Offspring production and self-superparasitism in the solitary ectoparasitoid Spalangia cameroni (Hymenoptera: Pteromalidae) in relation to host abundance
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Parasitoid fitness strongly depends on the availability and quality of hosts, which provide all resources required for larval development. Several factors, such as host size and previous parasitation, may affect host quality. Because self-superparasitism induces competition among a female's offspring, it should only occur if there is an imperfect recognition of self-parasitized hosts or if there is a fitness advantage to self-superparasitism. Against this background, we investigated self-superparasitism and offspring production in Spalangia cameroni (Hymenoptera: Pteromalidae) in relation to the abundance of a novel host, Ceratitis capitata (Diptera: Tephritidae). Individual pairs of parasitoids were provided with either two (low host abundance) or ten (high host abundance) pupae per day. Under high host abundance, lifetime fecundity (number of eggs laid), offspring number, number of pupae parasitized and hosts killed were greater than under low host abundance, whereas the number of eggs per host was lower; and the proportion of hosts that did not produce offspring tended to be lower. The latter suggests the occurrence of ovicide, when hosts are scarce due to an at least imperfect recognition of previously self-parasitized hosts. Offspring production per parasitized pupa was higher when hosts were scarce and levels of self-superparasitism high, suggesting the existence of beneficial effects of self-superparasitism.