The potential of sugar resources in the reproductive biology of wheat stem sawfly parasitoids

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Agriculture


The wheat stem sawfly, Cephus cinctus, is the most destructive insect pest of wheat, Triticum aestivum, in the Northern Great Plains of North America. Biological control by Bracon cephi and Bracon lissogaster is an important tool for integrated pest management of this pest, but parasitism rates are difficult to predict. Therefore, the main objective of this research was to characterize aspects of the reproductive biology of both parasitoid species to provide information that could enhance their effectiveness in biological control of C. cinctus. First, we investigated the role of diapause and the effects of sucrose feeding on reproduction of females. For that, we provided sucrose solution to overwintering and summer generation adult females, and we quantified and compared their longevity, egg load and egg volume. Our results showed no differences between overwintering and summer individuals of B. cephi and B. lissogaster. In contrast, sucrose feeding, increased longevity and egg load of both species and generations. The egg load of B. cephi was surprisingly low compared to B. lissogaster. However, only B. cephi increased egg volume when sucrose was provided. Our findings highlighted the contrasting life histories of both species, and showed the potential of sugar resources in enhancing their reproductive capacity. Subsequently, we investigated the effect of flower nectar on the same, above mentioned, reproductive traits of parasitoids. We chose buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum), lacy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia), deerhorn clarkia (Clarkia pulchella), canola (Brassica napus), and safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) based on their occurrence as native plants, use in pollinator enhancement, and occurrence in rotational or cover crop plantings in Montana. We found that only B. cephi females benefitted from these flowering plants. The longevity and egg volume of females increased with buckwheat, and egg volume increased with both buckwheat and the native species, deerhorn clarkia. The strong effect of buckwheat on reproduction of B. cephi females suggests that flowers with similar nectar quality might have similar impacts. This information will be of great importance for selection of suitable flower species to enhance reproductive capacity of parasitoids through habitat management. Collectively, this research showed that there is potential to enhance effectiveness of parasitoids with sugar supplementation.




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