2007 Sep;88(9):2392-403.

Invading parasitoids suffer no Allee effect: a manipulative field experiment.

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Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), 400 Route des Chappes, 06903 Sophia Antipolis Cedex, France.


One frequent explanation for the failure of biological invasions is the Allee effect: due to positive density dependence, initially small invading populations may fail to establish and spread. Populations released for biological control are similar to fortuitous invading populations and may therefore suffer from Allee effects. However, unlike fortuitous invasions, biological control allows the experimental manipulation of initial population size and, thus, offers a unique opportunity to test for the occurrence of Allee effects. We manipulated the initial size of 45 populations of a parasitoid wasp introduced for the biological control of a phytophagous insect and followed the population dynamics of both parasitoids and hosts during three years. Our results suggest an absence of Allee effects but clear negative density dependence instead: (1) the probability of establishment after three years was not affected by initial population size; (2) net reproductive rate was highest at low parasitoid density and high host density; (3) the sex ratio, reflecting the proportion of virgin females, did not increase at low density, suggesting that low densities did not impede mate-finding; (4) the depression of host populations did not depend upon the number of parasitoids introduced. This is, to our knowledge, the first experimental test of the Allee effect in an invading parasitoid. It leads us to propose that a number of behavioral and life-history features of many parasitoids could protect them from Allee effects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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