Host selection is a key stage in the lifecycle of parasitoids, and is critical to both their function in control and to the maintenance of their population. The solitary endoparasitoid Microplitis similis (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) is a potential biological control agent of Spodoptera litura (F.) larvae (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). In this study, we examined the preference M. similis exhibits for different instars of the host, host instar effects on parasitoid development, and the weight gain and food consumption of different instars of parasitized larvae. In no-choice tests, parasitization rates were highest in second- and early third-instar larvae, and no fourth- or fifth-instar hosts were parasitized. When provided with a choice of first- to late third-instar host larvae, M. similis preferred to parasitize early third-instar host larvae (41%) with a selection coefficient of 0.37. All morphometric features of wasp offspring increased with increasing age of the host at parasitization. A lower proportion of females emerged from first-instar larvae than any other instar. Parasitized S. litura larvae showed a pronounced reduction in food consumption and weight gain. Microplitis similis may have the potential to significantly suppress population growth and the damage caused by S. litura.
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Vol. 46 • No. 3