During the years after the invasion of Western Palaearctic tomato crops by the South American tomato leafminer, Tuta absoluta (Meyrick) (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae), several indigenous generalist parasitoids have been recorded on this new host. Among these, Bracon nigricans Szépligeti (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) is widely distributed in the Palaearctic region, and has been frequently recovered from South American tomato leafminer. However, most of the available data on this species deal with taxonomic aspects and its recovery in faunistic surveys. The current study documents the biology of B. nigricans on South American tomato leafminer, and provides a scientific basis for its inclusion in South American tomato leafminer management programs in Afro-Eurasia. We studied several B. nigricans life-history traits relevant to juvenile development and reproduction by females. B. nigricans proved to be an idiobiont and a synovigenic ectoparasitoid of mature South American tomato leafminer larvae. Several B. nigricans reproductive traits were influenced by the age of the mothers; on average, the progeny had a slightly male-biased sex ratio (60% males) and a low rate of successful development (≈37%). Adult females lived 42.8 d and produced an average of 29.8 offspring. These biological parameters yielded an intrinsic rate of increase of 0.052. Females showed behavioral plasticity in host use, as initial host paralysis was followed by host-feeding, oviposition, or host rejection, with a consequent high mortality rate among hosts exposed to parasitism. Although further field studies are needed, these data, obtained in laboratory conditions, suggest that B. nigricans should be considered as a potential biological control agent of in newly invaded areas of the Palaearctic region.
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Vol. 106 • No. 4