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The tomato moth, Tuta absoluta (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae), is a major pest in South America and is at present an important invasive species in the Mediterranean Basin. The larval stadium mines leaves, stems, and fruits, and chemical control is the most used control method in both its original range and the invaded distribution regions. Since current T. absoluta control strategies seem limited, biological control is a prominent tool to be applied abroad. The naturally occurring larval ectoparasitoid in Argentina and Chile Dineulophus phtorimaeae (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae) has been reported to have potential biocontrol efficiency. In this study, the ovigeny strategy of D. phtorimaeae was analyzed throughout the adult female lifetime, and the functional response of females offered a range of 2–15 T. absoluta larvae was measured over a 48-hour period. Mean D. phtorimaeae egg load was 4.15 eggs, and egg production resulted in extremely synovigenic behavior. Meanwhile, a decreasing number of eggs, due to resorption, was found. Proportions of attacked (host-fed and/or parasitized) and only host-fed hosts by the ectoparasitoid were density independent for the tested host range, exhibiting a type I functional response to T. absoluta, with an attack rate of 0.20 host larvae. Meanings of this reproductive strategy in evolutionary time as well as the consequences for augmentative biological control programs are discussed.
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