Gut sugar analysis in field-caught parasitoids: Adapting methods originally developed for biting flies

George E. Heimpel, Jana C. Lee, Zhishan Wu, Laura Weiser, Felix Wäckers, Mark A. Jervis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


The ability to determine the presence and identity of sugars in the guts of adult parasitoids in the field would aid researchers in addressing long-standing problems in parasitoid ecology. Until very recently, however, gut sugar analyses have not been carried out on parasitoids. This is despite the development and use of methodologies for gut sugar analyses in biting flies (mosquitoes, sand-flies, black-flies, horse- and deer-flies, and biting midges) for decades. Methods used have been the cold anthrone test for the detection of gut sugars, and various forms of chromatography for the identification of gut sugars. We review the use of these methods in biting fly research and then describe the nascent field of gut sugar analyses in parasitoids. Both cold anthrone and chromatography tests have begun to be used on field-caught parasitoids, and we describe progress from our own work. We used cold anthrone on the aphid parasitoid Aphelinus albipodus (Hymenoptera: Aphelinidae), and results from one field study show that approximately one-fifth of individuals tested were positive for gut sugars. The characteristics of the field site point to the primary source of these gut sugars as being aphid honeydew. We also analysed the gut contents of Diadegma insulare (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae), a parasitoid of diamondback moth. In this case, HPLC analyses showed that over 85% of field-captured individuals had fed upon sugars. These same analyses suggested that honeydew may have been a major source of the gut sugars in this case also, but the sugar profiles suggest some nectar feeding. Understanding the importance of various sugar sources on parasitoid activity and effectiveness will facilitate the incorporation of sugar sources in habitat manipulation programmes as a part of IPM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-198
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Pest Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank David Ragsdale for help with Aphelinus releases, Brian McCornack for help with honeydew collection, and Roel Wagenaar for help with HPLC. This research was funded in part by grants from the United States Department of Agriculture/ Animal and Plant Health and Inspection Service, The United States Department of Agriculture North Central Regional IPM Program, and the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council. G. E. Heimpel is also grateful to the McKnight Foundation for support. This research was funded in part by the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station.


  • Anthrone tests
  • Honeydew
  • Nectar
  • Parasitoids
  • Sugar feeding


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