Diaprepes abbreviatus L. is a highly polyphagous root weevil that causes damage to several fruit crops, ornamental plants, and other naturally occurring plants in Florida. Haeckeliania sperata Pinto is a gregarious endoparasitoid that attacks D. abbreviatus eggs. We hypothesized that the reproductive success of H. sperata is affected by the host plant of D. abbreviatus. Six host plants with varying degrees of pubescence were used to determine the effect of leaf trichomes on the searching behavior and success of parasitism by H. sperata. No-choice tests showed that H. sperata was able to parasitize Diaprepes eggs laid on the six host plants. However, the plants with a high trichome density on their leaves had a lower percent of parasitism than the plants with smoother leaves. Removing trichomes from a host plant showed that the presence of some leaf trichomes had a negative effect on the overall searching efficiency of H. sperata. The presence of trichomes decreased the total distance traveled and increased the total search time of H. sperata females, resulting in a lower searching speed. Multiple regression analysis was used to establish the relationship between percent parasitism and leaf trichome density, leaf thickness, and the searching speed of H. sperata. Searching speed was the best predictor of percent parasitism; this parameter could be used to predict the suitability of host plants for the establishment of H. sperata. Our findings suggest that the reproductive success of H. sperata is affected by the host plant of D. abbreviatus.
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