Effects of time limitation and egg limitation on lifetime reproductive success of a parasitoid in the field

George E. Heimpel, Marc Mangel, Jay A. Rosenheim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


We used field observations of freely foraging Aphytis aonidiae parasitoids in conjunction with results of laboratory studies of A. aonidiae and other Aphytis species to simulate lifetime patterns of behavior and reproduction. Field observations provided estimates of encounter rates with three classes of hosts, the mortality rate from predation on adult parasitoids, and host-handling times for oviposition and host feeding by adult wasps. A series of physiological parameters, including the egg maturation rate and the value of host-feeding meals, were estimated from previously published studies. Plasticity in parasitoid behavior was incorporated in two ways. For one set of simulations we used a behavioral rule derived empirically from observations of parasitoids made in the field, and for another we used a dynamic state-variable model to generate a set of behavioral rules that maximize lifetime reproductive success. As was expected, the empirically derived rule led to better matches with field observations than did simulations using the output of the dynamic model. Projections of lifetime reproductive success in the field ranged between three and 37 eggs within the 95% confidence intervals of the mortality rate and host encounter rate and depending on which behavioral rule was used. Lifetime reproductive success from the simulation with central estimates of the mortality and host encounter rates that incorporated the empirical rule was 6.25 eggs. Using the empirical versus the theoretical rule in the simulations led to a 10%-30% decline in projections of lifetime reproductive success, depending on mortality and host encounter rates. Regardless of the behavioral rule, the simulations underscored the observation that the host encounter rate was greater than the egg maturation rate. The overall oviposition rate was sufficiently high to lead to daily episodes of temporary egg limitation during which parasitoids must mature an egg before being able to oviposit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-289
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998


  • Aphytis
  • Dynamic modeling
  • Egg limitation
  • Fecundity
  • Parasitoids
  • Reproductive success


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