Uncoupling Physical and Chemical Cues: The Independent Roles of Scale Cover Size and Kairomone Concentration on Host Selection byAphytis melinus DeBach (Hymenoptera: Aphelinidae)

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The ectoparasitoid Aphytis melinus initially selects its host, California red scale, Aonidiella aurantii (Maskell) (Homoptera: Diaspididae), using characteristics of the host's cover before assessing the quality of the scale body beneath. Host suitability is known to increase with host size until the scale insect reaches maturity, after which it is no longer available for parasitism. The wasp uses a combination of scale cover size and a kairomone, O-caffeoyltyros in the cover for initial assessment. Under natural conditions these two factors are frequently coupled. We quantified the relative importance of cover size and kairomone concentration independently by removing and selectively reapplying controlled doses of synthetic O-caffeoyltyrosine to scale covers of known size. In the absence of the kairomone, wasps did not discriminate among scale covers differing in size. Wasps showed a curvilinear response to kairomone dose for each scale cover age group. Wasps preferred low doses of O-caffeoyltyrosine on young, small scale covers, and high doses on old, large scale covers. The ability of wasps to respond quantitatively to the kairomone may be used in the field to differentiate small second-instar from larger and more suitable third-instar scale insect larvae.

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